The Los Angeles Rams have announced their plans for 2021 Training Camp, presented by UNIFY Financial Credit Union.
Starting July 28 and running through August 10 at UC Irvine, there will be 10 practice sessions open to the public.
In anticipation, and in no particular order, here are 21 reasons to join us in person or follow along on social and digital platforms as the Rams gather to prepare for a new season.
1. Only chance to see Matthew Stafford before Week One. The Rams new starting quarterback doesn't figure to dress for any of the three preseason games, so if you want to see him in Horns before Sunday Night Football against the Bears – and do so for free! – #RamsCamp is the place to be.
Take a look back at quarterback Matthew Stafford's first offseason with the Los Angeles Rams.
2. Does DeSean Jackson still have speed to burn? Back in Southern California, potentially to finish his career, the Long Beach Poly product was signed to offer Sean McVay an element that was lacking in 2020 – a vertical threat who can strike fear in opposing defenses. Whether or not he still boasts the 4.3-speed he once possessed, his teammates have indicated that a healthy Jackson is still a force to be reckoned with.
Take a look back at wide receiver DeSean Jackson's first offseason with the Los Angeles Rams.
3. Tutu versus the Ones. We had the opportunity to see Tutu Atwell, the Rams first selection of their 2021 Draft, in person during OTAs. But the Rams starting corners Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams were not on the field for those reps. I'm really looking forward to seeing if-and-how-soon Atwell can threaten what figures to be the Rams starting secondary.
4. No traffic jams. I expect the primary beneficiary of the Jackson-Atwell tandem to be Cooper Kupp, whose supply channels from the slot and underneath should be decongested. A healthy Kupp was one of the most welcome sights in Thousand Oaks this spring. He and Stafford already have a marvelous connection.
5. Featured groups. After several seasons of 11-personnel and predominant trios (with Sammy Watkins, then Brandin Cooks, and lastly Josh Reynolds joining the duo of Kupp and Robert Woods, the snap counts at receiver this season are less predictable. In addition to the aforementioned names, Van Jefferson has earned more downs. And with turnover at tight end, the personnel packages and receiver groupings should be fascinating to monitor.
6. Will Brycen Hopkins make his presence felt? Described as a luxury pick in 2020, Hopkins effectively redshirted as a rookie behind Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, and Johnny Mundt. Now, opportunity is knocking… but so is competition. With 2021 fourth-round selection Jacob Harris name-dropped as the standout of OTAs, this is a critical moment for Hopkins.
7. Akers of yards. There may not be a nugget that hit harder this offseason than Stafford having a 100-yard running back just 11 times in 165 games as a Detroit Lion. For sure, I'm higher on Cam Akers than most – seriously, what's with the running back rankings this summer? – so I'll call my shot right now: Akers and the Rams will deliver at least that many for Stafford over the next two seasons (that are currently on the QB's contract).
8. X-Men: We Got the Funk. If Akers and Darrell Henderson Jr. are 1A and 1B, then who is the Rams critical third back? Facing a 17-game gauntlet, that player is going to factor significantly into the team's fate. Perhaps not to the extent that veteran Malcolm Brown did last season (124 touches, 581 scrimmage yards, 5 touchdowns); we might see the Rams revert more toward the Todd Gurley model if Akers continues to demonstrate every-down ability. Nonetheless, 2019 NCAA scoring leader Xavier Jones and rookie Jake Funk deserve close scrutiny as position coach Thomas Brown sets his depth chart next month.
Take a look back at rookie running back Jake Funk's first offseason with the Los Angeles Rams.
9. New line coach on the block. While change was expected along the offensive line this offseason, it didn't come in the form many expected. All but one player (Austin Blythe signed with Kansas City in free agency) returns to the roster, including 39-year-old Andrew Whitworth. However, Aaron Kromer is replaced by Kevin Carberry at the front of the offensive line room. And as Austin Corbett slides from guard to center, the Rams become a bit bigger up front. I'll be interested to see how their blocking schemes change, if at all.
10. Rah-rah atmosphere. Speaking of new coaches, Raheem Morris takes over the top unit in the NFL as the Rams' third defensive coordinator in as many seasons. For three years, we watched the incomparable Wade Phillips match wits with McVay in Irvine. Then last summer, those of us who could peer behind the closed COVID gates at Cal Lutheran got a glimpse of a special talent, Brandon Staley. As fans are welcomed back later this month, I predict that one of the more enjoyable takeaways will be the high-energy interactions between good friends, Morris and McVay, and their respective sides of the football.
11. Who takes over the green dot? As for whose ear Morris will be in when the Rams defense takes the field against the Bears, L.A. needs to identify an every-down player to take over for safety John Johnson. The answer could be Jordan Fuller on the back end of the defense, or more traditionally, whichever linebacker earns the right to patrol the middle.
12. Long lines at linebacker. Suddenly, the Rams have more returning starters at middle linebacker than gigs, plus a drafted rookie in Ernest Jones, and last year's projected starter Travin Howard returning from injury. It's a great problem to have and makes for the most interesting position battle of training camp.
13. Can Terrell Lewis overcome his nagging knee injury? Not only do the Rams need similar-or-greater production from edge Leonard Floyd in 2021, they also must have viable and complementary options opposite him. I still believe the best candidate is Lewis. But entering his second professional season, the Alabama product remained sidelined through OTAs. This training camp could be the key to his NFL future, and meaningful snaps for Lewis could be the key to sustaining the Rams dominance on defense.
14. Aaron Donald's urgency. Now a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Donald doesn't have much left to accomplish individually. Newly 30-years-old, the future Hall of Famer is suddenly one of the longest-tenured Rams. And he needs rings. Just about every move the franchise makes, including the trade for Stafford, ties back to this generational talent and how to maximize the rest of his prime.
15. How does one overlook a 330-pound defensive tackle? I must admit, I've been guilty of it a few times in the past 12 months. A'Shawn Robinson remains a unique and accomplished talent. Lighter, healthier, and able to report for camp this time around, Robinson's impact has a chance to be as mountainous as his presence. Teaming with Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines, and rookies Bobby Brown III and Earnest Brown IV, the Rams have the Roman numerals and defensive line depth to endure a grueling schedule.
16. Safety in numbers. There isn't an individual who'll be missed more this July than Johnson. A great performer with a brilliant personality, he leaves a void in the secondary. Thankfully, the Rams draft that position very well and have two promising talents returning from missed time. Taylor Rapp never truly found his footing in 2020 after a summer injury undermined his training camp, and Terrell Burgess was just coming on when he had to be carted off in Week 7 against the Bears. How those two are deployed in conjunction with the centerfielder Fuller gives secondary coach Ejiro Evero and Morris terrific optionality.
17. Turning the corner. The Rams have the top corner tandem in the league, but it takes three to contend in the modern NFL. And it's all the more important for the Rams, in order to fully leverage Ramsey's versatility inside. Los Angeles native David Long Jr. is one potential replacement for Troy Hill. Rookie Robert Rochell certainly has the measurables. And Dont'e Deayon is valuable insurance as he awaits greater opportunity.
Take a look back at rookie cornerback Robert Rochell's first offseason with the Los Angeles Rams.
18. Kicking game gets a shot of Vitamin D. If the biggest area for growth year-to-year is at quarterback, next on the list has to be special teams. Spoiled by one of the best units in the league for years, the Rams lost yards, possessions, and points in the third phase in 2020. In comes veteran coach Joe DeCamillis to put things back in order, and one item on his to-do list is selecting return men from a group that ranges from the veteran Jackson to the rookie Atwell and roster candidates like Nsimba Webster and Raymond Calais.
19. Oh snap. It's been a long time since Jake McQuaide wasn't a sure thing going into a Rams training camp. Now Steven Wirtel and Matthew Orzech vie for the right to replace him in the role that's probably the most taken for granted in major sports: long snapper.
20. Can Gay go from good to great? Last summer's kicking competition may have delivered some intrigue, but stability is preferable. And Matt Gay provided some hope that he might be the long-term answer for the Rams at that position. In speaking with him during that stretch of success, I was reminded just how new to the game he is as a converted soccer player, and how much room for refinement he thought he had ahead of him this offseason. Gay has the leg to be a real weapon for this team, and perhaps join the ranks of elite NFL kickers in 2021.
21. Open practices will feature live entertainment, giveaways, Legend autograph opportunities, family-friendly activations and more. For details on how to join us, click here. If you are unable to attend in person, we invite you to follow all of our coverage, including Rams Camp Live, with daily look-ins and interviews.
Take a look back at the best of Los Angeles Rams fans at training camp at University of California Irvine campus.