Rams players pick up on the new vibe of coach Sean McVay
Quarterback Jared Goff described it as “freshness.”
Linebacker Alec Ogletree spoke of “a whole different culture,” while running back Todd Gurley honed in on new coach Sean McVay’s energy and “swagger.”
Those were initial player impressions Monday after the Rams met as a team for the first time since McVay, 31, became the youngest coach in modern NFL history.
As the Rams began their offseason program, McVay, Goff and others at the team’s Cal Lutheran facility sported blue T-shirts emblazoned with a blue and white-horned Rams logo on the front and “WE not ME” written on the back.
The start of the program, which runs through mid-June, was “a long time coming,” McVay said.
“There was full attention, guys were locked in, they were engaged, they were ready to go,” he said of the team meeting, adding, “It was definitely, exactly the way that we wanted to come off as a coaching staff.”
It will take more than slogans, T-shirts and attentiveness in meetings to turn around a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004.
But after last season’s dismal 4-12 finish, the Rams are embracing the start of the post-Jeff Fisher era.
McVay might be young, Ogletree said, but the coach who served as the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator the last three seasons looked and sounded experienced.
“He definitely seems like a guy that’s been around awhile,” said Ogletree, 25. “You can gravitate toward a guy like that because he’s young, energetic, and you can definitely tell he has a lot of wisdom about him.”
McVay and his staff face a major challenge, especially on offense.
The Rams have ranked last in the NFL in each of the last two seasons. On the positive side, there is nowhere to go but up.
How much the Rams improve will depend in large part on the development of Goff, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft.
McVay has said that he, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Greg Olson have worked to make sure they will provide Goff with a consistent message.
Goff, 22, said he was ready to get started. The Rams, he intimated, are not far from turning around their fortunes.
“I think we’re a lot closer to where we want to be than people may think,” he said.
Goff, winless last season in seven starts, worked this offseason in Newport Beach with quarterback trainers Tom House and Justin Dedeaux. The duo has tutored Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and other NFL passers.
Goff did not identify any particular mechanical adjustments that were made but said he was enlightened.
“Now you know when you do make a bad throw ... you know why,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Oh, that was a bad one,’ and move on. You know why and how to fix it.”
Goff will attempt to assert himself on a team that has gone through numerous personnel changes.
Nine players who played prominent roles last season — quarterback Case Keenum, receivers Kenny Britt and Brian Quick, running back Benny Cunningham, tight end Lance Kendricks, center Tim Barnes, defensive ends William Hayes and Eugene Sims and safety T.J. McDonald — were either traded, released or allowed to pursue free-agent opportunities.
The Rams added eight players who are expected to contribute immediately: receiver Robert Woods, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, center John Sullivan, running back Lance Dunbar, defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker, linebacker Connor Barwin and cornerbacks Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman.
With a year of experience, Goff said he was now comfortable in everything from knowing teammates to knowing his way around the facility.
“Comfortability,” he said, “you can’t overstate it. It’s really important, as for the quarterback position, and leadership overall.”
The Rams’ exhibition schedule includes home games against the Dallas Cowboys and the Chargers and road games against the Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers. The Aug. 26 game against the Chargers at the Coliseum will kick off at 5 p.m. and be televised nationally by CBS. Dates for the other games are to be determined. The Rams are playing the Cowboys in a preseason opener for the second year in a row. They also will play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium during the regular season. In Week 2 of the preseason, the Rams will visit the Raiders, who last month received permission from the NFL to move to Las Vegas in a few seasons. The Chargers, who are playing home games at the StubHub Center until they will move into Stan Kroenke’s new Inglewood stadium in 2019, will visit the Coliseum in Week 3. Last year, the Rams traveled to Minnesota’s new stadium for their final preseason game. This year, they travel to Green Bay’s legendary Lambeau Field. ... Defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks signed a restricted free-agent tender. The Rams waived receiver Stedman Bailey and retained exclusive rights to defensive linemen Matt Longacre and Louis Trinca-Pasat.
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