It started with CB Lamarcus Joyner. And that’s fitting.
Joyner, a second-round pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, arrived two years after Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson plugged up the corner spots. Uncomfortably, he came in the same draft E.J. Gaines landed as he took up his rookie season with aplomb.
Joyner, dismayed perhaps by being relegated to the slot cornerback role, perhaps at some remark from the staff or the nature of the uncertainty of roster alignment in the preseason (it’s a hell of a lot more comfortable to be a slot cornerback in the regular season getting a ton of playing time than to be one playing with all kinds of personnel in training camp), suggested he was ready to quit. Not quit practice. Quit football. He name checked Wal-Mart as a potential employer.
This was Joyner frustrated exposed for the cameras, and thus the audience.
This is the Rams in 2016.
The Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2003. They arrive in Los Angeles on the back of broken promises and unfulfilled potential. They’re selling a marquee running back and perhaps the best defensive lineman in the league. They’re touting a future led by a #1 overall draft pick.
That running back, great as he was to break record and garner the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, couldn’t prevent the Rams from finishing dead last in yards gained as an offense in 2015. That defensive tackle couldn’t keep the secondary from making mental mistakes. That #1 overall pick couldn’t crack the starting lineup for Week 1.
That was Hard Knocks, Season 11. We saw the inside of the Los Angeles Rams in 2016. And what we saw was a certainty from the staff, a level of comfort from the fans, an air of, I’m not quite sure what from the players. Exasperation? Displacement? There’s still a feeling of things not being real. Camp down in Irvine. Games at the Coliseum. HQ up in Thousand Oaks. The Los Angeles Rams.
What we saw was a team that didn’t seem entirely disturbed by the inability to win, but one committed to the routine. Process over product.
If there’s a way to summarize the five episodes of Hard Knocks, that’s it. Process over product. Exasperated displacement. Frustrated.
(UPDATED at 9:59am ET)
Thought this recap from Sports Illustrated’s Amy Parlapiano helped pinpoint part of what made this season feel so empty, especially as a Rams fan.
Or as longtime friend of TST Brennan Smith put it: