Rams mailbag: Stadium update, looming cuts and why aren’t draft picks signed? (2024)

Hi everyone! This is the part of the article that nobody reads. So I’ll keep it short for you: I hope everyone is safe, healthy, staying hydrated, wearing a mask and washing their hands. It is an absolute delight for me to be able to answer your Los Angeles Rams questions as we prepare for training camp to open in early August.


What’s the latest on fans at SoFi Stadium? — @tjw13

The Rams announced this week that they are planning to go without fans at SoFi Stadium this year, which is obviously not how they wanted to debut the brand-new building. If at any point they are able to get fans into SoFi, they will limit the number to 15,000 (it seats 70,000-100,000) in order to implement social distancing. They also will section off the lower rows to protect coaches and players, and will require, among other safety policies, that fans wear masks at all times when in the building.

The Rams (and Chargers) also have to find a way to make up a little bit of the marketing loss here. I would imagine “Hard Knocks” on HBO will show quite a bit of the stadium, and I actually wonder whether the teams might try to hold a scrimmage or individual practice there at some point, so that the documentary crew can showcase players in the building. Understanding the Rams’ penchant for creative/progressive thinking, I’d think they will look into virtual options for fans as well.

The Rams announced today that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, SoFi Stadium will be at limited or no capacity in 2020, and ticketholders were informed that season tickets will not be possible for 2020.

— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) July 21, 2020

What’s the update with the helmet masks? Do they have filters to switch in and out? — @LARamsFC

For those unaware, the helmet masks referred to in the above question were created by Oakley, and the Rams and Chargers received prototypes to work with if they wanted to do so. Oakley already makes most of the visors for helmets throughout the league, and so partnered with the NFL to make a no-fog face shield. They are clear plastic (easy to be cleaned and sanitized) and have small offsetting filter holes.

“They had a visor that covers the eyes. What could we do to cover the mouth and nose area?” said Jeff Crandall, the chairman of the NFL’s engineering committee. “So they came up with a mouth shield that tried to keep the field of view as much as possible; you don’t want to block the lower part. You want to promote breathing and not a sense of restriction. You want to maximize comfort.”

And, Crandall added, Oakley wanted to limit possible droplet transmission and also have a barrier in front of the face so players would not touch their faces after possibly coming into contact with droplets.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of these masks so far, with players’ main question being: If we’re playing a contact sport as it is, what good will a mask or shield do?

Which position group will be most impacted by no preseason games? — @Calvin92709090

I have to think offensive line here. You hear coaches say all the time that the closer a guy is to the line of scrimmage, the longer it takes to get them in football shape and on track. The Rams have a little bit of an advantage here, in that they are returning basically their entire line, so they won’t have to develop any rookies or young free agents. But the downside is a couple of players are also returning from injury, and therefore it’s been a long, long time since they’ve blocked anybody.

Have the Rams started to sign their draft picks? Why or why not? — @Hittman1327

Not yet, but you’ll see this happen soon. Contracts for incoming players are always dependent on passing physicals, and the Rams haven’t had anybody in their building for a couple of months. Rookies and quarterbacks will report for testing on Monday, with the rest of the team reporting for testing on Tuesday, and then each group has to go home and isolate, according to NFL safety protocol. They can then come back after a couple of days, and that’s when physicals will happen. Contracts will be announced after that.

What is (new offensive coordinator) Kevin O’Connell’s role/expertise? — @Sad_Lakers_Fan8

O’Connell will help with play design, and likely in the play-calling process, of which he has experience from his time in Washington. He’ll also be charged with continuing quarterback Jared Goff’s development.


Here’s what I wrote about O’Connell in The Athletic’s “40 Under 40” series:

“His apparent ability to directly translate his own experience as a journeyman backup quarterback — the guy learning all kinds of offenses and in charge of running a half-dozen different scout teams — into coaching the young quarterbacks of today. O’Connell, who was elevated to offensive coordinator in Washington last season, will serve a dual role in Los Angeles: to help design and troubleshoot Sean McVay’s offense as it settles into its trendsetting reputation and help quarterback Jared Goff take more ownership of that offense and the next step in his career.”

Another area of massive importance that was mentioned to me by someone in the Rams’ front office: If McVay has to be isolated for any reason during the season, it sure helps to have an offensive coordinator with play-calling experience on the staff.

Do you think they’ll go with two quarterbacks or three? —@HoldenCantor

I think you have to keep three this year more than ever before. How do you guarantee that your franchise quarterback will be kept virus-free all season? If anything happens to Goff, the Rams need a backup plan. John Wolford is a certainty here, and I have to think they want to keep Bryce Perkins, too, considering his dual-threat ability. If Goff is healthy, McVay can get creative with some Perkins sub-packages, a la Taysom Hill. If Goff has to isolate for any period of time, the Rams really do like Wolford and he’ll need an active jersey backing him up on game day as it is.

Who is the undrafted player most likely to make the roster? — Frederick C.

The bummer (aside from a global health crisis) about this offseason is that it’s going to be extremely tough for undrafted free agents to make a final roster, and the Rams in particular picked up a really strong UDFA class. I would say to look at already-thin positions, like inside linebacker, and start there with possible choices. I believe the Rams are trying to keep a guy like Christian Rozeboom a secret because of his extremely high development potential, and if we were talking about a regular season, I think he would make the final roster. I also was directed by a kind reader to the tape of Fresno State defensive back JuJu Hughes and love how he plays. But will the Rams necessarily need defensive back depth? Tough to say. Guys I believe are more certain to make the roster include Perkins, possibly Josh Love if they’d like to stash one quarterback on the practice squad just in case, and center Cohl Cabral.

With Brian Allen coming off an injury, and Austin Blythe more of a guard than a center, how do you rate the chances of either Coleman Shelton or Cohl Cabral of starting at center this year? — Bret S.

This year, no way. If I were an NFL coach, I’d hesitate to start any rookie, first-rounder or UDFA, along an offensive line this season. You can so easily ruin a guy if you put him in a position like that too early, and that’s not even factoring in a lack of reps due to the pandemic. I feel like you have to stick with Blythe at center and plug someone else in at guard. In the next three years, I like Cabral’s development potential.

Rams have to drop to 80 players. When do they have to do it and do you think they’ll make it a two-kicker race instead of three? — Bret S.

This is a smart question. The Rams have to make some tough decisions, and tougher phone calls, in the next few days as they trim their roster to 80 from 89, in accordance with league rules. I think kicker is a spot where they could look to make it a two-man competition, because while they still have to have a contest here, other areas on offense and defense will need an extra spot.


Among the top four edge rushers competing for playing time on the roster, two are veterans (Samson Ebukam and Leonard Floyd) and two are rather unproven (Obo Okoronkwo and Terrell Lewis). Which two do you think are best positioned to grab the starting spots? Also, is there a pairing of two edge rushers that you would like to see on the field? — Jackson F.

I would imagine that you’ll see the more veteran players starting on the outside, meaning Ebukam and Floyd, but to be honest with you there is insane potential from Lewis and I wouldn’t be surprised if he and Floyd are the starters by mid-to-late season. That’s also a pair I’d really like to see in tandem.

Will the Rams sign any more free agents? — Alexander H.

Definitely, and especially in light of the pandemic. There is always a little bit of a flurry after roster cutdowns, in which teams try to pick up guys they either want on their practice squads or in their system. Meanwhile, the Rolodex has to double or triple in size because staffs need emergency options at every position just in case one group has too many positive tests to be managed by rostered depth. The NFL is still working out a quarantine/return-to-play plan, and to me it would behoove teams to push for the ability to expand a final roster if needed, or to have multiple IR designations (and more “designated to return” options) to make sure they can field a viable squad if multiple players test positive.

Of the following three, who do you believe gets an extension first: Jalen Ramsey, Cooper Kupp or John Johnson III? Additionally, which extension do you believe would be easiest to complete? — John R.

Unfortunately for Johnson, that one is probably last because the safety market continues to devalue — even though an extension for him would also probably be the easiest to manage in current cap constraints. It’s a tough spot for him to be in (I mentioned in a prior piece that he’s the guy who I’ve heard the most hype about from coaches and other players this spring). And I would believe that Kupp happens first because of tenure in the system, he’s their homegrown draft pick, etc. General managers can be funny that way, though I don’t knock the respect shown to a player.

Ramsey’s contract will be interesting. They’ll probably want to restructure Aaron Donald first, so if we catch wind of that, we know Ramsey is probably up next. Yet there are so many concerns about next season’s salary cap, because of the pandemic and inevitable loss the league will take, that I would actually expect any of these later than we initially predicted.

What’s going to happen this year? — @RamsFansUnited

I have no idea! Welcome to the void.

(Top photo of Terrell Lewis: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rams mailbag: Stadium update, looming cuts and why aren’t draft picks signed? (1)Rams mailbag: Stadium update, looming cuts and why aren’t draft picks signed? (2)

Jourdan Rodrigue covers the Los Angeles Rams for The Athletic. Previously, she covered the Carolina Panthers for The Athletic and The Charlotte Observer, and Penn State football for the Centre Daily Times. She is an ASU grad and a recipient of the PFWA's Terez A. Paylor Emerging Writer award (2021). Follow Jourdan on Twitter @JourdanRodrigue

Rams mailbag: Stadium update, looming cuts and why aren’t draft picks signed? (2024)
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