The Los Angeles Rams are set to face a critical NFC West matchup on Sunday when they head to Arizona to face Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium in Glendale Arizona.
And on Wednesday during his availability with the media, Rams head coach Sean McVay spoke at length about the matchup, discussing game planning, Matthew Stafford's health, defending Kyler Murray, and much more.
Here are the 10 most interesting things that McVay had to say ahead of the Sunday showdown:
1) How will the Cardinals run their offense without DeAndre Hopkins?
“They do a good job. (Cardinal’s Head Coach) Kliff (Kingsbury) has always been a guy that's mixed a lot of different personnel groupings," McVay said. Sometimes it's different based on how he feels like he wants to attack different opponents. There's certain games where they’ve been a little bit heavier with some more wide receivers and running back personnel, sometimes he's done it with the tight ends. He does a great job with being able to utilize all the guys that he has up on game day. When you look at, since ’19, there's been a mixture of different things and we got to be ready for either or.”
2) What to expect from offensive lineman Oday Aboushi
“He's a guy that's had over 40 starts, I think 47 career starts in this league," McVay said. "He's got a nice way about himself. I was impressed with the way that he handled himself last week, just seeing his tape in the previous places he's been. The game makes sense to him. He's a tough, physical competitor that can really compete at a high level in both phases. That was why it was important for us to get him in here and seems like he has seamlessly kind of fit in in a short amount of time.”
3) Does Matthew Stafford have an interception problem?
“This guy (QB Matthew Stafford) is a great quarterback," McVay said. "I thought he had great command the other day. There's so many different things that a quarterback is responsible for before the snap, and one of the things I've always been so impressed with Matthew is that he's able to come off right after and he's able to articulate what he saw. It's not waiting until he is looking at the pictures. He has an intent and a reason behind different things, and then we learn from it. It's no different than if I end up making a bad decision that wasn't in alignment with some of our process and our preparation. You want to have those at a minimum, but I also want to make sure that it's a fine line between not allowing him to compete at a high level where we want to be smart, but aggressive. Both of those (interceptions) the other day, I thought the one that (Falcons LB Mykal) Walker made was it was a good play in a man coverage where he kind of had tucked in with that action and he didn't feel him. The other one was a play that I know he can be better than. It was such a good drive to get us in that position, but it felt like (Falcons DB Casey) Hayward was playing visual one into the back field and wanted to be able to give (Rams TE Tyler) Higbee a chance. But those are things that we'll learn from. I don't know if I ever really thought of it like that other than, ‘Hey, let's collaborate, let's communicate, and then let's be able to try to keep those at a minimum’. I have the utmost confidence in Matthew and I thought he played really well the other day.”
4) How good is Kyler Murray?
“I’m just so excited to get ready to play him [sarcastic smile]," McVay said. "You realize what a nightmare…I remember after I finished talking to you guys and going the locker room and you talk about being able to make a play to even score the touchdown, then to be able to hit AJ Green. But this guy, the play is never over with this guy. He's got such great wide field vision. He's got such a great ability to be able to escape the pocket. He can make plays in the pocket. He can make plays outside the pocket when he does utilize his legs as a runner. He is freaking dynamic. That's a huge point of emphasis as it has been since we were playing him in ’19. He's a very, very special player and somebody that we have to account for. It's definitely something that our guys are excited about, but it's a great challenge without a doubt.”
5) What kind of impact has Jalen Ramsey had on younger players?
“I think you just never know what's going to occur and guys need to be ready to go," McVay said. "That's why every single rep that they get, even if we do take a modified approach in the offseason, but these guys are getting seven-on-seven reps. I can watch him playing the star, being able to slip underneath the seam and make a couple picks. Jalen's ability, I think there's something so powerful about when you get these veteran players that have been doing it for such a long period of time at such a high level, these players, they listen because those guys know better than anybody else. It's really powerful when you've got leaders like Jalen, like a (Rams LB) Bobby Wagner, guys like (Rams DT) Aaron Donald. Then you look at on the offensive side, a lot of the same guys pouring into these guys, not anything more than what they're capable of, but we do expect them to raise the level of play of people around them. Part of that is putting some of these younger guys under your wing and helping them grow, and that's exactly what he's done.”
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6) What is the value of adding the experience of Bobby Wagner?
“It's huge," McVay said. "He's such a smart player. He's got an inventory of reps accumulated that he utilizes based on the coordinator or personnel guys. He's got a really special approach. I definitely think he'd probably be better equipped to answer that, but I certainly don't think it hurts us. Really glad Bobby's with us.”
7) What is the status of Matthew Stafford's elbow?
“I think really there's a consistent plan throughout the course of the week," McVay said. "When you really only practice three days a week, you kind of naturally de-load him as. It's a little bit different than training camp. After the game, now you really have two days, a full 48 hours until you're back out here. Really even today, it's a little bit more modified practice setting where you can kind of naturally de-load him in terms of the amount of throws. Tomorrow's a little bit more, and then Friday you kind of naturally de-load it back down. That's really in alignment with how we practice as a team. It kind of works itself out organically, but we certainly are always in constant communication. (Head Athletic Trainer) Reggie (Scott) and (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach) Zach Witherspoon, those guys do a great job of kind of having a plan that's predicated on Matthew's feedback because it's really important for him to have the ownership in it because of his experience. It's his body.”
8) How does preparation change when facing a division rival?
“For me there's not," McVay said. "It's important for us to try to be able to be fully present, fully focused on putting together a great plan and having a great week of preparation. I'm not naïve to the fact that those games maybe mean a little bit more at the end of the year based on how the standings fall, but whether it was last week getting ready for Atlanta or this week, I'd like to think that we have the same amount of focus and concentration and that's a full 100%. That's what I know we're going to give as coaches, and that's what I anticipate our players are going to give as well.”
9) Do the Rams need tobe more explosive in the passing game?
“I think if it's necessary," McVay said. "I didn't think we needed it the other day. I thought because we were so efficient on early downs, obviously the score got close, but I felt like offensively the guys did a great job of really being able to kind of move the ball at will. It wasn't until later on in the game that we were forced to punt. I thought they did a great job. I think shot called doesn't always necessarily mean shot taken, but it's in a lot of instances predicated on, ‘All right, what are the coverage contours?’ Obviously, the Buffalo game was a real challenge, and they were playing a lot of stuff where they were trying to keep things in front. You do see that a little bit more prevalent around the league, but if we feel like that's the best way... Last week we had some plays where you're stretching them vertically, but it might be taken in underneath check down. We're always hunting up if the defense presents those chances.”
10) How do the Rams adjust to injury issues in the secondary and on the offensive line?
“I think what you do is you expect those guys to be able to step up," McVay said. "Everybody talks about the next man up, but we do have confidence in these guys to be able to assert themselves and to fill in. Whether it's an (OL) AJ (Alaric) Jackson or whether it was to Cobie Durant last week, or maybe a (DB) DK (Derion Kendrick) or (DB) Robert Rochelle, or whoever it is, the expectations don't change. That's why this is the greatest team sport there is. We got to do a good job as coaches of being mindful of how to put those players, and really all of our players, in the right spots. I think what you try to instill is an authentic confidence and encouragement in terms of how you prepare them and then let them go play. But you try not to make too big of a deal of it other than the fact that, ‘Hey, we got confidence in those guys to step up and fill the voids that are left by whoever was in front of them that might have gotten injured.’”
You can follow Matt Galatzan on Twitter @MattGalatzan
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