IRVINE, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams training camp on Saturday was dedicated to installing their short-yardage packages. This involved several jet sweeps, passes to running backs, and lots and lots of motion. It rarely resulted in the explosive plays that fans cheer for, but it is the foundation of football. Considering how many 3 and Outs the Rams had last season, these plays are imperative to the success of this offense.
Here are my observations from the August 5th Rams Training Camp.
Rams Training Camp Positional Breakdown
It was evident today that Sean McVay has expanded Tutu Atwell‘s role in his offense this year. Will his role ever be commensurate with his 57th overall pick status? This seems to be the year we will find out. Atwell was used in several jet sweeps. On Thursday he was used on every play of the two-minute drill and that was the same today. He caught a short pass over the middle right before Matthew Stafford clocked the ball to set up a field goal.
Atwell’s most impressive catch came on an out route in which he was hit 15 yards downfield, then took it another five yards when he was knocked out of bounds by Ahkello Whitherspoon. As exciting as it was, Atwell was on the ground after the hit grasping his ankle for several minutes. Luckily, he got to his feet and jogged back to the opposite sideline without trouble. A few plays later he ran another jet sweep at full speed.
Van Jefferson looks better than ever. On his two targets of the day, he thoroughly left his coverage in the dust. In 1-on-1’s he gave Cobie Durant a hard move and left him in the dust. On his second, he gained several yards of separation on Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson for a beautiful catch and run over the middle. Jefferson is playing on the last year of his rookie deal and he will be 28 years old before he plays a snap of football on his next contract.
Brycen Hopkins has had a very solid training camp. So much so that he got reps with the first-team offense.
I previously wrote that Puka Nacua dropped into Coopers Kupp‘s spot as Stafford’s favorite receiver while Kupp is on the mend. That was not the case today. They never found the magic touch. Although Nacua made a few nice plays and was used on a jet sweep.
Cooper Kupp is still day-to-day with a hamstring injury. I can’t imagine the Rams rushing him back in any way. After practice, he came out and signed autographs for eager fans. They chanted COOPER-COOPER-COOPER!
I always have a guy I root for at camp. He is always smaller than average. He always has a chance of getting cut. And usually comes from a small school or HBCU. This year my guy is Xavier Smith, rookie wide receiver.
He checks all the boxes. He is 5’9″ and 174 lbs. He went to Florida A&M University. Given the fact that wide receiver is the only position the Rams have legit depth at his road to the 53-man roster is rough, to say the least. I questioned my pick last week. I had to check my bias for the #19. It was worn by Brandon Powell last year. He was ‘my guy’ last season. But today there was some evidence that the new 19 is my kinda guy.
He played in the final 11-on-11 session of the day with Dresser Winn as quarterback. He was the target of four of the five passes. There is evidence that the Rams coaching staff saw the glimmers that I saw. I won’t make any pronouncements at this time, except that I am openly rooting for Xavier Smith.
Another aspect on display of the short-yardage play install today was passing to Kyren Williams out of the backfield. He ran the same route several times to both sides, all resulting in a five to seven-yard gain. Being a passing game threat has been a part of Williams’ game, going back to his time at Notre Dame. Last season, he missed the first eight games due to an ankle injury. In the 8 games he played in he was targeted 12 times. Which compared to Cam Akers is a lot. In 15 games he was targeted 18 times.
The battle at left tackle continues as Joseph Noteboom and Alaric Jackson split time with the first team. Jackson logs extra snaps with the second team at left tackle as well and rotated in for Rob Havenstein at right tackle as well. Noteboom spent time at right guard. Logan Bruss has been playing right tackle on the second team. Tremayne Anchrum and Steve Avila have been playing right and left guard respectively.