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Rams

Jared Goff, Rams offense look much sharper in joint practice against Raiders

Rams players stretch during training camp on Wednesday in Napa. The Oakland Raiders and the Rams held a joint practice.
Rams players stretch during training camp on Wednesday in Napa. The Oakland Raiders and the Rams held a joint practice before their upcoming preseason game on Saturday.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Most of the passes were crisply delivered on designed plays, others in situations that required improvisation.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff looked completely comfortable making nearly all of his throws Wednesday during an energetic joint practice with the Oakland Raiders.

Four days after the offense irked and disappointed coach Sean McVay with a sluggish performance in a joint practice with the Chargers, Goff and the rest of the unit executed well in nearly all drills.

As his parents and grandfather watched from the sideline, Goff connected with receivers Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds. He was particularly sharp on passes to tight ends Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee.

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“Just raised the intensity and the standard a little bit and I think it showed,” Goff said. “All across the board, I thought we were pretty good.”

McVay was noticeably pleased.

“It was a much sharper day just in terms of the communication, the urgency that is expected,” McVay said.

Cory Littleton is playing on a one-year contract that will pay him about $3.1 million, meaning he needs to earn a new deal with the Rams.

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The Rams are preparing for their Sept. 8 opener against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. Joint practices with the Chargers and Raiders are designed to give starters opportunities to sharpen their skills without risking injuries in meaningless preseason games.

McVay spends most of his time on the field with the offense, but the Rams defense also made some impressive plays on an adjoining field. Cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted Raiders quarterback Derek Carr’s first pass in a seven-on-seven drill and returned it down the field with bleachers full of Raiders fans booing his every stride.

But the offense’s rebound performance was the most noteworthy. Two of Goff’s standout plays came on passes to tight ends, one he completed and one that just missed. On one pass, Goff found Everett in the back of a crowded end zone.

“A lot of traffic in there,” McVay said. “Had to be a perfect throw.”

Goff’s best pass of the day might have been one that fell just out of reach of a diving Higbee on a sideline route. It was a near perfectly placed ball in tight coverage that could not be intercepted. Goff had spoken early in training camp about using the workouts to take chances and try different approaches to situations.

“That was one of them,” Goff said of the pass to Higbee. “You try to put it where only your guy can catch it and unfortunately we didn’t connect, but it’s part of the game.”

Running back Todd Gurley was a full participant and continued showing no sign that his left knee will be an issue as the Rams prepare for their opener.

“Just another day,” Gurley said.

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Sebastian Joseph-Day has spent most of training camp lining up between Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers as Rams’ nose tackle, and he could start season opener.

Gurley is expected to sit out Thursday when the Rams and Raiders practice again. The plan to manage Gurley’s training camp workload includes not having him practice on consecutive days.

“It’s been a progressive build,” McVay said. “It’s all still geared towards that opener against the Panthers, but he hasn’t had any sort of setbacks.”

McVay’s most outwardly emotional response of the day came after Gurley stayed in the backfield on a third-down play and blocked a blitzing safety, enabling Goff to complete a long pass to Kupp.

Asked if pass-protection skills were an unsung part of Gurley’s game, Goff politely interrupted.

“I try to sing about it,” he said. “I try to talk about Todd in that way a lot. How smart he is, his ability to pick up protections and it’s just part of what makes him — in my opinion — the best back in the league.”

Said McVay: “What really puts him in that upper echelon in that top-tier level is the ability to play without the ball. Those are things that might go unnoticed outside, but certainly don’t go unnoticed in our building.”

Etc.

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Kupp continued his comeback from knee surgery with several difficult catches, including one that featured after-catch contact by Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley and safety Johnathan Abram that knocked Kupp to the ground. ... The Raiders are the subject of the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” which featured the Rams in 2016. Asked if he had any advice for Raiders players, Goff joked, “Don’t talk to anybody. Keep your mouth shut.”… Goff looked across the line of scrimmage and saw former Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner, who signed a four-year, $42-million contract with the Raiders that included $21.3 million in guarantees. “I said hi to him real quick,” Goff said. “I have so much respect for him. Great teammate, great dude, great player and it was fun competing against him.”… The Rams did not get to practice against Raiders receiver Antonio Brown, who has been sidelined because of foot injuries. “He’s a special player and a guy I’ve always loved watching compete from afar,” McVay said. “I hope that he’s able to heal as quickly as possible. But yeah, I would’ve loved to have gotten some work against him and that’s a bummer for us all.”


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