Happy Thanksgiving, Rams Nation. The team was on the field for its second practice of the week on Thursday, in preparation for its Week 12 matchup against the Saints. Here are a few notes from the session.
The Rams got some players back on the field for Thursday’s non-padded session.
Cornerback Kayvon Webster (concussion) was limited in the day’s session, after not participating on Wednesday. Head coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips both expressed optimism on Webster’s potential availability.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan, and outside linebacker Connor Barwin also returned to practice after receiving their usual rest day on Wednesday. Sullivan was limited, but not for an injury-related reason.
However, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (thigh), running back Lance Dunbar (knee), linebacker Mark Barron (hand), and linebacker Bryce Hager (calf) all did not participate for the second day in a row. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald (illness) also did not participate in Thursday’s session.
Running back Malcolm Brown (knee) and wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder) remain sidelined with their injuries.
Notably for New Orleans, starting rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore (ankle) did not practice for the second consecutive day. Cornerback Ken Crawley (abdomen), who starts opposite Lattimore, also did not participate in the session.
Quarterback Jared Goff has shown vast year-to-year improvement in a number of statistical categories, one of which is turnovers.
Entering Week 12, the Rams have the second fewest interceptions in the league at four. Only the Patriots have thrown fewer interceptions this season at two.
In the three games since the bye, Los Angeles has only one giveaway — in large part a product of Goff’s strong play, as he touches the ball on every snap.
“It’s huge. Other than points, it’s the most important stat there is,” head coach Sean McVay said this week, crediting offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson for how they’ve stressed moving with two hands on the ball in the pocket. “Then, I think you look at it, a lot of that ends up being a team effort as well. The one ball down the field, Robert Woods becomes a great DB in that situation, so everybody has their contribution to kind of taking care of the football from an offensive standpoint and defensively we always emphasize getting it back.”
“We talk about every day — it’s all about the ball, just try to take care of it,” Goff said. “Sometimes there maybe times where you may think about it too much. I try on my part to take care of it.”
Goff also pointed out one key stat that has been indicative of the Rams’ wins and losses in 2017.
“We’re 7-0 when we’ve been even or better in the turnover margin,” Goff said. “That’s all of our seven wins and the three losses have come when we’ve lost the turnover margin, so that’s obviously a huge part of the game.”
So what has Goff done differently this year to limit the giveaways?
“A multitude of things,” he said. “Just Learning and getting better. Maybe one thing is just learning how to use the check down and learning how huge that can be when you get Todd [Gurley] in space.”
ANOTHER GAME, MORE HISTORY FOR PHILLIPS
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips joked a few weeks ago that he had multiple “revenge games” left on the schedule. If there is such a thing, this week will mark one of them.
Phillips was the Saints’ defensive coordinator under his father, Bum, from 1981-1985, serving as the club’s interim head coach for the last four games of the ’85 season after his father stepped down as head coach.
But Phillips has history with more than just the Saints franchise in this week’s matchup. He was the defensive coordinator for the Chargers when New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees was with the club from 2004-2005.
“I was lucky enough to be with Drew Brees when he was in San Diego,” Phillips said Thursday. “In fact, we went from 4-12 and the first pick in the draft to 12-4 and winning the division. So, I know what he can do. I’ve admired him throughout and he’s just an all-time great.”
Originally a Chargers second-round pick in 2001, Brees has enjoyed a Hall of Fame worthy career, completing 66.8 percent of his 9,099 passes for 68,894 yards with 480 touchdowns and 225 interceptions. He’s No. 3 all time in yards passing, behind only Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
Now in his 12th season with the Saints, Brees has enjoyed a long and prosperous partnership with head coach Sean Payton. But what separates the 2017 team, according to Phillips, is the Saints’ run game.
Running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have combined for 1,265 yards rushing and 1,925 yards from scrimmage with 15 total touchdowns.
“They’ve got the best running game they’ve had since they won the Super Bowl. And I think that’s the real key,” Phillips said. “They’re really powerful offensively now. They can run the ball and win, or they can throw the ball and win. And before it was all [Brees]. This year’s team is different. So, it’s a big challenge for us.”