Check out photos from the Los Angeles Rams practice as the team prepares to take on the Houston Texans.
Los Angeles began its official preparation week for the Texans with a non-padded session on Wednesday afternoon. After 34 days away from the Coliseum, the Rams will return to their home stadium on Sunday for their Week 10 matchup against Houston.
The team released its official injury report after Wednesday's practice. Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, and center John Sullivan received their usual rest day and did not participate in the session.
Outside linebacker Robert Quinn and running back Malcolm Brown also did not participate with an illness and injured MCL, respectively. Rounding out the Rams' injury report were tight end Derek Carrier — who strained his hamstring during the early portions of practice — and linebacker Mark Barron who was a non-injury related absence.
Head coach Sean McVay told reporters that Brown played through his injury during last weekend's contest against the Giants. He said the medical staff will continue to monitor the MCL, but has yet to determine whether or not he will need surgery.
"Malcolm actually got his MCL pretty good in the game so he is out right now," McVay said. "He's going to be out for a little bit of time while he rehabs [and] that's something that we're going to be evaluating moving forward."
With Brown out for at least the next couple of weeks, running back Justin Davis could see extended action as Todd Gurley's primary backup. The USC product said he is excited to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him, but says he has "prepared like he is the starting running back" every single week.
"I make sure I'm working hard every day at practice and am on top of my playbook, so when the opportunity is there and I can make a play, they can count on me," Davis said. "I have to make sure that I am on top of my stuff and am ready at any moment's notice because there's a chance they are going to be dependent on me."
Lance Dunbar is also a candidate to come off the physically unable to perform list this week to play in the No. 2 running back role.
"That's something that we'll be able to use the week to get a feel for," McVay said. "It certainly does open up that possibility and whether that ends up being Lance or Justin will be determined later on in the week. We've got the luxury of using these practice reps and just getting a feel for how those guys feel as the week progresses to make that decision."
RAMS NOT BUYING INTO THE HYPE
At 6-2, the Rams are off to their best start in more than a decade. Not only is L.A. sitting in sole possession of first place in the NFC West standings, but its offense currently leads the league in scoring.
Coming off of a 4-12 season last year, there was a lot skepticism surrounding the team. Plus with a first year head coach and a slew of new players, the expectations were set relatively low for L.A.'s outcome this season.
But when you ask any of the players in the Rams locker room whether or not they are surprised by the team's success thus far, the resounding answer is "no."
"Not at all," right guard Jamon Brown said. "Since coach McVay has been hired here and since we went through the offseason program, you can see the work that everyone has put in to get to this point. Sitting here at 6-2 right now is not surprising to anyone in this locker room."
"I feel like this is just a great team," wide receiver Sammy Watkins echoed. "When I came in, I knew that this team was already good and we just continue to get better each week. We keep faith in the process and what the coaches have going on and we continue to stay together."
And while there is a lot to be excited about, the Rams understand there is plenty of football left to be played.
"It feels good," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "Some of us that have been here for a while, we haven't had this feeling and we definitely want to continue to get better each and every week. [But] I'm pretty sure 7-2 feels better, so that's our goal this week."
TWO BLOCKED PUNTS IN THREE GAMES
In the NFL, it is considered impressive to have recorded even one blocked punt at the season's midpoint, let alone two. But to have one player block two punts in the span of three games is in a league of its own.
On a Rams' special teams unit that is highly regarded as one of the most aggressive in the league, linebacker Cory Littleton has emerged as a standout contributor and a master at blocking punts.
"I think Cory is excellent," McVay said on Monday. "He's playing really good football right now, he's been extremely efficient and he continues to show up week-in and week-out. He's very important to our special teams and I think he's a big reason why they're playing at such a high level right now."
There are just four teams in the league — the Rams included — who have recorded a blocked punt this season. That means that Littleton himself has blocked more punts that 31 other clubs.
"It feels just as good as it sounds," Littleton said with a laugh.
The former undrafted free agent out of Washington first blocked a punt against the Jaguars in Week 6. He followed that up with yet another blocked punt against the Giants in Week 9. Both plays resulted in scoring drives for the Rams and both, Littleton says, came on the same type of scheme.
"We had a designed punt block," he said. "At the end of the day every team has one dialed up each week and fortunately I was able to get through the gap, I believed, and I got it right off of his foot."
Though the linebacker says he played "a little bit of special teams" while in college, he credits coordinator John "Bones" Fassel for his development. Littleton believes that though he may be a backup on defense, he has taken full advantage of his opportunities to contribute through his role on special teams.
"We always put an emphasis in being great in all three phases of the ball," Littleton said. "Right now one of my main roles is on special teams. We all take pride in being good at everything, so that's the biggest thing. 'Bones' takes it to a whole deeper level and that has really been helpful."
MINOR ROSTER MOVE
The Rams also announced a minor roster move prior to Wednesday's practice. After waiving safety Isaiah Johnson on Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles has resigned the Georgia Tech product to its practice squad. With the move, the team's active roster currently stands at 52 players. Dunbar is a potential candidate to take the 53rd spot upon being activated off PUP.