Less than 48 hours after playing in their first preseason game, the Rams were back on the practice field to finish up their last week of training camp at UC Irvine. Following this Saturday’s matchup against the Raiders, Los Angeles will resume training at its regular-season facility at Cal Lutheran.
In this afternoon’s non-padded session, much of the practice was focused on unscripted situational drills and technique. After fumbling the ball six times in the Rams’ win over the Cowboys, ball security was one of the main points of emphasis on offense. While on defense, the team centered the majority of its drills on man-coverage and pass deflections.
Here’s everything you need to know from Monday’s practice:
1. Ball security as a point of focus
Day 13 of training camp featured a new portion of practice — ball security drills. While preseason football can sometimes be sloppy as teams work out kinks in their systems, Saturday’s fumbles left much to be desired from the Rams’ offense.
Although the preseason opener was Los Angeles’ first taste of live tackling all year, head coach Sean McVay said taking care of the football would be a point of emphasis moving forward.
“When you are able to get tackled with live hits, [the] ball gets a little bit loose when you’re not as conscientious about it,” McVay said after Saturday’s win. “Those are things that I as a coach have to do a better job of finding ways to creatively implement a more structured environment, so that it can be something that we do a better job with.”
Today, the team stressed controlling the ball through a couple of drills aimed at the receivers, tight ends, and running backs. The staff hit the players with a variety of dummies, would-be blocks, and other distractions in an effort to promote ball protection as a necessary skill. The running backs and quarterbacks also participated in exchange drills aimed at reducing the number of fumbles and turnovers.
2. Working in Watkins at wide receiver
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins made his Rams camp debut this afternoon, taking the field for the first time as a Ram, since he was traded from the Bills last Friday.
The receiver did not fully participate in today’s practice, spending the majority of his time watching from the sidelines. But he did see some action during the position drills and one-on-one sessions. McVay said the staff wanted “to be mindful of his workload” in this first practice, especially with all Watkins has had to deal with in the last week.
“He was going to go through individual, he’s getting some routes right now just to get some timing and get a feel for what’s going on,” McVay said. “But, with all the traveling that he’s done [and] a little jet lag, we’ll start to work him into practice starting tomorrow.”
Although Watkins has yet to fully familiarize himself with the Rams’ offense, he is still expected to play in the team’s second preseason game against the Raiders. After practice, the Rams’ newest wide receiver said that it may take him about “a week and a half to get everything dissected and master the playbook,” but that he will be prepared for “whatever the coaches have for [him]” come Saturday. “I’m just trying to help win games and that’s the main thing. Whatever the coach needs me to do, whatever position, I’m just out here trying to help, learn the playbook and get acclimated,” Watkins said.
While with the Bills, Watkins had 153 career receptions, 2,459 receiving yards and 17 scores in 37 games. Once fully integrated into the Rams’ offense he is expected to provide the team with a dynamic, vertical threat.
3. Defense impresses
After a strong showing in Saturday’s preseason opener, the Rams’ defense under Wade Phillips was on full display once again this afternoon. Though Day 13 was a non-padded session that did not feature any live tackling, the secondary was very impressive throughout the afternoon, recording three interceptions and a slew of pass deflections.
The defensive backs group started off strong in the one-on-ones with cornerback Mike Jordan rising high into the air to force an incomplete pass, and corner Dominique Hatfield beating wide receiver Brandon Shippen for a great deflection on a would-be touchdown.
Cornerback Troy Hill also raised some eyebrows in today’s session. Hill began practice with an impressive deflection during red-zone drills, knocking the ball out of its path on a pass from quarterback Jared Goff to wide receiver Justin Thomas. A few minutes later, the corner recorded the first interception of the day, picking off Goff in the endzone. Later this afternoon, cornerback Kevin Peterson had a nice read, intercepting a pass from Goff and taking it to the house for a pick six.
“I thought it was a great job by the defense forcing a lot of turnovers. They did a great job creating pressure,” McVay said. “Certainly, we can always try to help put our guys in good positions, but I credit the defense for getting their hands on some balls and they make it tough on the offense.”
• Not participating in today’s practice: cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, outside linebacker Ejuan Price, and wide receiver Nelson Spruce. Linebacker Samson Ebukam and wide receiver Tavon Austin remained out with injuries.
• Earlier today tight end Johnny Mundt was taken off of the PUP list after passing his physical. This afternoon was Mundt’s first active practice of training camp.
• Running back Todd Gurley had some exciting plays today, both in the run and passing game. During the 11-on-11 drills he cut across the field for a first down play along the outside and also recorded a nice one-handed catch in the end zone over middle linebacker Alec Ogletree during one-on-ones.
• Wide receiver Cooper Kupp also had a solid practice today. Both Goff and quarterback Sean Mannion connected with Kupp on a variety of different routes, showcasing off the receiver’s good hands and quick speed.
• Tight end Temarrick Hemingway had two great grabs from Mannion during the unscripted portion of Monday’s practice. The quarterback threaded the needle on a touchdown pass to Hemingway, before recording another completion on the following drive for a first down.
• The entire team, McVay included, participated in wind sprints at the end of the day to cap off Day 13 of practice.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Today’s play of the day came from tight end Gerald Everett. The Rams’ second-round draft pick out of South Alabama has shown a lot of development throughout the course of training camp. And while he recorded a series of catches in this afternoon’s practice, there was one particular grab that stood out.
During the team’s red zone drills, Everett jumped above his defender, Isaiah Johnson, to snatch the touchdown on a fade route from Goff, much to the delight of both his coaches and the nearby crowd.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) August 15, 2017
After practice Watkins spoke to the media about reuniting with his former teammate Robert Woods. Catch up on his most interesting points from Day 13 and watch his full press conference below:
On if he is excited to play with WR Robert Woods again: “Definitely excited. I never thought I was going to be playing with him again. He’s a great leader. I had him for three years and he just helped my game out mentally. He’s a great guy to be around because every day he comes out and works. Even days when I didn’t want to work I’ve seen him working so it’s like we both feed off of each other.”