The Los Angeles Rams begin the optional minicamp today for which attendance is mandatory. Well, unless you’re DL Aaron Donald...
It’s year two for Rams Head Coach Sean McVay which means year two of the optional minicamp which former Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher opted not to hold. Under McVay, the Rams have rejoined the rest of the NFL in holding the optional sessions.
Here are the major storylines.
As mentioned, the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that if the minicamp is exercised, attendance is mandatory at penalty of fines. Reportedly, the total for a three-day absence would be $84,435, but (a) that’s not much compared to the $41m or so Donald is missing out on from last season and this season alone aside from a potential franchise tag which would add to that figure and (b) the Rams waived the $1.5m in fines Donald accrued throughout his holdout a year ago.
While Donald’s holdout last year was interrupted by his presence at minicamp, his absence this year joins a pretty strong list of minicamp absentees across the NFL including Seattle Seahawks S Earl Thomas, Oakland Raiders EDGE Khalil Mack and Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones.
So while Donald isn’t alone in that group, he is the only one without a fourth accrued season toward unrestricted free agency meaning he’d need to show up before all of them at training camp this summer. And while we’re likely to get a question about Donald’s absence from McVay, we’re much less likely to get anything from the principals involved with the negotiations chiefly Chief Operating Officer/Vice President Kevin Demoff and Senior Assistant Tony Pastoors.
Last year, the Rams entered the optional mandatory minicamp healthy. This year, less so.
DE/OLB Morgan Fox tore his ACL during organized team activities (OTAs) and EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo broke his foot during Phase II of the offseason program.
We’ll have to see if anyone else is held out of participation when things get going today like ILB Mark Barron who was still dealing with various issues into OTAs. But more than anything, do what you do to contribute to the juju to make sure nobody else gets added to this list before we hit the summer break.
The 2017 Los Angeles Rams were talked of in successful terms despite not winning a postseason game. The 2018 Rams? Yeah, that won’t fly.
For a team that’s being talked about in Super Bowl or bust terms, McVay’s biggest job over the summer and into the regular season might be getting his team not to buy into the hype.
CB Trumaine Johnson, WR Sammy Watkins, EDGE Robert Quinn, OLB Connor Barwin, ILB Alec Ogletree and ATH Tavon Austin out. CB Aqib Talib, CB Marcus Peters, WR Brandin Cooks, DL Ndamukong Suh and a bunch of rookies in.
Chemistry matters. It’s also hard to assess from the outside looking in. But with minicamp serving as training camp lite, this is a good chance for the coaches to pick up on what relationships are working and which aren’t.
And to start thinking about what to do about the latter.
The roster is too good on both sides to suggest that as goes third-year franchise QB Jared Goff so go the Rams. But his play will determine the limits to success and failure of the team.
And as Goff remained a young, unfinished product last year coming off of a 0-7 rookie campaign with disastrous outputs, he remains as much despite completely turning around those outputs under McVay’s oversight. He’s still just 23-years old with the overwhelming majority of his career in front of him.
Should he match his 2017 season, it will, like the team under a similar hypothetical, be looked at with much less plauditory analysis than last year. Put simply, he has to raise the bar individually. He has to live up to the billing he was granted when the Rams traded up to select him with the #1 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Goff was more than game for the challenge that was set for him a year ago. This year will ask even more.
In 2017, Goff was without question good enough. In 2018, good enough won’t be good enough.