American Football Expert & Columnist
Neil Reynolds catches up with the Los Angeles Rams ahead of the new NFL season
"Sean McVay is a very impressive man and it feels like he is the right coach to lead a fresh start with the Rams"
Last Updated: 17/08/17 12:01pm
Day two of our 8 in 8 NFL training camp adventure began about four hours after day one ended thanks to a mechanical issue with our plane that meant we didn't arrive at our Los Angeles hotel until midnight.
And then there was an early alarm clock moment as we left at 5am to meet the youngest head coach in NFL history in Sean McVay, the new 31-year-old boss of the Los Angeles Rams.
There was no complaining on our part. Well, maybe just a little. But we were well aware that the theme of today's training camp visit was energy, enthusiasm and a fresh start. So we attempted to buy in.
It certainly feels like a fresh start around a Rams team that is being energised by the arrival of McVay, who has replaced Jeff Fisher at the helm.
5 observations from Rams training camp…
Sean McVay is a very impressive man and it feels like he is the right coach to lead a fresh start with the Rams. And he is young, cool and looks the part, which should endear him to the California crowd. Although the only real thing they like in LA are winners. McVay appears to be a polar opposite to Fisher and that so often proves to be the case in the NFL. He comes across as an exciting and excitable leader but also one who is not afraid to listen and learn from the coaches around him such as former head coach Wade Phillips and last year's interim head coach, John Fassel. Only the wins and losses will determine how McVay's tenure is judged, but he comes across in a very positive fashion.
The Rams players certainly seem all in on McVay and it's clear they are buying what he is selling. This is still a team that is a work in progress on offense and it remains to be seen how many weapons they have at receiver and how much Jared Goff has grown at quarterback, but there was plenty of positivity in the air on Sunday.
The veteran offensive line additions of center John Sullivan and tackle Andrew Whitworth are going to be good for the Rams. Both have plenty of miles on the clock but boast high football IQ to go with their physical skills and it is clear they have been brought on board to allow Goff to feel like he has more security and for more holes to be opened for running back Todd Gurley. Sullivan, in particular, has been a good sounding board and X's and O's teacher for Goff, by all accounts.
The Rams were the subject of the Hard Knocks series during last year's training camp and their 2016 regular season played out in front of the All or Nothing cameras. This season, they can work in relative anonymity and they are not distraught about that fact. On that point, Gurley admitted "it would be quite a relief" not to have the television cameras around all the time.
Second-year quarterback Jared Goff is not shying away from the adversity that dogged him as a rookie. He even admitted in our chat on Sunday that he "got a little down on himself" at times during his winless streak in 2016 and that experience dented his confidence. But he also feels that experience helped him learn and grow. If it didn't and he struggles again in 2017, we can put the Rams in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes in 2018.
NFL 8 in 8 Diary: Day one
Neil Reynolds catches up with an Arizona Cardinals team that under-achieved in 2016
Training camp finish that sentence…
You know a hotel is sneaky clever when… They make sure the coffee pod tray in your room is completely empty after a sleep-deprived night for yours truly. That resulted in me running straight downstairs to the Starbucks in the lobby and parting with my hard-earned (well, not that hard-earned to be fair) dollars. What a beautiful plan. I won't name the hotel or the chain but you know who you are!
Quote of the Day…
"The biggest thing I have learned is that winning in this league is hard." - Rams second-year quarterback Jared Goff, who went 0-7 as a starter in 2016.
Quote of the Day II…
"Well, he should respect his elders shouldn't he?" - Our Sky Sports cameraman Simon Gunby over breakfast on Sunday morning as we discussed how generous Sean McVay had been with his time earlier in the day.
The Rams have made significant moves along the offensive line, as I previously mentioned. But unless Goff ups his game and the receiving corps that lost Kenny Britt but gained Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp hold up their end of the bargain, the Rams could get bogged down once again on offense. And that could result in Gurley seeing more of the eight and nine-man boxes that derailed his 2016 campaign.
The regular season of home and away matches run from September to December 2017, culminating in PlayOffs from January 6, 2018 and the Super Bowl on February 4, 2018 at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota to determine the world champion.