Los Angeles began Phase III of the offseason program on Monday with the club’s first OTA practice. With head coach Sean McVay and multiple players addressing the media following the session, here are five takeaways from the first of 10 OTAs.
1) The offense looked sharp — especially Cooks
If there’s one easy takeaway from the first OTA it’s that the offense looked like it was picking up right where it left off from last season. Quarterback Jared Goff was accurate with the vast majority of this throws, hooking up with the usual suspects like wideouts Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
But even though it’s still in the early stages of the offseason, Goff clearly has established some chemistry with new wide receiver Brandin Cooks. There was one throw in particular that showed off the connection, with Goff hitting Cooks deep on the left sideline in 7-on-7 drills for what would’ve been a clear touchdown.
“He’s a sponge, he wants to learn, he wants to be great,” Goff said of Cooks. “It’s a great guy to have in the room with those other guys. I think you can’t ask for much more than what I have with Brandin, Robert, and Cooper, they kind of all mesh with each other so well. They all work so hard and are just really true professionals everyday. It’s awesome to have all three of them.”
2) Talib and Peters are fitting in well
As is well known, the Rams overhauled their cornerback position during the offseason, bringing in star players like Aqib Talib — who was named No. 53 on the 2018 NFL Top 100 Monday evening — and Marcus Peters. Both players appear to be fitting in well in Los Angeles, with McVay noting Peters got his hands on a couple balls during the first practice session.
“It’s been exciting. It’s fun to see those corners out there, guys you have a lot of respect for, and just watching them. I think you just see great instincts, great awareness, natural movement, the short space quicks, the lateral agilities,” McVay said. “You certainly feel those guys out there. I know they’re excited about just continuing to get more and more familiar with some of the things with the terminology of the system.”
As for the partnership between them, Talib said he’s willing to answer any questions Peters might have about coordinator Wade Phillips’ scheme, given he won Super Bowl 50 playing it in Denver. And Peters seems more than willing to ask a question when he needs to.
“For sure, he won a Super Bowl with this defense so why not? Why not take what he does and his knowledge of the defense? Peters said. “Our play style is similar so why not listen and learn from him?
“I think I learn fast, so it’s just me taking on as much as I can take on,” Peters added. “When I don’t know, I ask questions and keep it going like that. But I think I learn fast.”
3) Goff feels more comfortable, and it shows
We’ve already gone over how the offense looked sharp, and clearly that starts with the quarterback. Goff is in his third season since the Rams traded up to take him at the top of the first round back in 2016. But he’s also now in his second year with McVay, and having the continuity with the same playbook makes a significant difference.
“It just continues to get more comfortable. Comfortable is the best word,” Goff said. “Stuff begins to slow down a bit more. It seems like it does every year all the way through high school, through college and now into the NFL. It’s every year you kinda start seeing more. You’re not seeing it moving so fast, but you’re more actually comprehending what’s going on and seeing the defenses better.”
Check out photos from day one of the Los Angeles Rams OTA.
And with comfort comes an ability to take a larger ownership over the offense.
“I think as time goes on that will continue to build,” Goff said. “Through last year and this offseason, it has already. Today was a good example of that, kind of [McVay and I] bouncing stuff off each other — me asking him questions, him asking me questions and continuing to grow together.”
4) Opportunity at linebacker
McVay had previously told the media that there are a lot of linebackers who will receiver plenty of opportunity as the offseason program goes on. But given his experience, it seems likely that Mark Barron will be a significant part of the team’s plans for 2018.
That’s also probably part of why even though Barron is at the team facility, he probably won’t do much on the field for OTAs.
“Yeah, Barron was out there today. He’s a guy that he’s has a couple things in this offseason where he’s recovering,” McVay said. “We’re going to be smart with Mark, so don’t expect him to participate in the offseason program, but we expect him to be ready to go at some point for camp.”
That, however, does mean other inside linebackers will have an opportunity to show how they can be effective in the scheme. Cory Littleton, free agent signee Ramik Wilson, and Bryce Hager are the veterans expected to compete at that spot. Plus, there are first-year players like Micah Kiser and Travin Howard who could potentially make some noise.
5) Aaron Donald?
Unfortunately, there’s no true update. McVay said he’s been in communication with the defensive tackle and the club expected him to stay back in Pittsburgh for this voluntary portion of the offseason program.
“It is something that we want to get resolved,” McVay said. “As far as a timetable, don’t really have any dates on that. I don’t expect Aaron to be here until we get a resolution to that.”
“That” being Donald’s contract situation. As you likely know, Donald is seeking a contract extension from the team.
“He and I have had good dialogue. I spoke to him last week,” McVay said. “Kind of like we’ve talked about, this feels a lot different than last year. Certainly any time you have something where the team comes together, to have a player that’s as important as he is here, you would prefer that. But it is voluntary. We understand that and we have a lot of respect for kinda what’s going on.
“We’re proactively pursuing that resolution and we’re hopeful to come to that at some point,” McVay added.