THOUSAND OAKS – Sammy Watkins nearly pulled in a touchdown pass last weekend. He probably got held by a cornerback. Maybe the timing was just off a tick. It didn’t matter to quarterback Jared Goff.
“I told him on the sideline that I’m going to keep throwing to him,” Goff said.
That’s important to the Rams. Not only is Watkins expected to be a field-stretching No. 1 receiver, but he’s a new arrival with little experience catching passes from Goff. So, Watkins already has something in common with most of the receivers likely to contribute in the Rams’ Sept. 10 season opener.
Tavon Austin remains out of practice with a hamstring injury, which makes it increasingly likely that the Rams’ starting lineup could include Watkins, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp at receiver. None of them has played a regular-season snap with Goff. Given the general weakness of the Rams’ receiving corps in 2016, that overhaul should be a net positive, but right now it’s requiring a lot of work in practice.
“It’s definitely reps,” Watkins said. “I think the more reps you get with (Goff), the more he can trust you and the more comfortable he is with throwing the ball to you and the more you get open, and that’s the best thing ever.
“Just to have a guy that doesn’t even look your way, but just looks the safety off and throws you the ball, because he depends on you to be at the right spot, that’s the (connection) that I’m trying to build and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Goff certainly is putting in the work. This week, he has stayed after practice to throw with Watkins, who was acquired in an Aug. 11 trade with Buffalo. Goff said he also has spent off-field time with Watkins and would call play and ask Watkins to tell him the receiver’s role in each play.
It’s an accelerated process. The Rams signed Woods in March and drafted Kupp in April, and Goff had the entire summer to throw to them, both in OTA practices and informal workouts. Watkins has had six practices and less than one half of last Saturday’s preseason game against Oakland.
The danger is that Goff and Watkins take a while to get on the same page, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue. Against the Raiders, they connected twice for 8 yards, and Goff threw a perfect 28-yard pass toward Watkins in the end zone, but it glanced off one of Watkins’ hands while the other was being held by an Oakland cornerback. Goff and Watkins also connected on a nice third-down conversion.
“I think Sammy has picked (the offense) up a lot faster than any of us expected,” Goff said after Wednesday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “With the terminology and the amount of stuff we do, as fast as he has picked it up, it’s been really impressive. Sure, there’s times when you need to remind him on things, but he just got here a week ago and he has done a great job communicating.”
Goff and the receivers have one more preseason game — Saturday against the Chargers at the Coliseum — to work things out, because starters won’t play in the Aug. 31 preseason finale at Green Bay.
McVay said the starters will play into the second quarter against the Chargers, but not in the second half, as McVay previously said they might. That gives Goff perhaps four or five drives with his receivers. Goff said that would give him enough time to get ready for the season opener, and enough time to further build chemistry with each of his new receivers.
“It’s always different,” Goff said. “Some guys pick it up extremely fast. I think a good example would be Cooper Kupp. As a rookie, he picked things up really fast and it was really quick with him. . With other guys, it takes time, but for the most part it’s not ever a super-long deal. It takes a few weeks to a month. You start getting in the same rhythm and you start understanding how you fit together.”
McVay said former Rams coach Mike Martz reached out to a Rams communications executive regarding the published comments attributed to Martz that were highly critical of McVay.
Martz apparently did not apologize but, according to McVay, Martz said he “has a lot of respect, and you know how things can get turned around.” Martz previously said, in a radio interview, that he had been misquoted. McVay said he thought it was “classy” of Martz to reach out and attempt to clear the air.
The Rams brought back defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker and waived defensive lineman A.J. Jefferson.
Walker initially signed with the Rams in March, but was released in June after media reports that he was being investigated in Louisiana for possible sexual assault. Three weeks ago, a grand jury in Louisiana cleared Walker of any possible charges.
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