Countdown to Rams Training Camp: Position Unit Reports

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RamBill
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Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:07 pm

Countdown to Camp: Elite special teams unit returns for 2019

Myles Simmons

It’s that time of year again.

The Rams are getting set to begin training camp at UC Irvine, officially starting mandatory preparations for the 2019 NFL season. As summer winds down, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at Los Angeles’ roster with our annual Countdown to Camp series.

For Monday, July 8, let’s begin with coordinator John Fassel’s elite group.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Newcomers: none

After ending the 2017 season on injured reserve and enduring a groin injury early in 2018, kicker Greg Zuerlein returned to be the top-flight kicker he’s become over the last couple seasons. Zuerlein famously sent the Rams to Super Bowl LIII with his 57-yard field goal in overtime to beat the Saints in New Orleans — the longest converted overtime playoff field goal in NFL history. Over the last two years, Zuerlein’s made 91.5 percent of his field goals (65-of-71) and scored 274 points.

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Last edited by RamBill on Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.


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RamBill
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Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:09 pm

Countdown to Camp: New-look offensive line will sport two new starters

OFFENSIVE LINE

Newcomers: Bobby Evans, David Edwards, Brandon Hitner, Vitas Hrynkiewicz, Chandler Brewer, Matt Kaskey

Since Sean McVay took over as head coach in 2017, Los Angeles’ offensive line has been one of the most consistent units in the league. A lot of that has to do with health, since the Rams have been able to roll out their expected starting five for each game of the last two years.

But there will be some significant change along the unit in 2019. Gone are starting center John Sullivan and starting left guard Rodger Saffold. And that means it’s time for Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom to step in in their stead, respectively.

As quarterback Jared Goff said early on during the offseason program, while L.A. will certainly miss the veteran presence of both Sullivan and Saffold, the club did draft both Allen and Noteboom to play. And by all accounts, both had strong offseason. Goff even mentioned that he and Allen have played Fortnite together to help establish their chemistry.

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RamBill
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Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:51 pm

Countdown to Camp: Rams will have at least one new starter at ILB in 2019

Myles Simmons

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

Newcomers: Dakota Allen, Ketner Kupp, Natrez Patrick, Troy Reeder

The Rams’ linebacking corps will look a little different when it takes the field in 2019. Mark Barron had been a mainstay at the position since taking over at the weakside linebacker spot early on during the 2015 season, moving down from his original position of safety.

Both he and Ramik Wilson — who started four games for the 2018 Rams — departed in free agency.

But Los Angeles will have its signal-caller back from 2018 in Cory Littleton, who returns for his fourth season in horns. The former undrafted rookie out of Washington excelled in his first season as the Rams’ Mike linebacker, recording 4.0 sacks, three interceptions, nine tackles for loss, and 13 passes defensed. And he still contributed heavily on special teams, blocking a few punts over the course of the year.

At this point, second-year linebacker Micah Kiser appears penciled in for Los Angeles’ second starting ILB spot. While Kiser didn’t play at all on defense in his rookie season, he was productive on special teams — on the field for 62.7 percent of the unit’s snaps. When in college, Kiser thrice led the ACC in tackles — becoming only the second player in history to do so.

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RamBill
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Thu Jul 11, 2019 1:31 pm

Countdown to Camp: Rams returning group of tight ends


Myles Simmons

TIGHT ENDS

Newcomers: Keenan Brown, Romeo Brooker, Kendall Blanton

The Rams’ group of tight ends isn’t necessarily well-known, but it certainly contains candidates to have a breakout season.

In the first two years of head coach Sean McVay’s tenure with L.A., tight ends have averaged 53.5 receptions for 613.5 yards with four touchdowns per season. That’s not just one player — that’s all tight ends. So if there’s room for improvement for a team that’s finished No. 1 and No. 2 in scoring in the last two years, this is one position where it could come from.

Tyler Higbee is entering his fourth season, and presumably his third as a full-time starter. His number over the last two years have been remarkably similar — 25 receptions for 295 yards with one touchdown in 2017, followed by 24 receptions for 292 yards with two touchdowns in 2018. Higbee also had a notable touchdown reception late in the NFC Championship game in New Orleans. He’s strong as an in-line blocker, but can also make the tough catch on the sideline. He played 71.6 percent of the Rams’ offensive snaps last year, in on most of the first- and second-down situations.

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles’ first pick in the 2017 draft, split time with Higbee last year — mainly entering the game in known-passing situations. He caught 33 passes for 320 yards and three touchdowns. He also took a couple carries for 16 yards, displaying his versatility. Everett had a strong offseason program, making a number of impressive catches day after day during OTAs. If tight end production is going to improve this season, it appears as if Everett will be a significant reason why.

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RamBill
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Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:15 pm

Countdown to Camp: Outside linebackers should be a strength for L.A. in 2019


Myles Simmons

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Newcomers: Clay Matthews, Josh Carraway, Landis Durham

After searching for production out of the position on a rotating basis for much of the first half of 2018, Los Angeles traded for outside linebacker Dante Fowler and got plenty out of the deal. Fowler was more of a rotational player with Jacksonville — the team that drafted him No. 3 overall back in 2015.

But in Los Angeles, Fowler was a full-time player and made the most of his opportunities. He recorded 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble, four tackles for loss, and five quarterback hits during the regular season — adding 1.5 sacks, four TFLs, and three QB hits in the playoffs.

Fowler elected to sign a one-year deal with the Rams rather than head into unrestricted free agency. And given that he’s now had a full offseason program with the club, there’s plenty of reason to believe he should be even better integrated into the scheme in 2019.

One of Los Angeles’ big prizes in free agency, veteran Clay Matthews should also aid in the production from the OLB spot. Matthews will likely start opposite Folwer in the Rams’ base 3-4 package — which is more for early downs. Then on third downs, or any known-passing situation, Matthews could be more of a wild card — lining up where it most makes sense from a matchup standpoint. Playing the first 10 years of his career in Green Bay, Matthews has recorded 83.5 sacks — good for No. 6 on the active list.

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RamBill
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Mon Jul 15, 2019 4:03 pm

Countdown to Camp: Rams cornerbacks should be a team strength

Myles Simmons

CORNERBACKS

Newcomers: David Long Jr.

The Rams group of cornerbacks remains largely intact from 2018 heading into this new season. The group did lose veteran corner Sam Shields in free agency, but each of the starters — Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman — are all back for a second year together as the leads of the group.

Talib missed half the season in 2018 due to an ankle injury, but came off of injured reserve in early December. His play was a significant part of Los Angeles’ defensive improvement down the stretch. In 11 games with Talib — including postseason — the Rams allowed 17.8 points per game and 321.1 yards per game. In eight games without the veteran corner? Los Angeles allowed 401.3 yards per game and 30.8 points per game.

On the opposite side, Peters certainly benefitted from Talib’s presence. But defensive coordinator Wade Phillips also got to know Peters and his skillset better throughout the course of the season. Starting all 16 games, Peters intercepted three passes and recorded eight passes defensed in his fourth pro season.

One element of this season to watch: Both Talib and Peters are entering the final year of their current contracts. Peters is at the end of his rookie deal, but even at the age of 33, Talib hasn’t shown signs of slowing down.

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