Matthew Stafford airing it out, other observations from Rams OTAs

Austin Corbett working at center with starting offense
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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Matthew Stafford dropped back during 7-on-7 drills and lofted one of those perfect spirals -- appearing to travel for a mile that you’ve seen him throw on game days.

Except this week, Cooper Kupp was the receiver running under the deep ball on the Los Angeles Rams practice field during organized team’s activities.

Rams head coach Sean McVay fist pumped as he watched Kupp corral the football, no doubt envisioning that scenario earlier this year when he helped pull off the trade for the 33- year-old signal caller.

“The way he’s handled things up to this point, I’ve been very pleased,” McVay said. “He’s been a joy to be around every single day. The consistency that he comes in to work with is definitely something that makes it very fun. I’ve been pleased with what he’s done up to this point.”

McVay and Stafford were communicating often on the field after plays, as the veteran quarterback attempts to learn the offense as quickly as possible so the Rams can hit the ground running for training camp.

“It’s working out great,” Rams running back Cam Akers said about the transition with Stafford. “He’s a great leader, a great communicator. So, it’s not hard to pick up or understand what he’s trying to get done or understand what he’s saying. He’s very clear-cut, and he’ll let you know what he wants you to do -- what you’re doing wrong and what you’re doing right.”

McVay said the focus of offseason work so far has been to get his team’s systems and schemes implemented and taught correctly, building the foundation the right way with Stafford at the helm for what he hopes will be a championship season.

McVay said the Rams will have joint practices with the Raiders and the Cowboys. They also will return to Irvine for training camp practices, with rookies and coaches reporting July 25. Veterans will report July 27.

“They’ve all been able to kind of communicate, where we understand exactly what’s going on,” McVay said. “They’ve handled it the right way. It is a voluntary setting, and I’ve been very pleased with the work we’ve been able to get done.”

Austin Corbett playing center

After letting Austin Blythe sign with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency and passing on selecting a potential starter in the draft, McVay finally revealed his hand during OTA’s.

Austin Corbett, last year’s starting right guard for the Rams, worked with the starters at center. Across the line for the first group: LT – Andrew Whitworgh, LG – David Edwards, C – Corbett, RG Bobby Evans, RT Rob Havenstein.

“We’re continuing to evaluate,” McVay said. “When you just talk about Austin in particular, what was so impressive to me when you look at it from afar, here is a guy that comes in from Cleveland a couple years ago and on short notice ends up starting at left guard.

“Then you get a chance to get some experience there and played really good football, got better as the 2019 season progressed and as he got more experience under his belt. Then you come back last year and he plays really well at the right guard position. He had a lot of snaps that he played center for Cleveland in the preseason a couple years ago. He’s a guy that can play on the left or the right side. He’s an extremely smart player. He’s got a good feel for the game, so we’re looking at that. We know he can be an elite guard in this league, so that center-quarterback relationship is really important.”

McVay went on to say that Brian Allen appears healthy and give the Rams another option at center, along with Coleman Shelton. But it appears to be Corbett’s job to lose -- for now.

“You’ve got Brian Allen, who has started games and he feels like he’s healthy,” McVay said. “I’m really pleased with his progression. And then Coleman Shelton is another player who going back to last year even, he was playing really well in camp, and he kind of had a little ankle injury that set him back.

“So, those are three guys that we’re looking at, at the center spot. But Austin is somebody that we’re excited about kind of seeing how handles some of the things that really requires some extra communication. The above the neck, as you guys like to laugh at when I say it.”

It appears that part of the reasoning for moving Corbett to center was clearing a spot to get Bobby Evans on the field. Evans got a spot start at left guard during the playoffs last season when David Edwards was on the field.

McVay said Evans overall length and athleticism allows him to play outside, but he has the quickness and smarts to play inside where things happen faster. McVay also likes his energy on game day and the fact that game is not too big for him, that he responds well in big games.

“Bobby is a guy that we do think has the ability to be a very good starting player for us,” McVay said. “And he’s shown that, both at the guard and the tackle position.”

Tutu Atwell working at punt returner

Rookie, second-round draft choice Tutu Atwell got some early work at punt returner and appears he will compete for the job with incumbent Nsimba Webster.

“He’s come out here, and he’s done a good job trying to pick things up,” McVay said about Atwell. “There’s a lot of information we’re throwing at him in a short amount of time, but you can definitely feel that speed.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are potential candidates to be punt returners for us, and we’ve got a long time to be able to figure that out. But I’ve been pleased with Tutu so far for sure.”

No shows
Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Tyler Higbee, Leonard Floyd and Darious Williams were among players not in attendance in Thursday’s OTA open to reporters -- the only practice observed by reporters this week.

McVay said a lot of the players who were not at OTAs on Thursday when reporters were allowed to observe have been in attendance at some point and emphasized that it is voluntary.

“They’ve all been able to kind of communicate, where we understand exactly what’s going on,” McVay said. “They’ve handled it the right way. It is a voluntary setting, and I’ve been very pleased with the work we’ve been able to get done.”

Roll call
Several players will be wearing different numbers for the upcoming season. Robert Woods switched from No. 17 back to his college No. 2.

J.J. Koski (No. 15 last year) grabbed the now available No. 17. With Jared Goff now in Detroit, Bryce Perkins (No. 5 last year) is wearing No. 16. With Troy Hill in Cleveland, David Long Jr. (No. 25 last year) is now wearing No. 22.

Cornerback Darious Williams moved from No. 31 to No. 11. New fourth-round selection CB Robert Rochell is wearing No. 31.

Jordan Fuller moved from No. 32 to No. 4. Cam Akers switched from No. 23 to No. 3. DeSean Jackson will wear No. 1. Kicker Matt Gay (No. 1 last year) will wear No. 8. Linebacker Travin Howard (No. 48 last year) will wear No. 32.

Here are the numbers of the rookie draft picks:

WR Tutu Atwell – No. 15.
LB Earnest Jones – No. 50
DT Bobby Brown III – No. 95
DT Earnest Brown IV – No. 90
CB Robert Rochell – No. 31
TE Jacob Harris – No. 87.
RB Jake Funk – No. 34
WR Ben Skowronek – No. 81
DE Chris Garrett – No. 48