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Raheem Morris on Sean McVay: ‘This is the most adversity he’s had’

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris whispers to head coach Sean McVay before a game against the Cowboys.
Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has the ear of head coach Sean McVay.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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It is near midpoint of the Rams’ season — and this one has been a new experience for Sean McVay.

The once-deified sixth-year coach is two games under .500 for the first time. Injuries have decimated the offensive line. Conflict with young running back Cam Akers surfaced. And now star quarterback Matthew Stafford might be sidelined because of a concussion.

The issues the 36-year-old McVay has dealt with this season are more than in all previous seasons combined, he said.

“Man,” he said, “has this stretched you in ways that you’re going to be better for it if you handle it the right way.”

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So, the onetime wunderkind preaches about embracing the challenges with “a hard-working mindset.” And approaching them with enthusiasm.

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“What else the hell can you do?” he said.

McVay began the season with a 55-26 record in regular-season games, a 7-3 record in the playoffs. The Rams made two Super Bowl appearances, winning Super Bowl LVI last season at SoFi Stadium.

But the attempt to become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as champion has not gone as planned.

The Rams enter Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals with a 3-5 record. They are on the precipice of falling out of playoff contention.

McVay is experiencing for the first time what most NFL coaches do at some point, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said.

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“Don’t tell him I said this — he’s extremely spoiled,” Morris said, jokingly, Thursday. “Out here in L.A. we’ve done a lot of winning. ... This is the most adversity he’s had.

“It’s a great opportunity for you to get that coach-speak out and to go act on those things.”

McVay will be tested if Stafford is not cleared to play Sunday. The 14th-year pro is in concussion protocol and his status for the NFC West game against the Cardinals at SoFi Stadium is to be determined.

Stafford did not practice Thursday. He looked on as John Wolford and Bryce Perkins warmed up and went through individual drills during the portion of the workout that was open to reporters.

Wolford has experience playing against the Cardinals. In 2020, he started in place of injured Jared Goff in a season-ending victory that clinched a playoff spot.

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The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Wolford scrambled for yardage on several plays.

“He gives you an element to be able to move the chains with his feet a little bit,” offensive coordinator Liam Coen said, adding, “Matthew’s the guy but [Wolford] gives you an opportunity to go win with a guy that you know has played and done it in this situation before.”

Perkins, 6-3 and 214 pounds, has played only in preseason games but also showed the ability to make plays with his running ability.

Would the Rams consider using Perkins in situations against the Cardinals?

“Not really too sure if that’s something we’re really looking to right now,” Coen said.

Regardless, a Rams defense that has played well for most of the season will carry an even heavier burden if Stafford is out of the lineup.

Would not having Stafford put more pressure on the Rams defense?

“Let me see,” Morris said, “take out the best quarterback that I’ve ever been a part of in my life, and does that make a difference?

Rams quarterback John Wolford scrambles to pick up a first down against the Texans in the preseason.
John Wolford’s ability to scramble from the quarterback position adds a dimension to the Rams’ offense.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“You know, I got a lot of confidence in Wolford.”

The embattled offensive line could receive some reinforcement if Coleman Shelton is activated from injured reserve. Plus, Akers and Darrell Henderson could be joined in the backfield by rookie Kyren Williams, who is expected to be activated from injured reserve.

A loss to the Cardinals could send the Rams spiraling out of playoff contention. A victory would end a two-game losing streak, and possibly start a turnaround.

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“Sometimes you need to be able to lean on the people that you love and care about to help you maintain that resilience and that mindset, and if we do that, I think it’s going to lead to some things going in a better direction,” McVay said. “What exactly does that look like? I don’t know.

“I’m just going to continue to try to attack those things the right way every single day.”

Etc.

Center Brian Allen (knee) was limited. Offensive tackle Alaric Jackson (knee), running back Malcolm Brown (hamstring), defensive lineman Greg Gaines (elbow), linebacker Travin Howard (hip) and cornerback Robert Rochell (illness) did not practice. ... Tight end Kendall Blanton, who was waived Tuesday, was signed to the practice squad.

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