Lamarcus Joyner Jersey

The Los Angeles Rams chose to slap a franchise tag on safety Lamarcus Joyner back in April. The two sides have been talking, but no long-term deal is expected to be reached, a league source told ESPN.

They have until Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline to agree to a multi-year deal. If a new contract isn’t signed, Joyner will play this season on the franchise tag. The Rams could then tag him again next offseason or he would become a free agent.

The Rams decided to franchise tag Joyner instead of receiver Sammy Watkins, who later left for the Kansas City Chiefs. The 27-year-old played slot corner his first three years in the league before moving to safety in 2017, where he notched his first three career interceptions.

Greg Zuerlein Jersey

After signing Cairo Santos, the Los Angeles Rams can afford to wait it out on Greg Zuerlein until he’s healthy enough to return.

As great as it’s been to watch the Los Angeles Rams find the end zone over the first four weeks of the 2018 season, the team has unfortunately been dealing with some issues on special teams at the kicker position.

During warmups a few weeks ago, Greg Zuerlein suffered a groin injury that has since prevented him from playing in games, leaving the Rams to settle for Sam Ficken in his absence.

However, when looking at the struggles surrounding Ficken being reliable, including an easy 28-yard chip shot in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings, it was easy to understand the decision by Los Angeles to move on from the former Penn State kicker.

Since Zuerlein still isn’t 100 percent ready to play, the Rams decided to sign former Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos in the mean time to help get by, although with the way the offense is scoring touchdowns, he may not be needed as much.

Still, it’s important for a serious contender like Los Angeles to have a reliable kicker each week in case there ever is a time when the offense struggles to put up points in the end zone. And since the last thing the Rams want to do is rush Zuerlein before he’s fully ready, Santos is at least an upgrade over Ficken.

Between having a lot more experience to showing he can handle the pressure on numerous occasions, Santos knows this is the perfect opportunity to prove himself as a reliable kicker in the NFL.

The job may go right back to Zuerlein when he is healthy enough to return since the Rams also know what he’s capable of after last season’s career numbers before suffering a back injury. But for now, all that matters for Los Angeles is they can feel much better about their kicker situation with Santos since Ficken arguably never should have been in the picture to begin with.

Plus, let’s not forget that Seattle Seahawks fans tend to provide opponents with one of the most hostile environments in the NFL, so it’s good to see the Rams go with a kicker that has proven to be able to handle these kind of pressure situations.

Johnny Hekker Jersey

Todd Gurley deserves his due as he continues to have what might end up being one of the greatest statistical seasons for a running back in NFL history.

But we need to step back for a moment and focus on his teammate, Johnny Hekker.

Hekker, in case you’re not aware, makes his living as a punter for the Los Angeles Rams. Over the years, he’s become a multi-purpose weapon for the franchise since he joined the team in 2012, a gifted punter with his leg but one that can pull off a trick play with ease. This season, he’s already been used three times in trick play situations.

Let’s start with this play from Sunday’s loss to the Saints:

Yes, a lot of folks think he got the first down in what would be a big momentum shift for the Saints. But for our purposes, that’s not what we’re paying attention to.

What other team would call for a fake field goal on the road against another top team in the conference and put the ball in the hands of their punter? No one.

Go back a week ago and you’ll see Hekker completing a pass to Sam Shields on a fake punt while the Rams were in their own territory and down 10-0 to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers:

Against the Vikings earlier this year, Hekker showed off his cannon again on this early-third quarter missile that missed:

Again: Hekker (a former high school quarterback) has been this kind of player for a long time – he’s completed 10-of-17 passes in his career. But with three trick plays so far, Hekker is on pace for a career year as a punter/thrower/runner. Sean McVay isn’t afraid to use him in big situations and it’s a strategy that will keep opposing defenses and special teamers very much on their toes. All hail Johnny Hekker.

Rodger Saffold Jersey

Jeff Fisher is known for quite a few things in the NFL. While his defenses were typically quite good, his name is synonymous with a 7-9 record and some of the worst offenses in recent memory. His Titans also came up 1 yard short of potential Super Bowl win, coincidentally against the Rams.

And he’ll never escape the 2016 season when Jared Goff was labeled a bust and Todd Gurley failed to eclipse 100 yards rushing once. However, as bad as the Rams were that year, Goff’s struggles weren’t entirely Fisher’s fault.

After all, he had no offensive line to speak of, a terrible receiving corps, all coupled with uncreative play calling that didn’t yield any positive results. Does that make Fisher a quarterback killer, or someone who can’t develop passers in the NFL? He doesn’t think so.

“When people say that I ‘ruin quarterbacks’? I had a co-MVP in the National Football League as one of my quarterbacks. I had a Rookie of the Year as one of my quarterbacks. I had a really good quarterback when I took the job with the Rams who tore his ACL twice,” Fisher told Sports Illustrated. “And yes, I was deficient. I probably could’ve done a better job surrounding the quarterback with better people, better players, maybe better coaches. But it doesn’t mean to say that I’m a bad quarterback coach. I’m not a quarterback coach, I’m a head coach.”

Oftentimes in sports, your most recent stint is the most remembered one. For Fisher, it was that disastrous 2016 season that saw him get fired after a 4-9 start. But people often forget that he thrived with Steve McNair under center, had success with Vince Young and even went 12-3 with Kerry Collins at quarterback thanks to a 10-0 start.Not many players are still in L.A. from that 2016 campaign, but Rodger Saffold, the longest-tenured Ram, was. He said the Rams “all loved Coach Fish” and refused to put all the blame on Fisher for the offense’s struggles, particularly the quarterbacks’.

“I wouldn’t say he ruins quarterbacks,” Saffold said. “But you know, he’s a defensive-minded coach, so you can only go as far as you can. But you never know what type of complication you’re going to get in a season, so I wouldn’t say he’s quarterback killer. It’s more about having the right combination of people around, the right combination of coaches.”

Fisher says in the wide-ranging piece that he would “love to coach again,” adding that he misses the players. He’s not likely to get any calls in the near future with the NFL shifting toward these young hot-shot offensive coaches, but that doesn’t mean Fisher wouldn’t be interested.

Andrew Whitworth Jersey

He made it to the playoffs seven times in his first 12 NFL seasons, but Andrew Whitworth never experienced the joy of a postseason victory.

The Rams’ left tackle lost six wild-card games with the Cincinnati Bengals and another last season with the Rams.

Whitworth, 37, aims to end that postseason streak Saturday when the Rams play the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC divisional playoff game at the Coliseum.

“This is the one experience I haven’t had, so yeah, I mean I’d say it’s definitely something I’m looking forward to the opportunity to get,” he said Thursday.

Whitworth played for the Bengals for 11 seasons before signing a three-year, $34-million contract with the Rams.

Last season, he solidified the offensive line, protected quarterback Jared Goff and helped clear the way for Todd Gurley as the Rams won the NFC West and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

The Rams then lost to the Atlanta Falcons 26-13, extending Whitworth’s playoff disappointment.

Whitworth started every game this season as the Rams won their second consecutive division title and earned a bye through the wild-card round.

So perhaps the automatic berth in the divisional round will change his playoff fortune.

“It’s really going to come down to what team executes the best, makes huge plays that really matter, that really alter the course of the game,” he said.

Whitworth came out of the season finale against the San Francisco 49ers because of a knee bruise suffered when he collided with another player. But the bye week enabled him to heal and he said he would be ready for the Cowboys.

Whitworth said that he would evaluate his future after the season, something he has done on an annual basis.

“When I was 33, 34, I started saying, ‘One year at time, see how I feel after that season, and go from there,’ ” Whitworth said. “So for me, that’s still where I’m at.

“I still feel like I play at a really high level and still enjoy it.”

Whitworth will meet with coach Sean McVay, members of the training staff and others before making any decisions.

“See what’s what, and what I feel like and where their mindset is and we’ll move on from there,” he said.

Cory Littleton Jersey

The NFL announced Pro Bowl rosters for both the AFC and NFC on Tuesday night with four Los Angeles Rams being selected. They had five primary selections last year before the number grew to eight thanks to alternates, so their total this season is down slightly.

Part of the reason the Rams had fewer selections this year is that their special teams unit wasn’t as well-represented as it was last season. A year ago, four special teams players from the Rams made it, but this year, there was just one: Cory Littleton.

Johnny Hekker is a second alternate, but Greg Zuerlein wasn’t selected after missing part of the season due to injury. Pharoh Cooper, who made the Pro Bowl last year, isn’t even on the team anymore, and Jake McQuaide didn’t make it as a long snapper.

With Littleton being selected, he extends the Rams’ streak on special teams. This is the fourth straight year the Rams have had at least one special teams player make the Pro Bowl. Hekker made it each year from 2015-17, while Zuerlein, Cooper and McQuaide were also selected last year.

It’s not an overly long streak, but it is a testament to how solid the special teams unit has been in recent years.

John Sullivan Jersey

Jared Goff is in his head. He’s overthinking it. He’s second-guessing himself. The Cali cool that has come to define the Rams’ perpetually chill Pro Bowl quarterback is cracking.

Considering his unflinchingly even keel on the football field, it’s a rare sight to see Goff grapple so unsuccessfully with his own frustration. He’s not usually one to let things fester. “He operates with such a quieted mind all the time,” says wideout Brandin Cooks. But on a golf course, with driver in hand, Jared Goff’s mind is frenetic and full of doubt, his trademark cool compromised.

“I’m a huge headcase,” Goff said of his golf game. “People can talk about even-keeledness, but on the golf course, I get in my own head pretty easily. People can tell.”

Andrew Whitworth has seen that frustration manifest on more than a few fairways. They’ve played together plenty since Goff picked up the sport a couple years ago. “For as even-keel as he is, he gets kind of upset,” the Rams veteran left tackle describes. “Then, he overthinks.”

Whitworth smirks. That image is so contrary to the calm, collected one Goff has cultivated as the ascendant star quarterback at the helm of a Super Bowl contender. His effortless nonchalance is inevitably the first thing anyone says about him. At quarterback, Goff is the living personification of that well-worn sports cliche — “never too high, never too low” — a quiet field general whose in-game enthusiasm rarely ventures past semi-passionate fist pumps.

His swing may still need work, but as the Rams prepare to face the Cowboys this Saturday, Goff’s steady hand is the most critical – and, some would say, uncertain – element of the Rams’ most anticipated playoff push in nearly two decades. How far he can guide them remains to be seen, especially in light of his less-than-steady performance over the final month of the season. But in the Rams locker room, teammates say their quarterback’s quiet confidence has never wavered, no matter the circumstance. And this time of year, that command can speaks volumes.

“He’s always in total control,” said wideout Robert Woods.

“He’s the same guy all the time,” said center John Sullivan.

To prove their point, both Woods and Sullivan point to last month’s loss in Chicago, when Goff was battered by the Bears pass rush and picked off a career-high four times, sending him careening into a late-season slump. It was a demoralizing defeat, one everyone knew would be blamed on Goff’s poor play. The next day, though, the quarterback appeared completely unaffected. As Whitworth remembers, “Jared just joked that (during) his rookie season, it was like that every single week.”

Back then, no one could’ve foretold the heights Goff has reached this season. His 4,688 passing yards rank second in franchise history, just 142 yards short of Kurt Warner’s single-season record. His 32 touchdowns rank third. Until the Rams’ bye week in late November, Goff was a leading contender for league MVP, silencing those who suggested early on in the season that he was merely a “system quarterback”.

No system, though, could’ve possibly computed the kind of performance Goff put together against Minnesota at the end of September. It was that night that he seemed to announce to the world his newfound command of the Rams offense. Goff completed 26 of 33 passes for 465 yards and five touchdowns becoming just the 23rd quarterback ever to compile a perfect passer rating (158.3) with 20 or more attempts in a game.

His control was so complete that on one throw, late in the first half, Goff seemed to openly defy the laws of physics. As he rolled right, launching a risky throw off one foot, his pass followed a near-impossible trajectory towards the corner of the end zone, slicing through two defenders, before somehow landing in Cooper Kupp’s outstretched arms.

“He was doing that all night, putting balls wherever he wanted,” Kupp said at the time.

On another throw, earlier in the second quarter, Goff faked a handoff, watching out of the corner of his eye as Kupp faked a block, then wheeled up the field. They’d tweaked this particular play during the week, and Goff knew exactly where Kupp would be as he cut left. He skied a perfect pass down the field, and Kupp reeled it in for a 70-yard touchdown. As he did, Goff ran towards Sean McVay on the sideline, where they met mid-air for a chest bump.

There weren’t many other bumps on the way to a 10-1 start this season, but after the bye week, the sense of command never quite returned. Over the next three weeks, Goff completed just 55 percent of his passes, while throwing six picks – the same amount he threw over the season’s other 13 weeks.

So, what happened to Goff over that stretch? For the Rams – and the defenses tasked with stopping them – that question is paramount as the playoffs begin. Teams are certain to use lessons learned from tape of that stretch, in hopes of rattling the Rams signal caller.

“The more you play, the more is expected of you, the more pressure you’re under, you really get to test that even keel,” Whitworth said. “Sometimes being young, having less expectation, it’s a little easier to be that way.”

Against the Bears, more than half of Goff’s dropbacks resulted in heavy pressure, leaving him no time to go through his reads or find his rhythm. A week later, Goff struggled against Philadelphia’s 3-deep zone coverages, repeatedly missing open throws as the Eagles challenged him to settle only for routes on underneath. For the first time all season, defenses were forcing him into mental mistakes that negated the benefits of McVay’s system. No longer were the Rams’ long-developing, big plays getting the necessary time to develop.

On a 3rd-and-1, late in the third quarter against the Eagles, Goff appeared to lose his cool. After stepping on his lineman’s foot, he dropped the snap, then tried to retrieve it for a desperation throw. Instead, he fumbled again, and the Eagles recovered. Two plays later, they scored the deciding touchdown.

After the fumble, McVay approached Goff on the bench, for a brief conversation that was captured by NFL Films. “You OK?” the coach asked.

Goff nodded. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just frustrated.”

The next day, no one around the Rams could detect any difference in their quarterback. But as the Rams dropped consecutive games for the first time with McVay as coach, the reality of the situation was impossible to ignore. The Rams’ offensive vulnerabilities had been laid bare.

Even as their offense seemed to get back on track over the season’s final two weeks, it’s still unclear if the issues exploited by the Eagles and Bears were ironed out entirely. Doubts about Goff still persist, in spite of his brilliance in the first three months of the season. As such, the Rams are far from Super Bowl favorites. “Nobody is talking about us,” veteran guard Rodger Saffold said.

“For a two-game stretch, a lot of people lost a lot of faith,” Whitworth added. “Being the quarterback, that ends up centered on him.”

Goff understands this, and, as you might imagine, he shrugs at the notion. But as the Cowboys invade the Coliseum on Saturday, their suffocating front-seven will likely aim to pressure Goff as much as possible. They’ll try to take away his first read and neutralize the Rams’ play action.

How Goff responds could very well decide the Rams’ postseason fate – and more. “Guys that win in the playoffs are usually the ones that are remembered,” Goff says.

It’s an interesting thought for a quarterback who doesn’t often consider such things. But as the Rams set course for a possible Super Bowl run, there’s no need to overthink that just yet.

Michael Brockers Jersey

The Los Angeles Rams know they have a lot to prove. After an amazing 2017 season that nobody saw coming, they fell flat in the playoffs and were a quick one-and-done. Looking to avoid that same fate this time around, the team is locked in with a laser-like focus.

One of the team’s defensive leaders, defensive end Michael Brockers, spoke to reporters Thursday and made it clear that the team still has a bad taste in its mouth from last year that it’s looking to get rid of. Brockers bluntly answered “for sure, for sure” when asked if the team was using last year’s loss as motivation for this Saturday’s game against the Cowboys.

Brockers also said the Rams “were the better team” in the wild-card loss to the Falcons, but that they just made too many mistakes. He declared that “we beat ourselves,” and still seemed beaten up about it over a year later. All the guys who were here last season have a very big chip on their shoulder, which can only be a good thing heading into this matchup.

Brockers also detailed the team’s mindset, and how they used a different approach with the first round bye than they did with their bye week during the regular season.

“We had a bye week the first time, we kind of took it off, we went to enjoy our families and stuff like that,” he said.

But this time, everyone stayed around to “take advantage of it, work on our fundamentals and work on things we didn’t so well in the previous game,” he added.

The bye week is when things started to go south for the Rams this season, so staying locked in on the task at hand during this bye week should certainly help them avoid having any rust.

Brockers then broke down the matchup against Dallas, saying “their identity is to run the ball first” and that “they have a great running back, great O-line.” He heaped praise on Ezekiel Elliott but emphasized that the Rams would be prepared and ready for whatever the Cowboys offense threw at them.

Despite coming up short last time, this Rams team isn’t lacking confidence. Brockers seemed very happy with the team’s process and assured that things won’t go down like they did last time.

Dominique Easley Jersey

Sean McVay shared some unfortunate news on Monday, revealing that Dominique Easley underwent yet another procedure on his oft-injured knee. McVay said this time it was his meniscus, but Easley will likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve.

It’s a big blow to the Rams, but it’s even worse news for Easley himself. He’s battled through countless knee injuries dating back to his college days, struggling to stay on the field. Transitioning to outside linebacker was thought to limit the wear and tear on his knee, but not even a position change could keep the former Florida Gator healthy, unfortunately.

So where do the Rams turn now? Samson Ebukam is one of the starting edge rushers, but Matt Longacre hasn’t shown anything to suggest he should play a significant number of snaps in any given week. John Franklin-Myers brings plenty of intrigue and should see more playing time, while McVay mentioned Trevon Young and Justin Lawler as a few other guys who could step up.

One name he didn’t mutter: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. We haven’t heard anything about the rookie since he was placed on the PUP list at the start of camp and remained there for the start of the regular season, forcing him to miss the first six weeks. He can’t even practice until those six weeks are up, at which point the Rams have three weeks to decide whether to activate him or keep him on IR.

There’s no guarantee Okoronkwo will even step foot on an NFL field this season, but with Easley most likely out for the year, the Rams need Obo more than ever. Any impact he can make as a rookie will be a huge boost, especially with so much uncertainty surrounding the pass rushers.

It’s just hard to imagine him posting a half-dozen sacks or so this season after missing spring workouts, training camp, the preseason and the first six games, at minimum. Being a rookie pass rusher in the first place is hard enough as only 32 in NFL history have recorded double-digit sacks in their first season, including just one since 2012 (Joey Bosa, 2016).

Had Easley and Morgan Fox not gotten hurt, or had Junior Galette been signed the way many believed he would be, Okoronkwo’s return wouldn’t have been viewed the way it is now. The Rams could have brought him along slowly, using the full three-week practice window to get him ready for game action.

Now, there’s a pressing need at outside linebacker that might need to be filled externally in the event that Okoronkwo can’t play relatively soon. That’s not to say the Rams should rush the rookie back, but now more than ever, he must contribute at least slightly this season.

Brandin Cooks Jersey

Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds caught two touchdown passes apiece from Jared Goff, and the Los Angeles Rams secured a first-round playoff bye with a 48-32 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Cory Littleton returned one of his two interceptions for a TD as the Rams (13-3) forced four turnovers and wrapped up their winningest regular season since 2001 with a six-game sweep of their NFC West rivals.

Goff passed for 199 yards for Los Angeles, which needed a win over the Niners or a loss by Chicago to clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC postseason. The Rams didn’t mess around, playing nearly every starter except Todd Gurley and jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes before stretching it to 28-3 midway through the second quarter.

Nick Mullens passed for 282 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions for the 49ers (4-12), who wrapped up their fifth consecutive non-winning season. San Francisco went winless on the road for the first time since 1979, Bill Walsh’s first season in charge.

George Kittle set the NFL’s single-season record for yards receiving by a tight end with 1,377 when he caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Mullens with 2:20 left, while Richie James also caught a TD pass and Alfred Morris rushed for 111 yards and a score. San Francisco also set an NFL record with just seven takeaways all season after failing to force a turnover by Goff and his teammates.

The Rams hadn’t swept San Francisco since 2004, but coach Sean McVay dropped 87 points on his friend Kyle Shanahan’s club in two meetings this season.

C.J. Anderson rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown in his second 100-yard game in place of Gurley, who sat out again to rest his knees.

The Rams clinched the division four weeks ago, but missed the chance to secure a week off when they lost at Chicago two weeks later. The Bears pushed LA until the final week, but the Rams took control quickly at the Coliseum.

On the game’s fourth snap, Aqib Talib returned fullback Kyle Juszczyk’s fumble inside the Niners 10. After Cooks caught a TD pass, Littleton returned his first interception 22 yards and Anderson punched it in.

Littleton, the Rams’ do-it-all linebacker and Pro Bowl special-teamer, took his second pick 19 yards to the house early in the second quarter. Cooks’ second TD catch put the Rams up by 25, but McVay didn’t pull his starters until the second half as the Niners kept pushing.

The Rams rested Gurley and safety Lamarcus Joyner, but otherwise used their regular lineup with a bye on the line. Gurley is expected to be ready for the postseason, and an extra week off will only help.

KITTLE’S MARK

Kittle had nine catches for 149 yards, including five for 95 yards in the fourth quarter. He surpassed both Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 record of 1,327 yards and the new mark set earlier Sunday by Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, who finished this season with 1,336. The Niners were determined to get the record, targeting Kittle 14 times — including six times in the fourth quarter of the blowout.

DONALD’S DOMINANCE

Aaron Donald had one sack to finish with 20½ for the season. The Rams’ peerless defensive tackle fell short of Michael Strahan’s single-season sacks record of 22½, but Donald still set an NFL record with 183.5 total sack yards when he dropped Mullens for an 8-yard loss in the first half.

INJURIES

49ers: LG Laken Tomlinson left the field on a cart in the second quarter with an apparent right knee injury.

Rams: LT Andrew Whitworth left the field gingerly in the second quarter with a knee injury, frightening fans who realize the veteran’s importance to the Los Angeles offense. He didn’t return, but rookie Joseph Noteboom appeared to play well in his absence. … S Blake Countess started in Joyner’s place, but left the game early with a concussion.