With good reason, many on the Rams' staff have expressed great enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. But no one vocalized it more eloquently than new cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant.
"Wade Phillips is the NFL," Pleasant said earlier this month. "I mean, that's history. That's a walking encyclopedia. That is two generations, and he created a third generation in this league. His head coaching experience, his defensive coordinator experience, the Super Bowls — for me to be able to work for the youngest coach in NFL history, somebody I believe in, and to be able to work with an OG, triple OG like [Phillips]? It's a blessing for me as a young coach."
That's especially because it's Pleasant's first full positional coaching job in the NFL. He was most recently the assistant defensive backs coach for Washington, coaching alongside head coach Sean McVay, assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Barry, and tight ends coach Shane Waldron for the NFC East franchise. According to the Washington Post, Washington wanted to retain Pleasant but he instead elected to come to Southern California.
"Well, one, being able to work with Sean and, obviously, being able to look at what Wade's been able to do from afar, and then also I worked with Wade's son — Wes Phillips was the tight ends coach [for Washington]," Pleasant said. "And I think it's very easy when you look back at it all, and you see how important the Rams are to L.A., to be able to come back — this was an easy decision by myself."
And Phillips isn't concerned about a perceived lack of experience from Pleasant when it comes to coaching the corners.
"I've done this a lot of times," Phillips said. "And the last couple I had — Vance Joseph is a head coach now. And Joe Woods is now a coordinator in the league. They were secondary coaches for me. So they're sharp guys. And we've interviewed these guys, and that's why we hired them, because we know that they know football."
As for the scheme Pleasant will help teach, Phillips said he'll base whether the Rams play man or zone based on what the players do best.
"We led the league and played all zone, and we led the league and played all man, and we led the league and played half-and-half. So, it's what our players can do, really," Phillips said.
"I'm partial to man coverage because the passing percentages go down if you play man coverage if you play well. And you can get more sacks and get more pressure that way," Phillips continued. "But we play a matchup zone — people think we're playing man-to-man all the time, but we're playing a matchup zone. So we do quite a bit of that. That'll be something we utilize no matter what our personnel is."
That implementation, of course, will begin once the players arrive for the offseason program in April. For now, most of Pleasant's duties are centered around evaluating tape from last season.
"You have to go in with a blind mindset," Pleasant said. "And the good thing about football is, the tape is your résumé. I don't care how much I like you, I don't care how much you look good walking past — at the end of the day, your tape is your resume.
"What's hard to separate is, what is he being taught, what is he being asked to do, who's making mistakes — because, don't forget, we're evaluating something for a defense that we never ran or never installed," Pleasant continued. "But, overall, to be able to look at it and see how guys move, see how they compete, their athletic ability, their drive — all those things, you're able to see off the tape."
The next question that falls into place is how can the new coaching staff get more out of those players?
"You never want to discredit another staff, because we're all in this thing together," Pleasant said. "But at the same time, you look and you say, man, I hope that by what I bring to the table, I might be able to get just a little bit more — we might be on a better page, or it might be that we've just got to play a little bit faster. Might be able to get this guy to get the last two inches of his ceiling. And that's what it's really about."
And for Pleasant, to set out to accomplish that in Los Angeles with this particular coaching staff is what makes this opportunity that much more unique.
"This is a special city, one of the major metropolitan areas — if not the major metropolitan city — in this country. But on top of that, this is L.A.'s original football team," Pleasant said. "And to be able to have this all come together at once, there's a reason that this organization hired Sean McVay. There's a reason Sean hired this staff. And I think everything was done the right way — from the top down — and that's why you feel what you do right now. Everybody feels like they're part of this. And that's what it's supposed to be about."