NFL insider notes from Rams camp: Matthew Stafford shares what drew him Sean McVay, plus QB’s early connection

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IRVINE, Calif. — Sean McVay’s photographic memory has become legendary over the years. When quizzed this week, he recalled immediately that Troy Hill intercepted a Matthew Stafford pass in the 2018 meeting between the Rams and Lions, the only game that McVay served as head coach against Stafford.

Ask him what Stafford had for dinner in Mexico when they celebrated the trade unofficially going through and he’s at a loss.

“Definitely not,” McVay says. “There were too many alcoholic beverages involved at that time. We were happy but I don’t think we were eating much.”

Stafford’s not sure either and lays the blame on the spirits. But after some laughs he shows what drew him to McVay — and his best chance at winning a Super Bowl.

“It’s been great working with him. He’s a really a bright guy has great energy and knows how to command a room but at the same time he’s so approachable and everybody loves him,” Stafford told me after practice Monday. “It’s really fun challenging each other. He’s trying to get the best out of me and I’m trying to get the best out of him. That kind of friendly fun competition and pushing each other is what it’s all about. I’m loving it.”

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That work together was perhaps best displayed on one long Van Jefferson completion in an otherwise ho-hum training camp practice.

Twice during team drills that day, Stafford ran a boot coming off play action and quickly threw across his body to the short middle of the field to the awaiting receiver. Later in the day, he did the same action. But instead of throwing across the body, he planted his feet hard into the UC Irvine turf and unloaded a spiral 35 yards downfield to Jefferson on his deep cross.

There was McVay and Stafford, setting up their all-world defense for the big play midway through camp. A new dawn for the Rams’ offense indeed.

More notes from Rams camp

  • The DeSean Jackson-Matthew Stafford connection is real. I didn’t see them link up on this day like they have seemingly every day of camp, but Stafford had plenty of praise for the veteran receiver. “DeSean’s a special player and whoever’s throwing it to him is going to have a lot of success. He’s got a lot of reps under his belt so he understands this game. That’s something I’m pretty lucky with walking into this team with.”
  • Second-round receiver Tutu Atwell is behind and he’s small. I’m not sure what else I expected to see out of the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Atwell, but he has the smallest waist of any player I’ve seen on a football field the last few years. Being on the COVID-19 reserve list for nearly a week kept Atwell in a hotel and in his playbook. Great for him, but the rookie needed those reps with Stafford as he fights for the ball in a crowded room.
  • Darrell Henderson is going to need some help here. The RB1 will be fine taking the majority of rushes, but I’m not overly confident in what’s behind him. Henderson was dealing with tightness in his right leg throughout the day but took all his snaps. Xavier Jones will have his opportunities in upcoming exhibitions to show why he can be RB2, but don’t be surprised when the Rams sign a free agent later this month when veterans are more interested in signing.
  • Linebacker Ernest Jones is going to be a force this season, especially in the run-stopping game.
  • The Rams are still trying to find where exactly safety Terrell Burgess fits in the defense. Jordan Fuller has the green dot this season to call plays, and McVay told me Taylor Rapp has done an “outstanding” job returning from injury.
  • Second-year DB Kareem Orr had a nice pass breakup on a Duck Hodges pass to J.J. Koski, who earlier in the practice coughed up the ball on a forced fumble by ILB Kenny Young.
  • TE Kendall Blanton, an undrafted free agent from 2019, made a great sliding catch to nab a Hodges pass.
  • Watching Jalen Ramsey is an absolute treat. His length stands out on the field, and it’s made Stafford an even more precise thrower this preseason.

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