INDIANAPOLIS – This time a year ago, the Rams hadn't officially moved to Los Angeles from St. Louis by the time their contingency reached Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine.
In fact, as their offices were getting packed up in Missouri for the 2,000-mile move to California, General Manager Les Snead and the rest of the Rams hierarchy had another type of move in mind as they navigated through the six-day combine. They were preparing to shake up the NFL draft by moving from the 15th spot all the way to No. 1.
The seeds of the groundbreaking trade they made with the Tennessee Titans to climb to the top of the draft were planted last year in and around Lucas Oil Stadium. And it also was here that got their first up-close look at Cal quarterback Jared Goff, for whom the first overall pick was invested.
A year later, they arrive in Indianapolis with a completely different primary agenda, a new football leader in Coach Sean McVay and, thanks in part to the trade they constructed with the Titans, an an altered focus.
The switch to McVay, 31, means a new way of looking at offense and a different array of skill-sets to target across the board.
McVay has been on board since last month, giving him, Snead and the rest of the Rams’ scouting and personnel departments a chance to dialogue on the different needs and ideal scheme fits.
Now they get to put action to words.
“We've already gone through the part of, ‘Hey, this is what I want, this is what I like in wide receivers,’” Snead said. “‘This is what where we're asking wide receivers to do, these are the traits they need to have.’
“So, you already have an idea of all that, and the nice thing about this part of the process after getting to work with (the new coaches) and let them tell you what they're looking for, now you can put a picture to the words they described.”
McVay spent the last three years as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator and his coaching background is exclusively on that side of the ball. The philosophy he learned under former bosses Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden will be the foundation from which he builds his Rams offense.
And in time, it will look considerably different than the one former coach Jeff Fisher left behind, both in scheme and personnel.
“You get an ideal, but then there's shades of gray after that,” Snead said. “So going through this process you get to kind of say, ‘OK this guy might not be ideal but he's still above the line. OK these guys might be below that line. And some of them might end of doing well in another system, but it sets a benchmark for us that we can go out and scout next year. We target the scheme fits.”
Their Rams first-round pick in 2017 – fifth overall – is now the property of Tennessee. As is the third-round compensatory pick they were awarded for losing Janoris Jenkins to free agency.
Barring any trades between now and April, the Rams’ first pick will occur in the second round, 37th overall. They have a total of eight picks, including two each in the fourth and seventh rounds.
But while quarterback is no longer the target position it was at this point last year, Goff is a major part of the dynamic determining where the Rams focus this week in Indianapolis.
They desperately need to get him some help, specifically along the offensive line and at the skill positions.
The Rams’ offensive line ranked near the bottom of the NFL, and of the wide receivers who played the most last year, two are unrestricted free agents and aren’t likely to return.
The need to upgrade both positions is critical.
As such, the Rams will keep an eye of wide receivers such as JuJu Smith-Schuster of USC, Curtis Samuel from Ohio State, Malachi Dupre of LSU and Chris Godwin of Penn State, all of whom could be available when their turn comes in the second round.
Along the offensive line, C/G Forrest Lamp of Western Kentucky, G Dan Feeney of Indiana, OT Julie'n Davenport of Bucknell and G/T Dion Dawkins of Temple will also be targets of interest this week.
With the Rams also making a switch to new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who has worked in the past primarily with a 3-4 defensive scheme, the club will likely look at better scheme fits at linebacker and in the defensive backfield.
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