L.A. Rams rookie receiver Puka Nacua was limited in practice on Wednesday and while head coach Sean McVay called it preventative, he also made a concerning statement about Nacua’s speed and strength situation right now.
Should fans be worried about Puka Nacua’s injury, or is limiting him in practice more precautionary? McVay offered some information on how “banged up” LA’s rookie receiver is after practice.
There are plenty of press conferences around the NFL where it seems like the coach doesn’t say a lot of substance and I’m of the opinion that McVay reveals a bit more insight than usual during his latest presser. That insight starts when he discusses Nacua, and the knee injury he has been nursing for the past few weeks.
The head coach delivers a concerning answer, but then backtracks on it.
“It is...he’s just banged up, you know you could see he was a little bit limited in terms of just some of his overall movement against Green Bay (Packers), and you know just the style at which he played I’ll be interested to see if he’s ever truly back full speed...not full speed but feeling like you don’t have to be cognizant taking care of him to get him to game day feeling as good as possible. So that’s kinda the thought process there.”
Whether McVay means when or if (we see Nacua back to full speed) it’s still a worrisome response. The head coach then semi-redacts the “full speed” comment and insinuates that he looks forward to when the player will no longer have to be monitored like this, or will be off the injury report. The question lingers, when can we expect to see Nacua back to full speed? There is no clear answer, and unfortunately for LA, their budding star receiver is not the only player to be worried about.
“Taking a snap doesn’t effect, you know that specific injury. There are certain things, you know, with your hands that, that’s limited guys in previous experiences that I’ve seen from quarterbacks. That won’t be the case with him.”
Total speculation here, but is Sean McVay referring to Jared Goff? When Goff had his thumb injury did he struggle taking snaps under center? What I know for a fact is that Goff beat Seattle in the playoffs with that wounded thumb. Now it’s the Rams taking on Pete Carroll and his Seahawks, but it’s Stafford who has the drama surrounding his thumb.
Throw out the records. These two divisional opponents play each other tough. Either team in any given year can find a way to win their matchup, regardless of how the other team has been performing.
“I have so much respect for Coach Carroll’s leadership. Knowing that you’re very familiar with how good they are. Their personnel, and their players. What a good job they do of just consistently getting better. I think one of the things I always respect is: They consistently take steps. You know there’s always an identity that they play with. Even though they might be doing a couple things here and there schematically a little bit different. Defensively, offensively and on special teams there’s a way and a style of play that comes to life on the tape.”
The Seahawks have been playing winning football. Since Seattle traded Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, they have gotten better. That’s not to knock Wilson, who can still put up some numbers, but Geno Smith has played beyond expectations. At the time of the Wilson trade it seemed like Seattle would need to rebuild, but instead Seattle has stayed competitive and relevant. Who’d of thunk it.
“They seem like they always get better. If there’s issues that come up they always continue to solve them. They’ve got really good leadership from there players and so there’s a reason why they’re 6-3 and have done an excellent job...we know it’s a great challenge, we’re looking forward to it.”
Like it not LA is still alive. However they are going to need wins, especially against their divisional opponents, to stay that way. LA beat Seattle in Week One to start the season, but that was then and this is Week 11 now.
“I’ve been really impressed with them as a whole...you just see they’ve gotten better...I think that’s the sign of a really good team...”
If good teams find ways to get better, and the Rams have regressed since Week One, what kind of team does that make the Rams?
Since the Week 10 bye week the Rams have made some changes as they look to improve. The big change was the signing of Carson Wentz. There’s countless angles to take on this signing. From a football standpoint this could be a great move by LA. Will Wentz be able to capitalize on this opportunity?
“Matthew (Stafford) does such a good job of leading that way, and Carson’s got a lot of experience and you can see...it’s been smooth so far. It terms of actual football stuff, practice was the only thing that we’ve been exposed to on the field, and then we’ll get a chance to see how today’s practice goes.”
Time will tell if Wentz stays a backup or ends up doing something more. Until that time the Rams will work to onboard him as they prepare for the second half of their season. This season’s story is not yet finished. McVay knows that, but for LA to make it work the team need to believe in their chances to make something happen too.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to know that you’ve got half the season ahead of you.”
Certainly McVay is carrying the message to the squad. One way this team can get better is to learn how to close out games. LA needs to consistently take leads, keep leads or play their best late in games. LA has been competitive in some big contests including against the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles, but they’ve come up short. The Rams need to find a way to play big in their biggest moments and keep momentum going. The head coach seems aware.
“There’s was a lot of things we can take and continue to be able to build on and a lot of things that if you’re not careful you say “Well let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves...” ...We can do some things that are in alignment getting right back to where we want to be if we just stay right in that moment.”
Should we expect the team to be much improved after the break? Or should we hope for progress and look toward next season? It does seem like McVay is still bought in for this year, and that’s encouraging for Rams fans. It’s also encouraging that he hasn’t given up despite some of the team’s questionable performances.
“I think being refreshed, recharged, rejuvenated, being able to just kind of take a step back but get a little bit clearer picture of ‘Hey, how do we want to move forward? How can we continue to positively push each other? Handle each day the right way?’ and that’s the approach these guys have taken. I’ve really enjoyed working with this group and looking forward to attacking this week with them.”
This Rams team is 3-6, and has more or less disappointed since their 1-0 start to the season. These next several weeks will be incredibly telling as to whether or not LA is capable to win games now, or if they are preparing to be capable and competitive for next season. Can LA find a way to do both? With half a season left anything is possible.