IRVINE, Calif. –- The Los Angeles Rams led the NFL in scoring in Sean McVay's first year as coach in 2017.
And they barely scratched the surface of what the offense will look like going forward. In 2017, the Rams were learning about each other, coaches trying to figure what could work.
Now they know more about each other, so McVay, the offensive wunderkind, is ready to unleash even more of his offensive system.
That might not be good news for NFL defenses. How much more is being put in?
"A lot more," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "We've just evolved. We know teams have some tape on us an have an idea what we like to do. There is stuff we've done to evolve, creatively, that Sean's put in to get better."
McVay, who is already one of the league's best play callers, said the changes and bigger playbook are the result of the comfort he now has with the players.
"I can't put a percentage on it (how much more)," McVay said "I will just say it's evolved a little bit. Going back to last year at this time, we were figuring out what we wanted and how we wanted to operate. We had to find out what personnel groupings were going to be our mains ones. Now we have a little familiarity with our players. We have a better direction on how we want to operate."
In his second season, Goff threw for 3,804 yards, 28 touchdown passes and seven picks as the Rams won the NFC West. After a rookie season that had many questioning him as a franchise passer, it was a nice turnaround.
Expect even bigger numbers from Goff this time around as McVay unleashes more of his playbook.
Still no Donald
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who was the 2017 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, remains a holdout from training camp as he seeks a new contract.
Donald is looking to get quarterback-type money, which the Rams have no plans to do. The Rams will make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league, but for now there is no movement.
A year ago, Donald missed camp and reported back for Week One of the season, although he didn't play until Week Two. The Rams expect a similar type situation if he doesn't agree to a new deal.
Donald is in the final year of his contract and scheduled to make $6.9 million this season. That's way under his market value, but a contract offer of $20 million should get him into camp – and that's a number the Rams could be willing to pay.
If Donald isn't signed by August 7, he loses a year in his quest to become an unrestricted free agent, but that is kind of moot since the Rams can use the franchise tag anyway.
All the talk about Donald sitting out until he gets a new deal sounds like hot air from his agents. He would miss out on $431,125 per game. That won't happen, no matter what the rhetoric is now.
I would expect his agents to wise up and take a deal that would make him the highest-paid defensive player in the league.
- The Rams wanted Brandin Cooks last year, but they didn't have the first round pick to give the New Orleans Saints that the Patriots had to get him. So they waited a year, traded a first and a sixth-round pick to get him this year, and then gave him a long-term contract extension worth $88 million over the next six years. Why? He can fly. "He represents that guy who can take the top shelf off the coverage," McVay said. "More than anything, he brings a great demeanor, a great discipline to our team. He can do a lot of things." He isn't going to just be a vertical threat. During the practice I watched, Cooks caught a crossing route and turned it into a long gain with his speed. Along with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, the Rams have a nice group of receivers.
- When watching the team practice, it's clear who the alpha dogs are in the secondary. New corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, who were acquired in trades, play the game and they can talk the game. Their battles with the Rams receivers were fun the other night during practice and they did some yapping. Goff likes the chance to face them every day in practice. "For me, personally, having a little bit of a chess match with Aqib and Marcus has been a lot of fun," Goff said. "They really, really force you to be at your best at all times. That's helping me continue to try and put to the ball in the right place or they will make you pay." Those two can cover and they are joined in the secondary by safeties Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson. It is a good group that should upgrade the defense.
- One concern about the Rams defense is the outside rush. Who provides it? With Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers as down players, and the talent in the secondary, the edge rushers are the weak spot on the defense. They have Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam and they recently signed Ryan Davis off the street. One of those players has to emerge as a rush threat. They like Ebukan as the best breakout possibility after he had five sacks last season. Davis will likely play on early run downs somewhere since he is good against the run. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has seemingly always had top-level edge rushers, such as DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and plenty of others.