The NFL Combine has reached its conclusion in Indianapolis, and the Rams will get back to work as the early portion of the offseason continues in Los Angeles.
Here are five takeaways from the week that was in Indianapolis.
1) PENDING FREE AGENTS WILL LIKELY TEST THE MARKET
General manager Les Snead delivered some news from the podium last Thursday when he told reporters that the Rams were unlikely to use the franchise tag in 2019. Los Angeles has utilized the tool over each of the last three years — twice on former cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and then in 2018 on safety Lamarcus Joyner.
This year, the Rams are instead likely to let each of their pending unrestricted free agents hit the market.
“[W]hat we have found too, in the past, is sometimes it’s really good for a player to — even if we want a player and they want to be here — to go test the market at least in that 48 to 72-hour window and get a feel for their reality,” Snead said last week, referring to the so-called “legal tampering” period. “That way they’re not guessing, we’re not guessing, and you get a true sense of what the market is instead of speculation.”
Both Joyner and outside linebacker Dante Fowler were thought of as potential franchise tag candidates. They’re a couple of the club’s big-name free agents — a list that also includes starters like left guard Rodger Saffold and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.
2) RAMS ARE EXCITED ABOUT NEW COACHES
The Rams have there new assistants on their staff in tight ends coach Wes Phillips, defensive line coach Eric Henderson, and assistant quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson.
Head coach Sean McVay said Henderson has “got a lot of great juice, enthusiasm, understands the technicalities of the position and I think that’s going to be really helpful for us.”
McVay noted Robinson has “been doing things that are going to be really relatable to what we’re going to ask him to do, working with Pro Football Focus. He’s also done some things helping some guys get ready for this draft.”
And having previously coached with Phillips in Washington, McVay said the tight ends coach, “has a big-picture understanding of what we’re trying to get done offensively. And he fits right in the mold of what we’re looking for with great teachers that lead, inspire, and, really, are great communicators on a daily basis.”
3) DEFENSIVE LINE CLASS IS DEEP, AND RAMS COULD DIP INTO IT
The Rams reportedly met with a number of strong defensive players, including Mississippi State defensive end Montez Sweat, Florida outside linebacker Jachai Polite — who made a funny comment comparing McVay to a “cool uncle” — and Notre Dame defensive lineman Jerry Tillery.
Sweat had one of the more impressive Combine performances, recording a 4.41 40-yard dash. That’s a pretty fast number for an edge rusher listed at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds.
With both Suh and Fowler entering unrestricted free agency, it stands to reason that the Rams could target a defensive lineman/edge rusher at No. 31 overall. But given that Los Angeles would like to bring back Fowler, Snead said last week that the former No. 3 overall pick is the first domino that must fall to clarify much of the rest of the landscape for how the Rams would like to proceed in terms of restructuring the defensive front for 2019.
4) McVAY AND SNEAD IN LOCKSTEP
The partnership between a team’s head coach and general manager is one of the most important in any NFL team’s building. And when it comes to the Rams, Snead and McVay have been able to steer the Rams to success in large part because they see the game so similarly.
“We kind of know what each other are thinking in terms of the big moves and when maybe we’re not thinking the exact same way, I think the chemistry that we have and the respect that we have for each other, you are able to talk through things,” Snead told therams.com on Saturday. “Let’s call it dissenting analysis with one goal objective in mind — to get to get to the right decision that’s going to work for the Rams long term.”
“I think the more time that you’re intentional about getting to know one another, having a mutual respect that exists, but then when you also enjoy the person — it just continues to grow,” McVay told therams.com. “And the one thing that I think is great about Les and my relationship is that we’re both passionate about football. We want to try to do our role to the best of our ability. And then, ultimately, it’s about us working in unison to figure out whether it be players, organizationally — what can we do to continue to set, establish, and maintain the standards for the Rams within the framework of our roles as leaders.”
Check out photos of Los Angeles Rams players at the NFL Combine through the years. (Credit: Associated Press)
5) GOING TO TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME
Falling in the Super Bowl and then making it back the next year is difficult for teams to do and it’s also quite rare. The Patriots are an example of a team that did it between Super Bowls LII and LIII, but, again, it doesn’t happen often.
In order for the Rams to do so, it’s going to take the one-day-at-a-time approach that McVay so often talks about.
But that extends to the front office and personnel departments as well, which Snead illustrated on Saturday.
“I think this: at this point in time we start ‘19 and in no point in time should we be thinking Super Bowl,” Snead told therams.com. “It’s, what can we do today to get better? And the next day, what can we do today? And eventually that’s going to get to OTAs, training, and eventually it’s going to get to a pre-season game and in that game, how are the people that we are trying to evaluate going to get better? And eventually you are going to get to the opening game and your focus should be on that game and you do your best to come out on top in that game. And guess what? You got 24 hours and you move on to game two.”
“You got to take it as that, because if you look at the top of mountain and say I got to get this little-bit higher climb, you just look at the step in front of you and just do that, however long it takes the journey, you got to push that boulder up the hill.”