Rams’ new coordinator Raheem Morris aims to push right buttons on defense ... next time

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris talks with players.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is trying to stay in tune with his new team.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Preseason games aren’t just for players hoping to prove themselves or rookies trying to learn the ropes. Coaches need them too.

In his first preseason game as the Rams defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris was trying to relay play calls to rookie linebacker Ernest Jones but his messages weren’t reaching the field. Meanwhile, the Chargers were marching down the field.

Morris was pressing the wrong button on his headset. He smiled as he recounted the stressful start to his Rams tenure Monday.


The Rams ironed out some kinks in their first preseason game Saturday and are using the lessons learned from their 13-6 loss to the Chargers to prepare them for upcoming joint practices with the Raiders and their regular-season opener against the Bears on Sept. 12.

“These are the games where you establish your philosophy,” Morris said. “Some people like to come out there and tell you what your philosophies are, it’s all about what that tape is. So let’s go out there, it doesn’t matter who the bodies are, it doesn’t matter who the people are, you go out there and establish your philosophy in these types of games.”

Fans are amazed at the $5 billion Inglewood venue when it was opened to the L.A. faithful for the first time for Saturday’s Chargers-Rams preseason game.

Aug. 15, 2021

The Rams plan to rely primarily on young players during preseason games and use joint practices like the two scheduled this week against the Raiders to prepare starters.

In the spotlight of an NFL game for the first time, Jones showed his meddle by handling the microphone snafu with “absolute poise,” Morris said, giving coaches a glimpse at a promising career for the third-round pick from South Carolina.

“He was one of the guys that you guys are looking like, in the future, he may be a green dot candidate,” Morris said of players designated to hear helmet messages from coaches. “So to give him those reps in the preseason is really invaluable.”

The defense recovered on the first drive to hold the Chargers to a field goal after they had reached the Rams’ two-yard line. When the Rams got the ball, they were hoping to establish the run and start evaluating their stable of young running backs who could back up Darrell Henderson Jr.

A game clock that showed 5:07 left in the first quarter made that difficult.

“You feel that as an offense,” offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said of the Chargers’ long opening drive, “especially when you got a chart full of, ‘Hey, we gotta get this guy this many snaps and that guy this many touches.’ ”

The Rams rushed for 73 yards on 24 carries, led by quarterback Bryce Perkins’ 23 yards. Xavier Jones led the running backs with 21 yards on seven carries. Running backs Raymond Calais and Jake Funk had 14 and 12 rushing yards, respectively. The effort left much to be desired for Sean McVay, who called the run game “sloppy.”


Observations from the Rams preseason opener vs. Chargers at SoFi Stadium.

Aug. 14, 2021

“It takes all 11 in the run game,” McVay said. “There were instances where individual guys did a nice job, but there might be a certain block or a certain angle or the way we’re fitting a block based on where the back’s landmark is wasn’t in unison.”

Floyd hurt

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd limped off the field Monday with an ankle injury and didn’t finish practice. McVay said it “seems like it’s good,” but the fifth-year pro will get more tests to make sure. Justin Lawler stepped in for Floyd during the remaining team periods to build off a stand-out preseason performance that included five tackles and two quarterback hits. It was his first live game action since 2019, when he broke his foot during training camp.

Morris could sense that Lawler was due for a breakout performance as soon as the coach walked by during warmups.

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Aug. 12, 2021

“I went to walk by Lawler and I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to leave him alone,’ ” Morris said. “I just had a feeling. I walked into the coaches’ locker room and I said, ‘Law Dog is going to be the player of the game.’ ”


Receiver Trishton Jackson did not practice Monday because of a knee injury. … Defensive lineman Eric Banks was held out because of soreness that flared up after the walk-through and receiver Tutu Atwell was held out as a precaution for back pain.