IRVINE, Calif. — On the verge of their most important training camp since their Greatest Show on Turf era, the Los Angeles Rams are set to welcome rookies and veterans July 23 and 25 before officially opening camp in Irvine on July 26.
These are exciting times to say the least, as the Rams have emerged as a viable Super Bowl contender after stunning the NFL with one of the most dramatic turnarounds in league history while going from last to first in the NFL West to claim a division title and home playoff game.
From that 11-5 team and the top-ranked offense in the NFL, the Rams return 10 of 11 offensive starters while adding explosive, productive wide receiver Brandin Cooks as a difference making newcomer.
Defensively, they have made dramatic upgrades at cornerback with the additions of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and at defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh. They will join reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald — if and when his contract extension gets finalized — and Michael Brockers along the defensive line and talented veterans Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson and Mark Barron.
And while Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre and Corey Littleton are being counted on as new starters, there is confidence they will each make a successful transition to their expanded roles and responsibilities.
On paper, the Rams have the look of an NFC power, especially with third-year quarterback Jared Goff surrounded by explosive and productive playmakers like Cooks, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and intriguing second-year tight end Gerald Everett and working behind an offensive line that made a dramatic jump forward last year.
And with second-year head coach Sean McVay adding and expanding to his innovative offensive scheme, there is reason to believe the Rams are perched at the doorstep of a prolonged playoff run.
Not that there aren’t some concerns.
Donald and the club have yet to come to terms on a new contract extension, and his training camp and regular-season status remains uncertain. He’s going into the last year of his original rookie contract — and is wildly underpaid given his status as one of the best defensive players in the NFL — but for the second straight offseason he and the Rams were unable to finalize a new deal a week ahead of camp.
That said, there is optimism the two sides will figure out a long-term extension in time for the season. If so, the Rams will be perfectly positioned to make a major run.