(East Los Angeles, CA)[From The Editor’s Desk]: As we conclude the 2023 NFL Pre-season schedule, the Rams continue on with their profoundest preparations for the start of the regular season on 9/10, when they travel to confront the Pete Carroll coached, Seattle Seahawks. Practice days at Cal Lutheran University are still the primary order of the day, as well as the media coverage that many Rams fans, on a daily basis, are anxious to see, read, and hear about through the various sources available to them.
Here is what Head Coach Sean McVay had to say of great importance, via his transcript, to the many media outlets who were on his Zoom call this day. It’s a long, but a good and very worthwhile read, so pull up a chair, get out your favorite beverage for this time of day, and catch up on things that are totally and undoubtedly Rams related for the upcoming season.
[Head Coach Sean McVay – 8/29/23]
(On what went into the decision to waive OL Logan Bruss)…“Really, we just had an open mind with competition at every single spot and we felt like the 10 guys that we kept did a good job of earning those spots. Obviously, with (OL) Kevin Dotson being a late add he has a body of work and a resume and Logan is somebody that we still want to be able to continue to work with. Hopefully we’ll be able to get him back on the practice squad, but it was really just as simple as keeping an open mind and some of those other guys we felt like earned their spots.”
(On what he is looking at for the kicker position after waiving K Tanner Brown)…“Yeah, those have been things that we’ve kind of looked at. I’d like to keep some of the things specific to exactly which direction we’re going in-house because it can’t be official or anything like that right now, so you will certainly know as soon as some of those moves become official once we’re able to do that. But we will carry a kicker going into Seattle on the 10th.”
(On how special teams affected the roster math)…“It always does, but I think that’s one of the great things about (Special Teams Coordinator) Chase Blackburn and (Assistant Special Teams Coach) Jeremy Springer. They’ve got great flexibility and agility and ability to be able to develop the total roster. I think their willingness to keep an open mind, there’s certain guys that we’re still working through what exactly will that 48 look like and in a lot of those decisions, especially as it relates to usually those 45th to 48 spots, when you’re kind of weighing the decisions on in terms of who’s up or who’s not, that’s where those guys’ decisions heavily weigh on who ends up getting a jersey on game day.
The best part about this camp is there’s been more competition with the way we’ve been able to practice. You get four competitive settings. Even though we take a very different approach than the majority of the league in the preseason, we still feel like we got a lot of really good evaluations that enabled us to be able to make decisions based on practice, based on those competitive settings against two of the other teams with the (Las Vegas) Raiders and with the (Denver) Broncos. So I’m really excited about this group. It’s never finalized. I think as you know, and you alluded to it with the beginning parts of your question, there’ll be some things that might change over the next couple days. Ultimately that’s geared towards us figuring out our most competitive 53, but I do feel really good about this group and can’t tell you how excited I am of getting to work and really focusing on building towards this season. There’s a lot of appreciation and gratitude too that I want to make sure that I mention towards the guys that were on the team, whether they’re going to be asked to be back on the practice squad or they go elsewhere. It was a really enjoyable group over these last few months and a group that I think got really close and had a real appreciation for one another and all the work that they put in collectively.”
(On if he will put anyone besides OLB Ochaun Mathis on injured reserve)…“He will be the only one that will fall under that bucket.”
(On if he is still continuing to evaluate the defensive line and outside linebacker positions as other teams make cuts) …“Yeah, and I think that that could be the case at any spot if we feel like it represents a possibility to be able to upgrade the competitiveness of our roster. I think when you look at the interior parts of our defensive line and the outside backers, starting with the outside backers, (I’ve) been really pleased with (OLB) Michael Hoecht’s ascension, being able to settle in at that spot. I’ve mentioned (Outside Linebackers Coach) Joe Coniglio doing a great job developing that group. I think (OLB) Byron Young has really taken strides over the last couple weeks to do an excellent job, seen really good things from (OLB) Nick Hampton. You look at a guy like (OLB) Zach VanValkenburg being able to earn a spot, that’s been such a positive for us. I’m really encouraged with that group as a whole and those are things that we’re looking forward to, but those will be things we’ll monitor the interior parts of the line. Obviously, with (DT) Aaron (Donald), I think (NT) Bobby Brown and (DE) Jonah Williams have done a really good job. I’ve been super encouraged with the development of (NT) Kobie Turner. I think (DE) Desjuan (Johnson) has done a really good job over the last couple weeks, and then (DT) Larrell Murchison picked up where he left off on Christmas Day against the Broncos last year. He’s been really steady and (DE) Earnest Brown is a guy that’s had a chance to play towards the latter part of last year and we’re looking for him to continue to make strides so that’s where you see us keeping five outside backers, seven interior defensive linemen, but right now it’s really four outside backers once Ochaun ends up reverting to IR.”
(On if he will change his approach to the scout team after deciding to keep two quarterbacks) …“You know, the nice thing is you can kind of be able to do both just because we don’t necessarily have the numbers to be able to go two drills at once so I still think it’s beneficial for whoever your backup is to be able to get those reps on the look team, and then every now and then you’ll sprinkle them in. Now when we end up two spotting walkthroughs, you need to end up having somebody else to do that. So when we actually get into the full practice settings, usually the backup takes the majority of the scout team reps, and then you’ll sprinkle them in throughout practice. But that’s why there’s such a premium on doing a great job of becoming a pros pro in the absence of all the physical repetitions that typically (QB) Matthew (Stafford) is going to get as the starter throughout the season and that’ll be a really important part of (Quarterbacks/ Pass Game Coordinator) Zach Robinson’s job continuing to develop (QB) Stetson (Bennett). And then, hopefully we’ll be able to get a good guy back on the practice squad with us and we’re always evaluating what I mentioned for the totality of competitiveness of our roster.”
(On how the competitions at both corner and safety played out) …“You know, we ended up deciding to keep five and five. I think when you look at it with the corner spot, I’ve been super pleased with (DB) Cobie Durant’s progression, being able to play inside and outside. Getting (DB) ‘DK’ (Deron Kendrick) back off of injury has been a really positive thing over the last week. I think he did a nice job against the Broncos in practices. He’s got great concept trigger, good overall awareness, good competitiveness. I’ve been super pleased with (DB) Ahkello Witherspoon. He’s been awesome, a guy that’s played a lot of football, is continuing to buy into the things that we’re trying to do. I love the competitiveness of (DB) Tre Tomlinson, a guy that did a lot of great things at TCU and I think you saw him… it was unfortunate what happened the other day with the Broncos game, but he’s a super tough competitor. He’s a pit bull. He is not afraid to be able to stick his face in there and I really love the way that he’s continued to mature and progress through the offseason program. And I think (DB) Shaun Jolly is a guy that provides some inside and outside flex at the corner spot. So really looking forward to seeing that group continue to progress. At safety, it’s been great getting (DB) Jordan Fuller back. I think he’s done an excellent job with the communication and the command that’s required from the backend. (DB) Russ Yeast is a second-year player that continues to just show his athleticism, his range, his flexibility as a player. I think (DB) Quentin Lake has had his best couple weeks as a Ram being able to play out of the box, being able to play in the box. He’s got some position flex for us. We all know the love that I have for (DB) John Johnson (III) and I think he’s starting to just get comfortable and get himself truly back in football shape where he’ll be ready to go against the Seahawks. And then (DB) Jason Taylor (II) is an intriguing young guy that we’re excited to continue to see his progression. He’s a tough physical player, had a couple injuries that he’s dealt with over the last couple weeks, but I thought he’s really continued to take steps in the right direction. And that ends up giving us 10 DBs that we feel like gives us a really good competitive group and we hope to add some good ones to the practice squad as well.”
(On if this season will be the biggest challenge of his coaching career)…“I guess you got to just watch! It’s going to be a great challenge, but every single year is a challenge. I never really go into it looking at it other than that’s why you get into the NFL to coach is because you get an opportunity to work with special people, special coaches to try to be able to help them reach and realize their highest potential and I feel really good about the rapport that’s been established with this group. Shoot, we know we’ve got great challenges, but that’s why you get into the NFL and so I’m looking forward to truly… it’s the old BS coaching cliché, but I do mean it in my heart of hearts that, hey, we’re taking it a day at a time. We’re enjoying the hell out of really committing to just getting better and having a growth mindset and figuring out, alright, if things don’t go the way we want, how do we go back to work? Because the work works in terms of having that improvement show. I love working with this group because they want to be coached, they want to do right. I think we’ve got really good leaders that have really modeled the way and shown them what it looks like and then ultimately, it’s about us making it come to life when these games start to count. We’re looking forward to capitalizing on the rest of the week. They’ll have a couple days off per the CBA this weekend and then we’re going to get into a great opportunity to go compete and open up at a beautiful venue in Seattle and we’ll see where the hell we’re at, but I’m looking forward to going and shooting our shot, I know that much.”
(On if he’s concerned about the comments of Matthew Stafford’s wife on her podcast)…“No, I’m not concerned because I think if you know Kelly, I took that as more of a joke at the old man, and I’ll be honest, there’s a couple throws that he made during training camp where I wanted to say, ‘Yes sir,’ to him as well. He’s done a great job being able to… I mean, if you watch and if you come out to camp, this guy’s done a phenomenal job of leading, connecting with his teammates. I think it’s one of those deals that becomes a fun narrative in a dead period. And I know Kelly well enough to know that she was probably taking a good old rib at the old man as her husband’s getting older playing, but this guy’s done a phenomenal job and I know how much he loves his teammates and how much they love him. That is the least of my concerns.”
(On what reasonable expectations fans should have for this team)…“Watching us continue to improve and watching us go shoot our shot with a mental and physical toughness. I’ve never been one… you saw me when I was 30 years old in 2017 saying, ‘What the hell are these guys thinking?’ I’ve never been one to really worry about anything except for being where we are and trying to compete to the best of our ability. I think that’s going to show up with the way that you see this group continue to figure out how to handle adversity, how to handle some of the success that they’re able to achieve and continue to see that improvement show and I feel pretty confident that that’s going to occur.”
(On if Stafford did anything specific to work on his movement skills as he continues to age)…“I think he’s done a great job. I think he’s been able to really be more active in the offseason than in previous years and no matter how great you are when you’re able to work on your craft, you’re going to get better at it. I think he’s done an excellent job. I know he’s played a little bit of tennis and he looks like (Pro Tennis Players) Carlos Alcaraz and (Novak) Djokovic out there navigating the pockets, so I think he’s had a great camp. I know he is really having fun out there and I know that’s when we’re at our best, but he’s done a great job of really doing the work and then there’ll be certain things that we try to do to be able to move the spot and move the launch point, as always is the case with our offense. He certainly gives us the ability to do that.”
(On if there was any consideration for carrying three quarterbacks with the new emergency quarterback rule)…“Yeah, and that’s something that you still have the ability with possible flex ups and things like that and so that is certainly something that we’ve discussed and just because we don’t have that reflected and illustrated right now doesn’t mean that that wouldn’t always be the case or we might even have three up on gameday per some of the availabilities to flex up a practice squad guy.”
(On how he’s looking to integrate OL Kevin Dotson short and long term)…“Yeah, I’ve always loved his game. I think his toughness, his ability to be productive in both phases, both the run and the pass, his size, some of the ways that they played in Pittsburgh was something that made it a funny evaluation for us. He can play both the left and the right side. I thought he did a good job being able to play on the right side a little bit this preseason and he’s got a bunch of experience as you alluded to. And so, really, we haven’t had a chance to get on the grass with him. Tomorrow will represent that first opportunity, but certainly adds interior depth for us. I think with last year’s experiences that we went through you can’t have enough depth at your offensive line and that’s where you see us carrying 10 guys on the initial roster. I’m really looking forward to being able to have a better idea of what does he look like in person? How does he learn? What are the things that he does best? But there was a lot of fun tape to evaluate that we feel like he certainly comes in and gives us an opportunity to upgrade the totality of our roster, particularly on the interior parts of the line and I’m looking forward to getting to know him.”
(On how he sees the wide receiver rotation shaping out after WR Cooper Kupp and WR Van Jefferson)…“I feel really good about all six of the guys and it’s going to be a matter of do we want to go five, (or) do we want to go six on the active game day roster? And all those things are still up for grabs, but I think when you look at it, the four guys that you didn’t mention, (WR) Tutu Atwell has had an excellent offseason, (he) can really play all over the formation. (WR) Puka Nacua is a really mature rookie who has excellent hands at the point of contact, good aggressiveness, good toughness with and without the ball. (WR) Ben Skowronek is a guy that can play a bunch of different roles and responsibilities as you guys saw last year. He’ll be a special teams big time contributor for us. And then (WR) DeMarcus Robinson, a guy that’s got production in this league, can be able to play the ‘X’ receiver, can do some different things in the slot if you wanted to, big catch radius, good ability to be able to separate at the line of scrimmage. So all six of those guys provide major factors for us and it’s been good getting Cooper back feeling good. And I think Van’s had an excellent last couple weeks of practice and he’s hitting his stride at the right time, which is exactly what we want.”
(On if there is a young player that he’s excited about that’s been overlooked)…“Yeah, I think I could go through each position and kind of highlight a couple guys, but I think when you just look at our draft class in particular, I’m really excited about (OL) Steve Avila, (OLB) Byron Young, (NT) Kobie Turner, Puka Nacua, those are guys that come to mind as guys that we count on being immediate contributors for us who have earned the right to be those types of immediate contributors. And it certainly isn’t exclusive to those guys. (I) think (P) Ethan Evans and (LS) Alex Ward, even when you’re looking at rookie punter, rookie long snapper, have done a really good job. But those are the guys, those four that I mentioned are the guys that really have kind of shown that they’ve earned a role. They’ve earned a right to be big time factors right away and we’re hoping that that’s just the start of what we’re talking about with that class in particular.”
(On if he thinks it’s a challenge to bridge the generational gap in the locker room)…“Yeah, well here’s what I would say, especially as it relates to Matthew. He’s one of the most emotionally intelligent and authentically good people that I’ve been around. His ability to connect on a personal and a football level with guys, that comes really seamless to him. And so, I think the best part about these locker rooms is you already have a similar common ground where everybody loves football. Those are the types of guys that we want to onboard and then just the way that he carries himself in terms of the way he treats everybody with respect, the way that he’s really intentional about trying to get to know people and ask those types of questions. And there’s a reverence and a respect that he’s earned because of what he’s done in this league. And it’s no different than really the reverence and respect they have for other guys that have been veterans and that have performed at a high level because of the way they go about their work day in and day out. And so, I think certain people just have a good feel for how to be able to do that and Matthew has always struck me as one of those guys that… I’ve heard (ESPN Football Analyst) Dan Orlovsky say it and I thought it was a great way to articulate it, he’s got a way of…everybody in the room that’s sitting with Matthew knows he’s the man, but he’s got such a humility that he blends in with the rest of the guys. And it’s exactly what he’s done with his teammates. It’s exactly what he is done really from day one with the Rams organization. If anybody that’s been out there, if you’re saying, ‘He’s not enjoying and he’s not connecting,’ then you haven’t been watching the same things that I’ve been watching. And I think that’s what comes really natural to him and that’s one of the coolest things of being around Matthew is I feel like I learned just watching the way he moves throughout the course of the day in terms of how you want to handle yourself in a manner that’s reflective of elevating people and bringing people along with you.”