IRVINE, Calif. – The COVID-19 pandemic forced NFL teams to conduct 2020 training camps locally at their facilities, also preventing them from holding joint practices against other clubs. Since preseason games were also cancelled, the only way for teams to creative competitive situations outside of their own training camp practices were intra-squad scrimmages.
This year, joint practices are back. The Rams' first is against the Cowboys on Saturday.
"(Cowboys head) coach (Mike) McCarthy has been great about putting together a good practice plan," Rams head coach Sean McVay said after Wednesday's practice. "That's going to be reflective of us getting a lot of work. And it will be focused on a lot of our top guys."
Since the Rams traditionally rest their starters in the preseason, McVay said joint practices like Saturday's will serve as a substitute for that experience for the starters.
In terms of structure, McCarthy told Dallas reporters on Friday the practice will begin with special teams drills, followed by a seven-on-seven redzone period, then a one-on-one period between the offensive line and defensive lines. After those one-on-one defensive line rushing drills, another seven-on-seven rezone period will follow, then the two teams will have "a team-backed-up drill, then a team red zone, a team third down."
"Then we'll have a full move-the-ball segment where you just call it and move the field, put the ball down and play," before finishing with a two-minute drill," said McCarthy, who also noted the session will include nearly 60 plays of team-drill work. "We'll pretty much try to hit every situation."
From an offensive standout, Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said it will be great to go full-speed against another team's defense, even with the good looks they've been given from their own.
"(We'll) see where we're at from blocking some different bodies and running routes on new DBs and seeing different coverages at the quarterback position," O'Connell said after Friday's practice. "It's a little bit of everything. Kind of like what you'd want to see out of a pre-season game, but just hopefully with that pro level of taking care of one another and making sure that we're coming out of there clean from an injury standpoint."
And on defense, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris looks forward to the collaboration to get "great work" in.
"We'll get a chance to communicate with our opposing team and tell those guys what we want to do and how we want to go get it accomplished," Morris said after Wednesday's practice. "As far as the physicality, as far as the tempo, as far as it pushing it to a game like atmosphere as close as possible, really getting great work that day. Although we get it here amongst each other, the last two days have been great, (but) it's nothing like going against another color, nothing like going against another team and going out there and seeing different plays and different types of deals to get it going."