Super Bowl title in rearview mirror, Rams begin drive to repeat with receiver question
A banner commemorating the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI championship will be unveiled at Thursday night’s season opener against the Buffalo Bills — not that coach Sean McVay is getting too excited about it.
“It’s great to unveil a banner,” McVay said Friday, “We’ve moved on.”
McVay is clearly focused on the game against the Bills, one of the favorites to emerge from the AFC for Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The Rams are attempting to become the first team since the 2004 season to repeat as Super Bowl champion. So, McVay is not spending time reflecting on last season, when the Rams completed an all-in, boom-or-bust season with a Super Bowl victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in owner Stan Kroenke’s gleaming, new stadium.
L.A. Times NFL writers Gary Klein and Jeff Miller answer readers’ big questions as the regular-season kickoff approaches.
“I’ll always have great reverence for that team,” McVay said, “but this about 2022.”
Thursday’s opener will be Rams’ first regular-season game at SoFi Stadium since February, when they were celebrating amid confetti after defeating the Bengals, 23-20, to complete a dramatic postseason run.
The Rams are six months removed from the victory but “it feels like it was a long time ago,” McVay said.
“It’s one that I’ll always cherish,” he said, “but I think if you live in the past, you’re going to get exposed in the present and so were not going to do that.”
The Rams are off Saturday and then will return Sunday to continue preparations for the Bills, who are led on offense by quarterback Josh Allen and could be led on defense by edge rusher Von Miller, a key player for the Rams last season.
It appears as if all Rams starters will be available, with the probable exception of receiver Van Jefferson.
Jefferson, a third-year pro, had knee surgery during training camp. He has worked with trainers on the field but did not participate in joint practices with the Bengals last week.
“He’s making good progress,” McVay said. “We’re taking it a day at time.”
Last season Jefferson caught 50 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns. He caught four passes for 23 yards in the Super Bowl. Jefferson had offseason knee surgery and appeared to be moving well during the first days of camp. But because of discomfort caused by what McVay said was an unrelated issue, Jefferson underwent surgery again.
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Against the Bills, quarterback Matthew Stafford will be passing to a receiver corps that includes star Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson and, if Jefferson does not play, a probable combination of Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell and possibly Brandon Powell.
As rookies last season, Skowronek and Atwell caught 11 and zero passes respectively. Powell played almost exclusively as a kick returner. With Jefferson sidelined during most of camp and all of the preseason, the three receivers took many first-team reps during practices.
“If you said, all right, what’s been a positive spin on losing a great player in Van that we’re really relying on,” McVay said, it has been the opportunities for Skowronek, Powell and Atwell “to really step up and show what they’re capable of.”
Quarterback Bryce Perkins and undrafted free agents Lance McCutcheon, Jake Hummel and Keir Thomas survived cuts and made the Rams’ initial 53-man roster.
Undrafted free agent receiver Lance McCutcheon made the initial 53-man roster but must develop as a special teams player, McVay said.
Stafford, Kupp, offensive lineman Rob Havenstein, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, linebacker Bobby Wagner and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were voted team captains, McVay said. … The Rams signed linebacker Jake Gervase, who had been waived Tuesday. Gervase replaces rookie outside linebacker Daniel Hardy, who is on injured reserve following ankle surgery. Gervase is an experienced special teams contributor. ... Ozzy Osbourne will perform at halftime of the opener, the Rams announced.
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