Los Angeles Rams Get Ready for First Season in LA at UCI
Written By: Jordan Ligons Los Angeles Rams
Photographed By: Erik Isakson
With the sun beaming down on fresh cut grass, LA Rams helmets crashing into each other, bodies aching from two-a-days, and defensive coaches yelling from the sidelines, “We are running Stick! Get your head out of your asses and c’mon!” you know it could only mean one thing: it’s football season.
The Los Angeles Rams’ training camp at the University of California, Irvine was pivotal last week due to their first preseason game kicking-off on Saturday, August 13 against the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams came away with the victory, winning 28-24 in front of a crowd close to 90, 000. This was the first NFL football game to be played at the LA Coliseum since 1994.
To say that fans are amped is an understatement. The crowd at training camp were dressed in their LA Rams gear and treating a practice like the real deal with “oohs” and “ahhs” after big hits, nice passes, and perfectly-timed interceptions. There has been a build-up for the 2016-2017 season since the announcement in January. There is an appetite for NFL football, and LA is hungry.
Between the busy offseason of moving an entire franchise from St. Louis back to Los Angeles, filming this season of HBO Sports’ Hard Knocks while also filming an E! reality show Hollywood & Football, the LA Rams are ready to get to work on the gridiron.
All eyes (and cameras) were on rookie quarterback Jared Goff at Tuesday’s practice. The 2015 First Team Pac-12 shined in last week’s scrimmage at The Coliseum, earning head coach Jeff Fisher’s praise for his on-target passing in the two-minute drill. Goff continued his on-target passing at camp, making for a solid day. When practice moved to play action, he was picking up first downs like it was easy. But, despite how impressive Goff has been with his quick decisions and improvement working under center, Case Keenum is still the current starting quarterback, according to Fisher. The vet was quick in the pocket and oozed confidence like he’s been here before. But, in Saturday’s exhibition game against the Cowboys, QB Sean Mannion was the fourth quarter hero with a 74-yard scoring drive. He threw for three touchdowns in the comeback.
Even though the Rams have solid options at QB, the receiver position is still in question. Between injuries and early cuts, the position is dwindling. The 5’8” Tavon Austin has been labeled inconsistent and rookie Mike Thomas, who’s been Goff’s go-to, dropped two prime passes in practice that would have led to first downs or a touchdown. Other times it didn’t seem that QBs were even looking the receiver’s way. Nonetheless, running back Todd Gurley aims to finish where he left off last season, and it’s showing in his reps. The 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year is the key person in this offense, and he was juking the defense left and right. He racked up 1, 106 yards last season and doesn’t look like he is slowing down anytime soon.
But, you know what they say, defense wins games. The other side of the line is expected to be the strength of the team this season with one particular stand-out: Aaron Donald. The defensive tackle has put in work in the offseason on the field and off (he’s down to 10 percent body fat). Coming off of last season’s 11 sacks and Pro Bowl pick, in practice he has razor sharp vision and, for lack of better words, gets after it. Cornerback E.J. Gaines is expected to make his return this season after not truly playing a full game since 2014 due to injury, but would be a bonus to this already tenacious defensive squad.
Murmurs in the crowd at camp centered around whether or not Goff will steal the starting QB position away from Keenum. Some are rooting for Goff to start their first game against the San Francisco 49ers thinking, historically, all No. 1 picks do. Others aren’t wanting to rush his development and, overall, fans are praying to the football gods for a winning season—with nine straight losing seasons, wouldn’t you? After a 22-year hiatus of football in Los Angeles—welcome home, Rams.
Native Knowledge: Be sure to tune in on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. to Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the LA Rams on HBO Sports for the inside scoop on the team and their families.
LA Rams Gear-Up for Season at UCI Training Camp