Week 2 of the NFL season has arrived with Rams set to take on the Redskins on Sunday afternoon at the Coliseum. The contest carries a certain level of familiarity for both the players and coaching staff, pitting head coach Sean McVay against his former team and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips against his son Wes, Washington’s tight ends coach.
While Los Angeles is coming off of a dominant showing in last week’s 46-9 win over Indianapolis, McVay recognizes the importance of continuing that momentum moving forward.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” McVay said of Week 1. “We know it’s one win and now, the true measure of performance is consistency.”
The Rams looked much improved against the Colts, racking up 373 total yards plus two defensive touchdowns and a safety — scoring more than half of the 89 points they produced in seven home games last season. If Los Angeles’ Week 1 performance is any indication, the team should come out strong on Sunday. But it will be up against a strong Washington program coached by McVay’s former boss, Jay Gruden.
“We’ve got 15 more to go, but we’ve got one this week that’s very important,” McVay said. “We said to enjoy it on [Monday] and now when we come back, let’s close that game up and let’s be ready for a great Washington team that I know coach Gruden’s going to have ready to go. They have great players on offense, defense, special teams and it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
McVay was Washington’s offensive coordinator for three seasons prior to joining the Rams, and also served as the team’s tight ends coach and as an offensive assistant, beginning in 2010. His impact on the team was obvious. Last year, Washington’s offense became the first unit in franchise history to average more than 400 yards per game and recorded a record 6,545 yards.
This weekend will mark the first time Gruden and McVay will face off on opposite sidelines since that time. And while each coach is familiar with the other schematically, McVay said the game plan for Sunday’s contest is meant to keep Washington on its toes.
“Jay was a big part of shaping kind of the philosophy that we have and that I have as a play caller, so he’s got a great feel for what we want to be able to do offensively and how we operate,” McVay said. “You always want to kind of have an awareness and an insight on, ‘What have you done?’ That’s where that self-scout is a very important part of what we do as you go throughout the course of the regular season.”
“So, I think it goes hand-in-hand,” he continued. “But Jay’s been such a great mentor to me that he certainly has a good feel for how we want to operate offensively, but you want to try to do a good job, put our guys in good situations on Sunday and hopefully let them execute.”
Defensively, the Rams will be tasked with containing quarterback Kirk Cousins and a series of other dynamic playmakers, including tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, along with wide receiver Terrelle Pryor.
But, the defense will benefit from the return of defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald reported to the team last weekend after staying away while the club and his representation negotiated a contract extension.
“Obviously, it’s good to have Aaron Donald back,” Phillips said. “It’s a good game to get him back. … I think it just kind of energized our team and our players that he’s back playing football. He is a great player, but the mental part of it I think helped everybody.”
Donald should add a strong presence to the Rams’ defensive line alongside nose tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end Ethan Westbrooks. The front seven as a whole will look to replicate the disruptiveness it showcased in Week 1 by forcing Cousins out of the pocket and effectively shutting down the run game.
“You know he’s going to make the plays,” Brockers said of Donald. “He’s a special talent that nobody can actually prepare for. So there are going to be some special plays made by him on the field that you can count on.”
Expect cornerback Trumaine Johnson, who was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week, to match up with Pryor while outside linebacker Alec Ogletree should match up well with either Davis or Reed. Each noted the importance of being aggressive early on and executing their coverages effectively.
“He’s a good receiver, strong and physical, tall and fast,” Johnson said of Pryor. “That’s one a lot of guys sleep on. He’s an athlete, converted quarterback to a receiver, but he’s still good. I’m not taking away from any of the other receivers too, but he’s the main one we want to focus on.”
“We definitely have to be able to get our hands on them and try to disrupt their route and disrupt the timing,” Ogletree said. “It starts with getting pressure on the quarterback for one, and if we’re able to do that, I think we will come out pretty well.”
Additionally, with cornerback Kayvon Webster listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, Nickell Robey-Coleman Nickell may start opposite Johnson on the outside.
“I’m excited, I can’t wait,” he said. “Can’t wait to be out there taking some reps with the first team. This is an opportunity for me to step up, make some big plays. Can’t wait to see what happens on Sunday.”
On offense, quarterback Jared Goff had the best game of his NFL career in last week’s win. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 306 yards and a touchdown. He was also able to distribute the ball effectively to a number of receivers. This week, however, Goff will be up against one of the strongest pass rushers in the league in Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan along with a tough Redskins’ defense as a whole.
“I think they’re super athletic,” Goff said. “I think they’ve got really good players, really good talent over there across the board, from the front seven all the way through the secondary. They’ve got a lot of good players and are extremely athletic and long and can make plays all over the field.”
On Sunday, the focus will be on presenting Washington with a balanced offense, emphasizing a run game that was a bit of a struggle for the Rams against the Colts.
“We’ve just got to be more physical — whether me, just everybody,” running back Todd Gurley said. “We’ve just all got to do our job and just go out there and execute. At the end of the day, I’ve got to win my one-on-ones, receivers got to win their one-on-ones, linemen got to win their one-on-ones, tight ends got to win their one-on-ones. So we looked at it, we’ll get it together, and just come back next week and improve on what we did last week.”
Overall, Week 2 should provide an exciting matchup between former colleagues and will test the Rams ability to replicate the positives they displayed in Week 1. The game will kick off at 1:25 p.m. PT. For more information on how to watch, click here.