The Rams are officially through two weeks of OTA practices, and the team has looked sharp throughout. As we head into the final two weeks of the offseason program, here are five takeaways from OTA No. 4, 5, and 6.
1) SECONDARY STANDS OUT
Los Angeles’ secondary garnered a lot of headlines in the 2018 offseason, when the team traded for cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. And while the Rams’ defense certainly had its ups and downs last season, there’s reason to believe it should be better in 2019 — with the secondary as its strength.
Safety Eric Weddle has clearly added a lot to the defense with his presence and his knowledge. There were periods over the course of the week where the secondary dominated — whether it was 7-on-7 or 11-on-11. And we know how difficult that can be against an offense that finished No. 2 in both points and yards in 2018, so you really shouldn’t take that as a negative for the offense.
After sets of plays, the secondary starters — Talib, Peters, Weddle, safety John Johnson, and I’d also count slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman in that group — are often on the sideline together, diagnosing what they’ve just faced. They’re clearly jelling well as a group, and have a chance to be really good in 2019.
2) SECOND-YEAR STARTERS ON DEFENSE?
The Rams have to replace a pair of productive veterans in their starting defensive group in nose tackle Ndamukong Suh and inside linebacker Mark Barron. As of now, candidates to replace them include second-year defenders Sebastian Joseph-Day and Micah Kiser.
Joseph-Day, a 2018 sixth-round pick, was on the 53-man roster all last year but did not have a chance to suit up on gameday — mainly because Suh played 88 percent of the defensive snaps, meaning he barely came off the field for a rotation. As of now, Joseph-Day is one of the players working in at nose tackle in the base 3-4 defensive set. And he has a chance to own that role on a full-time basis if he continues progressing.
L.A. picked up Kiser in the fifth round last year, and he played significant snaps on special teams, but none on defense. He said this week that he’s been hitting the playbook as much as possible to improve his above-the-neck approach.
As the offseason program continues, both players know there’s significant opportunity in front of them — but they also realize how much they have to earn it.
3) EVERETT EMERGING
Tight end Gerald Everett has shown plenty of signs of promise throughout his young career. But as he moves into his third season, he’s looked good throughout OTAs — particularly in the red zone.
Just this week, Everett snatched a pass over two defenders during 7-on-7 to come down with a pass in the back of the end zone. And he also caught a pass with one arm while hugging the right sideline in the end zone for another scoring-strike from Goff.
A 2017 second-round pick, Everett looked like he was headed for a breakout season this time last year, but a shoulder injury suffered in training camp set him back as Week 1 approached. He ended up with 33 receptions for 320 yards with three touchdowns in 2018.
If there’s one detail of the Rams’ high-scoring offense to nitpick over the last couple years, it’s been the unit’s execution in the red zone. If Everett can become a consistent target inside the 20-yard line, that will really set him on course to become a breakout player in 2019.
Check out photos of week two of the Los Angeles Rams during OTAs.
4) DEFENSIVE VERSATILITY
One noticeable aspect of Los Angeles’ defense through these two weeks of practice has been the versatility of the defense.
Players like Weddle, Johnson, safety Marqui Christian, and rookie safety Taylor Rapp can line up all over the defense — helping disguise exactly what the Rams are planning to do on any given snap. Then there’s linebacker Clay Matthews, who is another sort of wild card player in known-passing situations.
Giving an offense so many varied looks can disguise what’s coming. The Rams’ defense could become quite effective in 2019 when it comes to deception.
5) PLAN FOR GURLEY
Running back Todd Gurley has not been on the field for OTAs, but that’s part of a plan that was previously set out, according to head coach Sean McVay.
“That was what we felt like was best when Todd and I sat down,” McVay said this week. “And it’s been really good so far and we feel good about that.”
McVay noted that the Rams have been pleased with Gurley and his training this offseason. And part of the reason why the league’s leader in touchdowns two years running has not been as heavily involved as he’s been in the past is because the Rams played so much longer in 2018.
So as the 2019 season approaches, McVay said that this is the best course of action for Gurley to be at his best for training camp and Week 1 against the Panthers.