The Rams completed the final phase of their offseason program before training camp, a three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday (June 14) with one noticeable absence, All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year held out of minicamp pending contract extension negotiations with the Rams organization.
“When I spoke with him last week, I said, ‘If there’s not a solution to this by next week, will you be here?’ He said, ‘I’m going to stay home, continue training,’” Rams coach Sean McVay said Tuesday afternoon following the first full day of minicamp. “He’s in a good place. Would we want him to be here? Yeah, we’d love to have Aaron here.”
Last season Donald recorded 11.0 sacks and five forced fumbles in 14 games.
“We’re just focusing on the guys who are here,” said McVay, who was named AP Coach of the Year in his first season with the Rams in 2017. McVay earned an 11-5 record and a division title.
Players like Ndamukong Suh will line up alongside Donald. This offseason the Rams also signed star cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
“They have great personalities and then they also have a swagger and confidence about themselves and they love football,” McVay emphasized.
Talib, a Super Bowl champion, and five-time Pro Bowler currently holds the record for the most picks by a cornerback (34) since entering the league in 2008. Meanwhile, Peters spent the past three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs after being drafted in the first round.
“We’re good in the meeting room, on and off the field,” remarked Talib. “From where we were from day one [of OTAs] until now is a lot of progress.”
Those signings have made practice a much more competitive landscape for the Rams’ offense.
“It raises the level of competition and the margin for error is so much smaller,” commented Rams’ starting quarterback Jared Goff. “They give us fits, but it helps me get better going against Aqib and Marcus.”
Goff willed his team to the NFC Wild Card game where they came up short against the Atlanta Falcons last season. With the Rams heading into their second consecutive season with the same offensive scheme, Goff’s level of comfort and confidence is on high.
“I think the great thing about our offense is that it calls for guys to be smart, be able to make plays, and be able to make decisions on the run,” said wide receiver Cooper Kupp. “We’ve got a bunch of guys on our team that can do that.”
The Rams receiving corps boasts the return of Kupp and Robert Woods, as well as Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds and Mike Thomas. This offseason the Rams sent their first-round draft pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
The Rams were able to come away from OTA’s and minicamp virtually unscathed with the exception of an injury to defensive end Morgan Fox who sustained a non-contact knee injury.
“I think there’s a confidence that this group has that they should feel good about,” said McVay. “There’s also got to be a humility and understanding that we have to earn it every single day.”
The final day of minicamp was spent touring the construction site of the LA Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park.
The next step in the Rams’ quest for a Super Bowl championship is training camp, which is scheduled to begin in mid-July.