THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Rams head coach Sean McVay held a video conference with local media Thursday to discuss his finalized 2021 coaching staff which includes the new titles for multiple returning members.
Here's what he had to say about each of those coaches with added responsibilities for the 2021 season:
Assistant head coach/running backs coach Thomas Brown
Brown served as running backs coach in his first season with the Rams, and now adds assistant head coach to this title entering his second season on their staff. Linebackers coach Joe Barry, who was hired by the Packers as their next defensive coordinator, previously held that role.
Brown was instrumental in running back Cam Akers' development over the course of his rookie season. Despite missing three games due to injury, Akers finished as the team's leading rusher with 625 yards, highlighted by 171 rushing yards against the Patriots in Week 14 – most by a Rams rookie running back in a single game since Jerome Bettis in 1993.
"He's got such a refreshing security about himself, ability to command the room, communicate," McVay said. "I think what I've always appreciated about our interactions in the last year that we've spent together, (is that) he's always going to tell me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. And sometimes that's hard to find as a head coach. He's very decisive, but then he's also open minded. And he's got just such a great grasp of this game and a great ability to relate to people to bring out the best in his group, when you see what he did with the running back group in particular last year. So he's going to do a great job assuming more responsibilities there, as a great leader of this football team."
Tight ends coach/pass game coordinator Wes Phillips
Phillips adds pass game coordinator to his duties after spending his first two seasons on the Rams staff as tight ends coach. The role of pass game coordinator was previously held over the last three seasons by Shane Waldron, who was hired by the Seahawks as their next offensive coordinator in late January.
In 2019, Phillips helped Tyler Higbee set single-season franchise records for both receptions (69) and receiving yards (734) by a tight end. In 2020, Higbee caught five touchdowns – second on the team behind wide receiver Robert Woods' six.
"I think it's just a reflection of the caliber of coach that he is, the command that he has on all 11 offensively and the different ways that we want to be able to attack people," McVay said. "And I think he and Kevin O'Connell will really work well together, figuring out the best ways to attack people specifically through the air."
Offensive assistant Zak Kromer
The son of former Rams offensive line coach and run game coordinator Aaron Kromer, Zak will serve as an offensive assistant in 2021 after spending his first four seasons on staff primarily working with the offensive line as an offensive quality control coach (2017-2020).
In 2019, with the help of Zak's adjustments throughout the season due to injury along the offensive front, the offensive line did not allow a sack in a franchise-best six games, while also allowing the fewest sacks in the league (22). In 2020, the Rams offensive line tied with the Titans for sixth-fewest sacks allowed in the league (25).
"I'm looking forward to continuing to work with Zak Kromer, who's really developed into a really nice coach," McVay said.
Defensive line coach/run game coordinator Eric Henderson
Henderson originally joined the Rams staff in 2019 as defensive line coach and helped the group accomplish a lot over the last two years, including finishing with the fourth-most sacks in the league (50) in 2019 and second-most (53) in 2020.
Additionally, fresh off his fourth-straight season with double-digit sacks – the last two working under Henderson – Rams defensive lineman and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald said last month Henderson has "learned a lot from" and wants to continue to learn and build with.
Following that pass-rushing success, he'll be adding run game coordinator duties to his responsibilities in 2021, helping devise the best ways for Los Angeles' defensive front to attack opponents' rushing offenses.
"That run game coordinator (role), he will really head up a lot of the front mechanics, the different things in terms of how we want to defend people in some of those run downs, (it) is going to be a real big deal," McVay said. "And it's a real credit to what he's done."
Linebackers coach Chris Shula
This a second promotion for Shula, who has been on the Rams staff since 2017 – McVay's first season as head coach. Shula previously spent the last two seasons coaching L.A.'s outside linebackers; prior to that, he was an assistant linebackers coach in 2017 and 2018.
Last season, Shula helped outside linebacker Leonard Floyd record a career-high 10.5 sacks and 50 total tackles.
In 2019, Shula helped outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. produce a career season that featured a career-best 11.5 sacks to go along with career highs in tackles (58), forced fumbles (two), passes defensed (six), tackles for loss (16) and quarterback hits (16). That same year, he assisted Clay Matthews in tallying his highest sack total (8) since the 2014 season.
"Chris Shula is going to oversee all of the linebackers, but what's really unique about it is it also provides an opportunity for Thad Bogardus to take a step in the right direction,being able to have chances to oversee some of the outside linebackers on the field, in those meetings if Chris is with the inside group," McVay said.
Assistant linebackers coach Thad Bogardus
This is also a second promotion for Bogardus, who originally joined the Rams staff in 2017. Bogardus spent the last two seasons as an assistant defensive line coach after serving as a defensive quality control coach in 2017 and 2018.
As McVay mentioned earlier, Bogardus' new role will afford him the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of another level of the defense and work with the outside linebackers at times.
Secondary coach/pass game coordinator Ejiro Evero
Another original 2017 staff member, Evero takes on an elevated role in 2021 as secondary coach/pass game coordinator after serving as safeties coach over the last four seasons.
In his previous role, Evero was instrumental in the development of John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller, all of whom earned starting roles in their first seasons. Johnson recorded 119 tackles, 11 passes defensed and a team-leading four interceptions in 2018, his second season as a starter. Rapp finish third on the team in tackles as a rookie in 2019, also adding two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). Fuller tied for second on the team in interceptions in 2020 with three and finished as the Rams' fifth-leading tackler (60 total).
"He'll really work in unison with Chris Shula on the coordination of the back seven and how we want to defend people, really in all parts of the pass game," McVay said. "He's looking at that back-seven, but that's not exclusive. I think you want always have all three levels tied in. It's a credit to what he's done, his development as a coach."
Assistant secondary coach Jonathan Cooley
Cooley joined the Rams coaching staff last season as a defensive quality control coach, after serving as the University of Akron's defensive backs coach in 2019. He was Kent State's secondary coach in 2018, and also served as the University of Tennesse at Chattanooga's defensive backs coach in 2017.
"Another young, sharp up-and-coming coach has a great command of the game working as the assistant secondary coach, where he was kind of a quality control, defensive assistant last year," McVay said.