The Rams have wrapped up OTAs and are on to mandatory minicamp on campus at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The final offseason period before the team reports to training camp in late July is set to run June 11-13.
Here are three storylines worth watching as the Rams begin the mandatory set of practices:
1. What's the latest from Todd Gurley
The football world will hear from running back Todd Gurley when minicamp hits, as the back is scheduled for media availability following Tuesday’s practice.
It remains to be seen how much action Gurley will see on the practice field this week, but the league’s leader in touchdowns a season ago will certainly be in the building for sessions with the Rams strength and conditioning staff and meetings — much like he’s been for the offseason’s voluntary portion.
Head coach Sean McVay said late last month that his staff has a specialized plan for getting Gurley ready to roll for 2019, taking into account the heavy workload No. 30 carried in 2018’s march to Super Bowl LIII.
“[T]hat was really what we felt like, when we sat down at the end of the year, and [developed] a plan that’s best suited for Todd getting ready for the Carolina Panthers — but then also taking into consideration being ready to go when training camp rolls around,” McVay said.
“And I think some of that also had to do with us just playing a lot longer than we had in previous years. So, really, sitting down with [head trainer] Reggie [Scott], sitting down — most importantly — with Todd and talking through those things, that was a plan that we kind of laid out a while back. And that’s what’s been followed so far.”
2. A new-look defense
The Los Angeles Rams defense will look a bit different than it did featuring now-Buccaneer DT Ndamukong Suh, safety LaMarcus Joyner, and linebacker Mark Barron to close 2018.
Going forward, coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense will roll out big-name veterans in safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews. It could also welcome up-and-coming young players to a starting roles, like linebacker Micah Kiser and sophomore defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, who have each received reps with the top defensive unit depending on the package.
This week’s minicamp should provide some clarity as to which personnel will be called upon given the situation. In OTAs’ 11-on-11 drilling so far, it’s been mostly Joseph-Day lining up at the nose spot in Phillips’ base 3-4 defense — despite general manager Les Snead and McVay’s comments about sticking rookie defensive tackle Greg Gaines at nose following the draft.
In the middle of the defense, all indications point Kiser slotting into Barron’s vacated space, while Matthews has been working off the edge. As for Weddle, the veteran has been frequently working in and out of the dime linebacker spot — an offseason addition that safety John Johnson’s encouraged about moving forward.
“He puts everyone at ease and it’s funny because I used to say that’s what I try to do, so it’s kind of like two guys are back there working together to just make everybody comfortable, everyone play faster, and work together even better,” Johnson said last week. “It’s great having him with us, I’m glad. It’s a big difference from last year — no knock on last year’s crew — but we definitely took a step forward.”
Check out photos of the Los Angeles Rams participating in the final day of OTAs.
3. How much to expect from Kupp
The Rams lost an offensive spark when wide receiver Cooper Kupp went down with a torn ACL in Week 10 of last season. Now past the six-month point in recovery, Kupp has been working with head athletic trainer Reggie Scott on-field throughout OTAs.
“He’s really doing an excellent job staying right on track, making good progress, and we want it this way, where we’ve got to pull him back because he’s so excited to get back out there,” McVay said last week.
The head coach also mentioned that the minicamp period should look like an extension of OTAs ahead of year three leading the Rams. If that is the case, expect Kupp to continue his individual attention on rehab, while steadily increasing the number of ‘jog-thru’ routes he runs as a member of Goff’s 11.
Visit theRams.com for observations, updates, and more throughout minicamp.