Check out some of the best shots from practice leading up to the Rams' matchup against the Washington Redskins.
The Rams held a padded practice at Cal Lutheran on Thursday. Head coach Sean McVay characterized the afternoon as a "good, physical practice on both sides of the ball," leading up to the the team's Week 2 matchup against Washington. On Friday, the team will return to the field for a final non-padded session.
DEFENSE BUILDING ON MOMENTUM
Under coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams' defense got off to a strong start in the team's dominant 46-9 win over the Colts. But this weekend Los Angeles will face a new challenge in the Redskins. Washington's offense features several dynamic playmakers including quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight ends Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed, and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.
On Sunday, the Rams should benefit from the addition of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who returned to practice for the first time this week.
"It's good to have Aaron back," Phillips said. "It's a good game to get him back, they've got a really good offensive line and the quarterback threw for 5,000 yards last year. They've got a really good offense, so it will be a challenge for our defense."
And though Donald has only participated in two practices this season, he has already made an impression on field.
"Aaron is Aaron, still dominant in practice," running back Todd Gurley II said. "Still doing what he does best — dominating. … He's an incredible player, so his quickness, his speed, you can't coach or teach that."
CARRIER DISCUSSES FACING WASHINGTON
Sunday's game also carries a certain level of familiarity for both the players and coaching staff. Not only will Los Angeles be facing off against McVay's former team led by head coach Jay Gruden, the defense will also be tasked with taking on a strong tight ends group coached by Phillips' son, Wes.
"We're looking forward to this ball game. I mean, we did some good things, but we're playing a really sound offensive team with a great tight ends coach," Phillips said with a laugh. "So I'm worried about that."
Plus, Sunday marks the first time tight end Derek Carrier — who was traded to the Rams from the Redskins earlier this month — will compete against his former coach and teammates.
"At the end of the day, it's football and it's a business," Carrier said. "I just happen to be playing for a different team now. Granted, a bunch of my buddies are still in Washington, but at the end of the day it's a game and I need to go out there and prepare myself."
Carrier was brought on as the No. 3 tight end after Temarrick Hemingway suffered a broken fibula during the team's preseason game against the Chargers. Since then, he has quickly adjusted to McVay's offense here in Los Angeles and said there has been a lot of crossover in terms of the playbook.
"The core concepts of the offense are fairly similar," Carrier said. "There's some verbiage that's been changed, but it's just like in any new situation you want to be in the playbook as often as you can for as long as you can, and make sure you know everything moving forward in case your number is called."
And even though there has been a lot of attention surrounding the matchup between McVay and Gruden, Carrier says McVay has approached Sunday's contest as he would any other.
"I think Sean's done an excellent job of keeping the game in focus," he said. "It's another game, it's no different. We just want to prepare ourselves the best that we can to go out there and get ourselves a good shot to win."
GETTING THE RUN GAME GOING
Quarterback Jared Goff recorded the best game of his NFL career in Sunday's season opener against the Colts, completing 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards and one touchdown. He also showcased impressive confidence in the pocket and was able to successfully distribute the ball to a variety of receivers including Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp.
And while the Rams' passing game was effective against the Colts, Los Angeles struggled a bit in the run game. Gurley rushed for just 40 yards on 19 attempts, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. However, there were definite positives to Gurley's Week 1 performance — he found the end zone for a touchdown and caught five passes for 56 yards.
"It's always better when you can avoid one or two guys instead of 11 guys," Gurley said of being used as a receiver. "So it definitely doesn't get better than that."
This week against Washington, Los Angeles will look to present a balanced pass/run offense with an emphasis on putting Gurley in the position to succeed.
"We've got to do a good job — it starts with me, I've got to a better job of giving us cleaner looks in the run game to be able to run with and then we've got to be able to execute with those looks," McVay said Wednesday. "It takes all 11 players. It's not all on Todd, but we're going to work hard at that, it's a big point of emphasis for us and we certainly have to do a better job of giving a special player like him some better looks and it starts with me."
"We just have to be more physical, whether that's me or everybody. We just have to do our jobs, go out there and execute," Gurley said. "At the end of the day I have to win my one-on-ones, the receivers have to win their one-on-ones, the linemen have to win their one-on-ones, tight ends have to win their one-on-ones. So we looked at it, we'll get it together and come back next week and improve on what we did last week."
Cornerback Kayvon Webster was sidelined from this afternoon's practice as he continues to nurse a shoulder injury. Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and outside linebacker Connor Barwin returned to the field in full today after resting on Wednesday, while safety Maurice Alexander was also a full participant.
"So today we had Mo, Connor, and Whitworth were back full participation," McVay said. "Kayvon was out today with a shoulder, he's day to day. We'll reevaluate him tomorrow and have a better idea if he's questionable for the game."
Should Webster not be able to play on Sunday, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is expected to get the start.
"If Kayvon is not able to go, Nickell will be ready to step up," McVay said. "A lot of confidence in Nickell — he's done a lot of really good things throughout the course of camp and he's had a good week so far."