Practice Report: O-Line Stresses Fundamentals, Gurley Talks Turnovers

Los Angeles held its second practice of the week on Thursday afternoon at Cal Lutheran. The team will begin an 11-day road trip with a game in Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon.  

INJURY REPORT

The Rams released their official injury report after practice on Thursday. Safety Lamarcus Joyner was again a limited participant in today's practice after returning to the field on Wednesday. The fourth-year pro has been rehabbing a hamstring injury for the past two weeks and head coach Sean McVay said the staff has yet to determine whether he will play in Week 6's contest.

Center John Sullivan was also a limited participant in the afternoon session, though his restricted practice time was not injury related.

Rounding out the Rams' injury release were cornerback Troy Hill and linebacker Mark Barron, who did not participate with a shoulder and hamstring injury, respectively. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said he expects Barron to be "ready to go" on Sunday, but did say that Cory Littleton would be the one to take Barron's place, should he not be able to participate.

FOR THE RAMS' O-LINE, FUNDAMENTALS ARE THE PRIORITY

Los Angeles has eclipsed 100 yards rushing in each of its last three games, pointing to the overall improvement of the offense under McVay and offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.

Not only has running back Todd Gurley averaged at least 80 yards per game with seven touchdowns, but the team has also been able to get wide receiver Tavon Austin more involved in the ground game as well. The addition of veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth and Sullivan have greatly helped the offensive line to develop alongside left guard Rodger Saffold, right guard Jamon Brown and right tackle Rob Havenstein.

Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams practice as the team gets ready to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And overall, the front five has been efficient so far this season with a focus on improving their chemistry with the variety of players lining up in the backfield. Saffold said building chemistry with Gurley, specifically, has helped him with his ability to cut through defenders and find the open gaps.

"When we're able to go back on the sideline and talk through things and talk through the pictures," Saffold said, "when we go back out we're a lot more efficient in our downhill runs, in our wide zones, and things like that."

This week the Rams will need to get their run game going early as they face off against a Jaguars defense that boasts some of the best defenders and pass rushers in the league. Jacksonville currently leads the NFL with 20 sacks and recorded five interceptions in last week's game against the Steelers.

"I think that they are a very well-rounded group," Saffold said. "I think that they do a great job on the line, the linebackers do extremely well running to the ball, and I think the secondary does extremely well at getting takeaways. So this is another good defense we're facing against."

In Week 6, Saffold will line up across from defensive end Calais Campbell, who ranks third in the NFL with 6.0 sacks. But fortunately for the Rams, their left guard has faced Campbell — a former Arizona Cardinals — a number of times throughout his career and said "the biggest thing that I have to stay on with him" is his fundamentals.

The fundamentals will also be important if the Rams hope to capitalize on their red-zone efficiency. Last week, Los Angeles failed to score on three of its four trips inside the Seahawks' 20-yard line. Saffold said the offense can't afford to make the same mistakes against the Jaguars.

"[Last week] we kind of put ourselves in a bad position with penalties and just overall efficiency in the red zone," he said. "When it comes right down to it, we just have to be better. So I think the guys should just be a little more focused on it, [rather] than being too focused on it and not being able to play loose. Because that's when we play our best is when we're loose."

GURLEY ON FUMBLES: "NO EXCUSE ABOUT IT"

After practice on Thursday, Gurley discussed the first drive of last week's game against the Seahawks, where a fumble at the one-yard line resulted in a touchback. The running back was rushing towards the end zone when safety Earl Thomas chopped the ball out. Gurley lost control as the ball shot forward and tipped the pylon.

"Obviously, not turn the ball over," Gurley said of what he would do differently. "It was a huge momentum shift. You're about to go up at least 7-0 and then you get a touchback. But you just can't turn the ball over, we have to play our game."

The former Georgia standout is normally very sure-handed with the football, but has fumbled the five times this season. And though he has been very effective on the ground so far, being named September's NFC Offensive Player of the Month, he said it is the fumbles that have stuck in his memory. 

"It's not a thing that I am used to," he said. "You can carry the ball 100 times, but everybody always sees that fumble and they say 'Wow, you're always fumbling,' and you're like, 'Man, I only fumbled one time.' You just know that that's not you, you're not the type of person to go out there and just hand the other team the ball, so it's definitely frustrating. But you just have to move on and play your game."

Moving towards Jacksonville, Gurley says he has been working on protecting the football and hopes to be effective against a Jaguars' team known for their defensive turnovers.

"[It's been] guys just making great plays on the ball," he said. "I have to be able to hold onto it high and tight and just take care of the ball. No excuse about it. I mean you never want to turn the ball over but it's bound to happen. That's just the NFL."

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