INDIANAPOLIS — We've got the Los Angeles Rams and the Indianapolis Colts matching up on Sunday in the 2017 regular season opener in L.A.
With an inside scoop on the opposition heading into the game, we check in with Myles Simmons, team insider for the Rams and TheRams.com (follow Myles on Twitter @MylesASimmons):
Walker:** You made the move over to L.A. from St. Louis if I'm not mistaken. How is that move? How is it going for the team now a little more than a year ago?
Simmons: "Yeah, you know what? I did make that move, and it's funny that you bring it up, because we almost don't think about it now because it has been a year. But I'll tell you: it was kind of a tumultuous year, and I don't think anybody would deny that. You go from St. Louis out here to L.A. basically in March, but we were in Oxnard (Calif.) for the offseason program, and a lot of people from the organization, as well as the team, are staying out there. Then you go all the way down to Irvine for six weeks, maybe seven weeks, for training camp until you have your facilities — your 'temporary-permanent facilities,' as we call them around here — out in Thousand Oaks, and the business office in Agoura Hills. So it's been kind of a crazy transition, but things have really sort of started to smooth out, I think, going into Year 2 out in L.A."
Walker: Right, and starting Year 2, of course, Sunday: Rams and Colts open up the season in L.A. Biggest question if I'm a Colts fan — and I think some of that was kind of answered today — but is Aaron Donald going to play? Obviously such a playmaker, such a difference, but what's going on with that situation?
Simmons: "Yeah, it's just kind of at a standstill, right? You sort of expect Aaron Donald would probably be here for this week because the games start counting and everything's real, but unfortunately they've just not been able to come to that solution that they've wanted to in order to get him in, and as of Wednesday afternoon, Coach (Sean) McVay had not ruled out Aaron Donald from playing, but, look, when the player's not here and it's still Thursday and you play on Sunday — and he hasn't done anything, really, all through the offseason program and into training camp — it's hard to see him playing in that game Week 1."
Walker: So how do the Rams try to fill that void if he, indeed, isn't out there, which is seeming more and more likely by the minute, really?
Simmons: "Yeah, the good thing is that they've been practicing without him. And this is a new coaching staff, too, so I think that kind of affects things where, if you have a team and a coaching staff that really knows what Aaron Donald's capable of and has been planning around him being there for the entirety of the last couple of years, then it's probably different than having this new staff that — not that they don't know what he's capable of — but he's not really been in the building, so he's not been getting the reps anyway, if that makes any sense. So basically what they've been doing is getting guys in like a Tanzel Smart, who's a sixth-round pick out of Tulane. He's done a nice job throughout training camp. Also, they picked up a guy, Quinton Jefferson, off waivers from the Seahawks. He may or may not suit up, but he's somebody that can also come in and kind of play that three technique. But you've also got guys along the defensive line — Michael Brockers has been with the Rams since 2012; he's done a really nice job, I think, of just becoming more and more of a leader. And you also just look at the way he looks physically right now; he looks like he's in as good of shape as he's ever been — at least since I've been covering this team. So I think he's going to be one of those guys in Aaron Donald's absence that can continue to step up."
Walker: Jared Goff, obviously second year in the league — top pick, lots of hype, L.A. But Chuck Pagano talked yesterday about from Year 1 to Year 2, talking from experience with Andrew Luck, that was kind of the biggest jump. What have you seen from Goff as far as what's been different from last year to this year?
Simmons: "Well, the first thing is just the comfort level. I mean, he looks just so much more comfortable out there — and I think part of that is the offense; but part of it, too, is just knowing your surroundings and knowing what's expected out of you. Again, I mean, last year this was a team in flux; it was moving all over the place. This year, you've got him surrounded by coaches who really know offense, and they really know how to train quarterbacks. I mean, that's part of the reason why Sean McVay was hired as the head coach was his work with Kirk Cousins, and everybody knows how well Kirk Cousins has done over the last couple of years. But I think one of the things that (Goff's) really going to have to work on — and show that he has improved — is his accuracy. Now, there's a lot that comes with that. It's not just standing in the pocket. It's making sure you make the right decisions and finding the open receivers and do all that. And I think Sean McVay's system is going to make that a little easier for Jared Goff, but it's still something that you've got to be able to prove week in and week out on Sundays."
Walker: Yeah, and you mentioned Sean McVay, a guy I know pretty well from my own days with the Redskins. Youngest head coach in NFL history at the time of his hiring, but just knowing Sean, this was coming for him — whether it was now or a couple years down the road. You can't have that much success as an offensive coordinator and not be a candidate for a head coaching vacancy. But how has he handled everything else? I remember Jay Gruden's first year, he kind of tried to do everything at once, and then learned the next year, 'Well, I have to delegate some of this stuff.' How has McVay handled more of the overseeing everything, as far as defense, special teams — all that? I'm sure he's delegating and letting everybody do their job, but he's also accountable when it's all said and done.
Simmons: "Yes, and I think he's done a good job of being accountable, but then letting, empowering, those assistants in order to do their jobs. I mean, it's something that he talks about all the time, especially when you have a defensive coordinator like Wade Phillips, how could you not empower him knowing he's, I think, 70 years old; he's got basically 40 years of experience in the NFL? He was even talking about last week, a couple weeks ago, when there's a situation on defense and a decision needs to be made, either about a penalty or a challenge, Wade Phillips has the authority to make those decisions because he has that experience and he knows what he's doing. And it's sort of the same kind of deal with special teams coordinator John Fassel, who took over the Rams for the last three games last year as the interim coach, and he's been around this team now — he's going into his sixth year as the special teams coordinator — and he knows what he's doing; consistently the Rams have one of the top special teams units in the league. So I think there's a balance that McVay is still trying to establish here of being the head coach, making sure he's accountable for everything. But he also knows that he can lean on those assistants in order to make sure that his team is in the best position possible."