Coach Sean McVay feeling super about Rams despite unanswered questions

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Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay smiles as he walks on the field during NFL football camp Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Rams head coach Sean McVay smiles as he walks on the SoFi Stadium field Thursday for the final day of minicamp. (Marcio Jose Sanchez /Associated Press)

His team’s offseason program complete, Rams coach Sean McVay plans to vacation in New York, Greece and Monaco before training camp begins.

“I’ll be able to live a little, enjoy myself — and then I’ll come back stressed and ready to roll,” McVay joked.

When the Rams report to UC Irvine in late July, the pressure will be on McVay.

The Rams ended the Jared Goff era by trading the quarterback — and two first-round draft picks — to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. General manager Les Snead gave Stafford the potential deep threat the team denied Goff last season by signing veteran receiver DeSean Jackson.

Those additions, combined with players such as receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, and defensive stars Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, could make the Rams one of the favorites to contend for a berth in Super Bowl LVI, which will be played Feb. 13, 2022 in SoFi Stadium.

McVay said he embraces expectations.

“This job is about pressure day in and day out,” he said. “I think that’s what you want. If you start avoiding pressure, if you don’t like it, this is not for you.”

The Rams have made the playoffs three times in four seasons under McVay. They lost in the NFC wild-card round in 2017, advanced to the Super Bowl in 2018, missed the postseason the next year and advanced to the divisional-round last season.

McVay and Snead are banking that Stafford, a 12-year veteran, will provide the missing piece for another Super Bowl run.

“He’s one of those guys that I think is a true igniter,” McVay said of Stafford. “He makes everybody around him better.

“I feel like I’ve become a better coach in the few months that we’ve been able to spend together and we’re looking forward to do a lot of good things together.”

Throughout offseason workouts, Rams players said they were embracing high expectations.

“Last time we were picked to go to the Super Bowl, we went,” Woods said. “So, I think that’s a good thing. ... We’re a loaded team. We have all the parts. We have all the pieces to get where we need to go.”

Stafford, the receiving corps and the continuing emergence of second-year running back Cam Akers are reason for optimism about the offense. But the line is in flux after the departure of coach Aaron Kromer and center Austin Blythe. Kevin Carberry replaced Kromer. Austin Corbett could move from guard to center to replace Blythe. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth will turn 40 during the season.

Rams' left tackle Andrew Whitworth warms up before a practice in Thousand Oaks.
Andrew Whitworth likes that the Rams are projected to be Super Bowl contenders. (Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Donald and Ramsey anchor a defense now under the direction of coordinator Raheem Morris, who replaced Brandon Staley. Can lineman A’Shawn Robinson fill the void left the departure of Michael Brockers? Who steps up to replace the talent and leadership of safety John Johnson, now earning millions from the Cleveland Browns?

Those are just a few of the questions that might be answered during training camp when the Rams begin preparing for their Sept. 12 opener against the Chicago Bears.

McVay will continue to hold out starters from preseason games. The Rams might add depth to the roster this summer in preparation for joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders, and preseason games against the Chargers, Raiders and Denver Broncos.

Whitworth, a 15-year veteran, said big expectations are “a good thing” for a team accustomed to winning. Whitworth pointed to last season’s wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks as a “culture-type win.”

“We didn’t go into that game with any expectation other than win, and it really didn’t matter whether it was the playoffs or the next game on the schedule,” he said. “And I think that’s where you really started to see a culture and franchise that just expects to win.

“And, hopefully, we can keep that mentality and that culture strong.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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