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NFL 2019: Rams wary of pitfalls on road to title redemption

Thu Aug 22 12:08pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

Players: Robert Woods, Blake Bortles, Malcolm Brown, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson

LOS ANGELES (AP) That 13-3 loss in the Super Bowl looms large over the Los Angeles Rams. Their high-scoring ascent to the NFL's elite over two thrilling seasons somehow culminated in one of the most lifeless offensive performances in big game history.

It's the last thing anybody expected from a team coached by Sean McVay, who masterminded the Rams' rise with innovative thinking at every turn - until Bill Belichick's sturdy old defense had an answer for everything.

The youngest NFL coach ever to win a playoff game thinks a whole lot more about the last one he lost. Redemption for McVay and quarterback Jared Goff starts next month when the Rams resume their championship chase.

''We can build on a lot of things going into this season, and what we've been able to do over the last couple of years in developing a foundation,'' McVay said. ''But our players know you earn it every day in this league. All we can do is learn from last year, but we've got to produce right now.''

The Rams have won 24 regular-season games, two division titles and an NFC championship in the brief time since McVay took over a franchise with 13 consecutive non-winning seasons. Los Angeles returns with many reasons to think it can stay on top, but enough potential concerns to keep players and coaches sharp.

''I think it just makes us that much more hungry,'' cornerback Marcus Peters said. ''We see exactly where we can be at if we just put our focus into getting better every day. Put the hard work in, and it will pay off for us.''

Clay Matthews didn't join his hometown team until a few months ago, so he'll carry nothing from that disappointment in Atlanta into this season. And from what he's seen of the Rams so far, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker won't be surprised if he gets to play for his second championship ring this season.

''There's so much talent around here,'' Matthews said. ''There's just a level of talent that we should be able to put something together and do something special. I can't speak on behalf of any hangover or curse, or whatever you like to call it. But this team looks primed and ready to make another run at it.''

The Rams didn't add a wealth of proven veterans to their roster, but they also didn't lose a tremendous amount of talent. McVay and general manager Les Snead are counting on Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth to remain among the NFL's best at their respective jobs, and they plan to fill any gaps with coaching, effort and their veteran leadership.

''We're just excited to get going back to where we ended last year,'' Gurley said.

Here are more things to know about the Rams:

TIME TO GET PAID

Goff and Peters are likely playing to determine the largesse of their next contracts. Goff is in the fourth season of his five-year rookie deal. The Rams have repeatedly said they will sign him to a long-term contract, and his 19-for-38 performance in the Super Bowl didn't alter that plan. Peters is in the final year of his rookie deal, but said he never considered holding out.

NOT TURNOVER PRONE

Matthews and safety Eric Weddle joined the defense, but they're the only veteran newcomers likely to make an impact; another addition is backup quarterback Blake Bortles. The Rams also didn't make a first-round pick for the third straight year, but rookies including defensive back Taylor Rapp and nose tackle Greg Gaines could play early.

NEW LINE

The Rams are taking their biggest risk on the offensive line, where untested second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen got the jobs of departed stalwarts Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. LA had remarkable line consistency for two years, but McVay seems supremely confident in the newcomers.

99 AD

Donald participated in his first training camp since 2016, no longer holding out to get the huge contract he finally received. The Rams will need the back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year in elite form from the start because he has lost the help of nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, who left as a free agent and essentially wasn't replaced. Donald's life of constant double-teams is unlikely to improve, but he's used to it.

KNEEDING HELP

The Rams haven't gone into detail about the condition of Gurley's knee, which limited him down the stretch and allowed the since-departed C.J. Anderson to revive his career. Gurley and the Rams actually might be better off if he isn't among the NFL's top five in touches this season, as he has been in each of the previous three years. Longtime backup Malcolm Brown should get more action, and Los Angeles used a third-round pick on Memphis' speedy Darrell Henderson to provide options for McVay. The Rams are determined to optimize Gurley's effectiveness in the final season before his four-year, $60 million contract extension begins.

Player Notes
Jordan Richards Oct 22 6:13pm ET

New England Patriots S Jordan Richards was released Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Vernon Davis Oct 22 6:03pm ET

Washington Redskins S Deshazor Everett (ankle), LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring), OG Wes Martin (chest), S Montae Nicholson (ankle), CB Josh Norman (thigh, hand), Adrian Peterson (ankle) and RB Chris Thompson (toe) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 22. WR Steven Sims Jr. (toe) and TE Vernon Davis (concussion) were limited. LB Ryan Kerrigan (elbow) and QB Case Keenum (shoulder, foot) participated fully in practice. OT Donald Penn (non-injury) was not given a practice designation after being limited one day earlier.

From TheHuddle

Sylvester Williams Oct 22 6:03pm ET

Free-agent DL Sylvester Williams (Saints) was signed to an undisclosed contract by the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Kyle Rudolph Oct 22 5:53pm ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 22. DE Everson Griffen (quad), DT Linval Joseph (knee), DE Hercules Mata'afa (neck), CB Xavier Rhodes (hip), TE Kyle Rudolph (thumb), OT Riley Reiff (ankle), LB Eric Kendricks (hip), LB Ben Gedeon (concussion), OG Josh Kline (foot) and DT Shamar Stephen (knee) each participated in full.

From TheHuddle

Justin Bethel Oct 22 5:43pm ET

Updating a previous report, free-agent DB Justin Bethel (Ravens) signed an undisclosed contract with the New England Patriots shortly after meeting with the team on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Jerell Adams Oct 22 5:23pm ET

Free-agent TE Jerell Adams (Texans) was signed to the practice squad of the Houston Texans on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Zach Zenner Oct 22 5:13pm ET

New Orleans Saints RB Zach Zenner was released Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Justin Bethel Oct 22 5:03pm ET

Free-agent DB Justin Bethel (Ravens) visited with the New England Patriots on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Quandre Diggs Oct 22 4:53pm ET

Detroit Lions S Quandre Diggs was traded along with a 2021 seventh-round draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a 2020 fifth-round draft pick on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Alfred Morris Oct 22 4:43pm ET

Free-agent RB Alfred Morris (Cowboys) signed an undisclosed contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Kerryon Johnson Oct 22 4:23pm ET

Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson (knee) underwent a procedure on his injured knee Tuesday, Oct. 22, and will be placed on the Reserve/Injured list, according to head coach Matt Patricia.

Fantasy Spin: Initial reports had Johnson missing "some time," but an IR designation would pretty much knock him out for the rest of the season. Sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson should handle the majority of snaps in his absence and should be added in all leagues, while J.D. McKissic figures to take the bulk of the work in the passing game. It's also entirely possible the Lions bring back C.J. Anderson to assume at least part of the early-down workload after cutting him earlier in the season.

From TheHuddle

Ramik Wilson Oct 22 4:13pm ET

Arizona Cardinals LB Ramik Wilson was released Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Deone Bucannon Oct 22 4:03pm ET

Free-agent LB Deone Bucannon (Buccaneers) signed an undisclosed contract with the New York Giants on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Adam Thielen Oct 22 3:53pm ET

Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) did not participate in practice Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Logan Paulsen Oct 22 3:43pm ET

Houston Texans TE Logan Paulsen was released Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Deebo Samuel Oct 22 3:40pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers expect wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) to return in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers. Samuel missed Week 7 but appears ready to practice and play against a tough Panthers pass defense this Sunday. Despite showing exciting flashes this season, the rookie is averaging just 4.4 targets and 33.6 yards per game. His fantasy value will be further impaired with the acquisition of veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders. With the Niners leaning heavily on their running game and tight end George Kittle dominating target share, Samuel is gradually fading from redraft relevance. Hell be a desperation WR5 if he suits on in Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Marcus Sherels Oct 22 3:23pm ET

Minnesota Vikings CB Marcus Sherels was released on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

From TheHuddle

Malik Hooker Oct 22 3:23pm ET

Indianapolis Colts S Malik Hooker (knee) told reporters he expects to play in Week 8 versus the Denver Broncos. Hooker has been sidelined since Week 3 with a torn meniscus.

From TheHuddle

Emmanuel Sanders Oct 22 3:20pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers traded for wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos on Tuesday. Reported by ESPNs Adam Schefter, the Niners will ship 2020 third and fourth round picks to Denver for Sanders and a 2020 fifth rounder. The 10-year pro should instantly upgrade a Niners receiving corps that have been anonymous outside of stud tight end George Kittle. However, Sanders should be downgraded fantasy-wise as he enters a run-heavy offense while competing for looks against Kittle, a versatile backfield and an amalgam of wideouts. Hell be a risky WR3 in Week 8 against a tough Carolina Panthers pass defense. Other losers in the deal are receivers Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel (groin) and Marquise Goodwin who all continue to slide outside of fantasy relevance.

From RotoBaller

Mohamed Sanu Oct 22 3:20pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu will make his Patriots debut in Week 8 against a Browns Defense that is allowing the 14th fewest fantasy points to receivers. Sanu was acquired via trade from the Falcons and immediately brings size and physicality to a banged up wide receiving group in New England. Sanu caught 66 passes last season for 838 yards and four touchdowns but has been held to only 313 yards with one touchdown this season. Sanu is an excellent addition as a player that can bring the kind of size in the red zone that the Patriots have been lacking due to a banged up Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski's retirement in the preseason. Sanu should be thrown right into the mix against a Browns defense that has allowed 10-plus fantasy points to eight different receivers this season. He may lack the amount of targets, however, to garner anything higher than a WR4 play in Week 8.

From RotoBaller