The calendar says 2023, but it feels more like 2018 for the Rams coaching staff.
Organized Team Acitivities (OTAs) have begun with several new and young faces on the roster – more than 40, to be exact – a departure from the continuity from previous springs.
In a word, "significant" is the impact of such a youthful and overturned Los Angeles roster on the staff's approach to spring workouts, according to head coach Sean McVay.
"It's a lot different because we get a chance to practice a lot more," McVay said after Tuesday's OTA session. "There's a real importance on…When we've had the continuity that we've had in years past, you can really say, 'Hey, these guys have played a lot of snaps let's make sure that we're smart and cognizant of, alright, we just finished up in the middle of February. How do we get them ready to go by the time training camp and what's the best way to supplement that?' Whereas, hey, you get better at football by being able to play it and especially with a lot of guys that haven't done that. So really this is the closest thing since 2018 in terms of actually doing some real team work."
Indeed, this spring does bear some similarities to the spring of 2018.
From the 2017 roster, L.A. saw six defensive starters depart and two offensive starters. This spring, seven defensive starters (Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, Jalen Ramsey, A'Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines) and two offensive starters (Allen Robinson II and David Edwards).
The one key contrast is a combined rookie class of 18 players (11 draft picks plus seven undrafted free agents) in the spring of 2018, compared to 40 (14 draft picks and 26 initial undrafted free agents signed) this year. Whereas the Rams are taking a disciplined approach this year to create a healthier salary cap situation for the future and had several contributors depart via trade or free agency, in the spring of 2018 they traded for Pro Bowl cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and signed veteran defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, while also re-signing some of the key contributors from the previous season like offensive lineman John Sullivan and slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman.
Regardless of roster construction method, it's still an apt comparison because there was enough turnover that spring to emphasize the team work McVay referred to. And the team work done in the spring of 2018 set the foundation for an eventual 13-3 regular season record and Super Bowl appearance.
McVay said the team still wants to be smart based on the protocols for OTAs, but having that approach with this roster has been "very different" and "refreshing."
"You got a lot of guys that are eager and excited about their opportunities," McVay said. "I think there was a handful of guys that played last year that could develop some confidence, (and) say, 'Okay, I've been here,' and then we were able to really reestablish how do we want to operate? What are the ways that we're teaching these things to make it as digestible as possible for the players? What are the solves? How can you get a little bit ahead of it? And I can't say enough about the job our coaching staff has done and we know we want to continue to do that every single day from here on out."
The impact of a roster with so many fresh faces was evident in a number of ways, from new faces on special teams and how that facilitated the way the unit operated, to quarterbacks coach/pass game coordinator Zac Robinson spending time with the three new quarterbacks Stetson Bennett, Dresser Winn and Brett Rypien toward the end of Tuesday's OTA, as a couple examples.
If 2018 serves as a helpful reference to the approach the coaching staff is taking, an educational spring should set the stage for a successful summer and fall for the Rams.