Is the defense now ready for a championship run?
Head Coach Sean McVay and 2021 team captains Jalen Ramsey, Jordan Fuller, and Johnny Hekker took the podium as the Rams approach their last weekend before game week. Here are seven takeaways from their press conferences.
Chris Garrett has been placed on Covid-IR
(00:25) “Pretty self-explanatory. We just put him on Covid-IR and then we also did, you know Obo (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo) and Tremayne Anchrum on the temporary IR because we’re carrying over those rules from last year, we’ll be able to get them back sooner than what a normal year kind of entails.”
If Garrett does in fact have Covid-19, there is the unfortunate reality that he may miss the season opener against the Chicago Bears, with just over a week until game day. On the other hand, if this is a false positive, the rookie edge rusher can return to the Rams facility and normal practice regimen with two negative tests, at least 24 hours apart.
If he does miss the game against the Bears, I would expect fellow outside linebacker Justin Lawler to be called up from the practice squad.
The Rams have placed OL Tremayne Anchrum and OLB Obo Okoronkwo on the reserved/injured list, and this is expected to be the short-term list but will be sure to clarify.
OLB Chris Garrett has been placed on COVID/reserve.
P Johnny Hekker has been activated off COVID/reserve.
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 2, 2021
Okoronkwo was added to injured reserve due to a stinger that has been bothering him for the past few weeks. Anchrum was placed on injured reserve after suffering a knee injury against the Broncos.
Raheem Morris will continue to run a defense similar to what we saw last year
(08:00) “Raheem’s agility as a coach, I think has really been illustrated. This is a charismatic, special leader. When you guys get a chance to talk to him, you can’t help but to feel that, but also you talk about mastering the defense, while then keeping a lot of the continuity, but also being able to put his spin on it.”
McVay also added that the play selection in those crunch time situations may be different than what was called last year by former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, due to different philosophies among coaches.
Combining Staley’s heavy two high safety looks, with Morris’ recent experience with cover three shells, expect the Rams’ defense to be very multiple.
Jalen Ramsey on being named a team captain
(11:00) “It’s an honor…especially here. I’ve been on teams before where it didn’t really matter as much, but here in LA it matters a lot. It’s a huge honor. I don’t take it lightly.”
Ramsey’s performance last year has earned him the opportunity to wear the “C” on his jersey for the 2021 campaign. If Ramsey’s declaration of taking his game to the next level manifests itself this season, that captain indicator may remain on his jersey for the duration of his career.
Blessed regardless of where I’m ranked. It’s all God https://t.co/xJk37lBRKz
— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) August 27, 2021
The defense is rounding into shape
(11:25) “Getting to where we need to be. That’s what I’ll say. That’s where we’re at right now. Getting to where we need to be. And we’ll be there when the time is right.”
The shutdown corner reiterated he didn’t want to compare this defense to last year’s unit, due to it being two different seasons, with different players and coaches involved. Even with the loss of key contributors such as John Johnson, Troy Hill, and Michael Brockers, this defense is loaded with talent and should be able to put together a top five caliber season.
Jordan Fuller on being named a team captain
(14:00) “It means so much. It’s probably one of my biggest achievements to this day, aside from being voted captain at Ohio State. This is huge. I love my teammates, love this team, love this organization and they get my all every day.”
Fuller has gone from pick 199 in the 2020 NFL draft to team captain in one season. He has flashed since weaving his way through traffic to tackle CeeDee Lamb short of the marker on fourth-and-3 against the Dallas Cowboys in the Rams’ 2020 season opener. Who needs to draft in the first round when you can find talent like this in the sixth round?
The blessings just keep coming in. Forever grateful pic.twitter.com/vWDGAnq1gC
— Jordan Fuller (@j_fuller4) September 2, 2021
It’s fun to play defensive back in this defense
(16:25) “I just think this defense is really cool because as a safety, you could be put in so many different spots, so you’re able to show that versatility. It’s not boring. You’re not only doing one thing. It’s like any given play, could be doing something different.”
With Los Angeles’ propensity to substitute safeties in at linebacker and the popularization of the “star” position, defensive backs in this scheme constantly have a full plate. One could only imagine what a secondary film session is like, being led by a man who played safety and coached the likes of John Lynch and Rondé Barber.
Johnny Hekker thought his time in LA was winding down while watching Corey Bojorquez during the game against the Denver Broncos
(21:07) “When I saw his success, I was very happy for him. On the other hand, I saw a little bit of writing on the wall, that I could be, you know, the team might go with this guy and I could be having to find a new home here pretty soon.”
Some may argue that Bojorquez did enough during the preseason to earn LA’s punting gig in 2021. According to his comments, Hekker may have learned that way too, especially after Bojorquez’s 70 yard coffin corner punt.
Johnny Hekker, the Rams longest-tenured player, wins out. https://t.co/vHNaDcAsg1
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) August 31, 2021
Luckily for Hekker, his history with the team, dating back to St. Louis and contract restructuring afforded him the chance to stay with the Rams.