Practice Report: Respect for Brees Runs High, Gurley’s Take on the Saints

Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams practice as they prepare to take on the New Orleans Saints.

The Rams held their final practice of the week at Cal Lutheran in preparation for Sunday’s matchup with New Orleans.

Here are a few observations from Friday’s session:

INJURY UPDATE

As expected, L.A. will be without wide receiver Robert Woods (shoulder) and running back Malcolm Brown (knee) on Sunday. But the club did receive some good news regarding cornerback Kayvon Webster.

After suffering a concussion in Week 11, Webster was back to full participation in Friday’s practice and is expected to play against the Saints.  

But the Rams’ did have a few other injuries to report. Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (thigh) was a non-participant this afternoon and will be doubtful for Sunday’s contest, while linebacker Bryce Hager is questionable for Week 12, although he was a full participant on Friday.

Running back Lance Dunbar was limited in practice after missing two sessions this week. He is questionable to play on Sunday. Head coach Sean McVay said if Dunbar is unable to participate in the game, he expects running back Justin Davis “to step up” in his place.

“If he’s out it doesn’t really change much. Tavon Austin is a guy that we’re going to get more involved [and] Justin Davis has done some good things this week,” McVay said. “So that’s kind of what the option would be if Lance isn’t able to go.”

In New Orleans, the Saints will be without their top two cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore (ankle) and Ken Crawley (abdomen). But the Saints did add Sterling Moore and Dexter McDougle to their roster earlier this week in an effort to pad the depth at cornerback.

Although linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle), safety Kenny Vaccaro (groin), and tackle Terron Armstead (rest) were limited throughout the week, all are expected to play on Sunday.

*RESPECT FOR BREES RUNS HIGH *

Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees is widely considered one of the best signal-callers in the league. Now in his 17th pro season, Brees is a 10-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, a Super Bowl champion, and a Super Bowl MVP.

But at 38-years old, he is also one of the oldest players currently in the NFL.

This Sunday, he will face one of the youngest defensive backs in the league — Rams cornerback John Johnson III. When Brees was drafted by San Diego in 2001, Johnson was just five years old. 

“I remember watching him with the Chargers. He’s a great quarterback, a first ballot Hall of Famer, we all know that,” Johnson said. “It will be exciting to play against him and hopefully I can pick him off. That would be cool.”

And while some rookies may find it a bit intimidating to face off against a quarterback of Brees’ caliber, Johnson said he is excited for the challenge.

“It’s not intimidating, it’s like a blessing,” he said. “It’s crazy [and] surreal. Once you get out there, it’s still football. We just have to go out there and he’ll be No. 9 instead of Drew Brees when I’m playing.”

“[But] if you can play with guys like him, you can play with anybody.” Johnson continued. “It will be a test, it will be a challenge, but we’re ready for it.” 

**GURLEY’S TAKE ON THE SAINTS

**

Coming into last week’s game against the Vikings, the Rams were the NFL’s highest scoring team, averaging 32.9 points per game. But in Week 11, L.A. was held to just seven points, marking its lowest total of the season.

This week, the Rams will face another tough task as they take on a Saints team that has won eight straight. And while the New Orleans defense has not always been the team’s strong suit, running back Todd Gurley gave credit to the unit’s year-over-year improvement.

“You see some flaws here and there, but for the most part they’re playing together,” Gurley said. “They have [defensive end] Cameron Jordan, he’s one of the great, elite pass rushers. They’ve got Kenny Vaccaro back. He’s a great safety who always has a knack for the ball.”

“[Safety] Vonn Bell is always making plays, and then [linebacker] Manti Te’o and [linebacker] Craig Robertson have been playing pretty good,” he added. 

In last year’s contest at New Orleans, the Saints piled on 21 unanswered points in the second half to take the game 49-21. Gurley said all he remembers from the contest was being taken out in the fourth quarter “because we were getting beat so bad.”

And while Gurley is happy to be hosting the Saints at home, rather than facing on them on the road, he readily admitted that it will be another tough challenge for the entire team. 

“At the end of the day [Brees] is a Hall of Fame quarterback for a reason — he’s going to make plays,” Gurley said. “But, also we have a great defense where I believe those guys can stop him. So you just have to get your mind mentally prepared for that. You just have to know that you have to be on your A-game come Sunday.” 

“Maybe it’s one of those 10-7 games, but with a guy like Brees at quarterback it definitely could be a shootout as well. They have a great defense, a great offense and they’re a great team.”

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