THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Sean McVay had canceled Thursday's final minicamp practice and still woke up at 4 in the morning that day.
The offseason program is over, but the Los Angeles Rams' rookie coach is finding it difficult to unplug. So, he'll force himself to. Before the team reconvenes for training camp in late July -- rookies report July 26, veterans follow July 28 -- McVay will do some traveling. He'll go to Cabo San Lucas on a family trip, spend some time in Europe with his girlfriend and do his best to temporarily take his mind off his first season as the NFL's youngest head coach.
"I think it’s important to try to kind of just get refreshed, recharged; take better care of myself," McVay said. "I’m a little bit heavier than I’d like to be right now."
McVay called his first offseason program "a great learning experience," a description he may use for every stage this calendar year. Phase 1, McVay said, was about establishing an identity and having his players learn the system. Phase 2 was about improving techniques and mastering the system. Phase 3 was about coming together as a team.
"And the nice thing about it is we feel like we were able to accomplish that," McVay said from the team facility on Thursday. "By no means are we where we need to be for what we’re striving to accomplish, but I think in terms of what we were trying to get done in the offseason program, we felt like it was a successful offseason program."
Below are five key takeaways from that program.
Jared Goff is a quick study: Goff recently asked McVay how much of his offense has been installed, and McVay told him about 95 percent. "If that’s what we have in," Goff said, "I’d say I’ve understood all of it and grasped all of it so far." Goff added that he has learned this year's offense "much quicker" than he learned last year's, which he attributed to spending an entire season in the NFL and then having a full offseason to prepare. Goff, who is 22 and coming off a catastrophic rookie year, made several nice downfield throws during 11-on-11 drills. But that was without pads or contact. It's difficult to truly evaluate in a setting like that. What's important is that teammates notice more confidence, more leadership, more conviction in Goff. And that he is seemingly picking up the playbook quickly. The rest will sort itself out later.
Pass-catching group defining itself: It's hard to forecast exactly how the targets will be dispersed because one of the Rams' primary receivers, Tavon Austin, spent the offseason program recovering from wrist surgery. But aside from Robert Woods, the Rams' other primary receiver, it was Cooper Kupp, Tyler Higbee and Mike Thomas who seemed to get the most snaps with the first-team offense, with Nelson Spruce and Pharoh Cooper also seeing some time. It looks like Kupp, a third-round pick in this year's draft, has already established himself as a go-to slot receiver, while Higbee, a second-year tight end, may have a leg-up on Gerald Everett, this year's No. 44 overall pick. Thomas, barely used as a rookie, could establish himself as a deep threat, though the Rams would prefer it if Austin were the one to take on that role.
Jamon Brown getting his chance: It seemed early on that former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson was going to get a real chance to transition from left to right tackle. But the Rams quickly began using Brown with the first-team offense and ultimately traded Robinson. Interestingly enough, they chose to keep Rob Havenstein at right guard, even though he spent his first two years at right tackle. And they put Brown at right tackle, even though he spent most of his first two years as a guard. Brown, a third-round pick in 2015, was a tackle during his four-year career at Louisville and the Rams like what he brings there. He'll enter training camp as the starter. Brown said it's "kind of easy to just kind of knock the rust off and just get back to doing what I do" at tackle. "It's been going pretty good. I don't think it's been too much rust."
Nobody's worried about Aaron Donald: The Rams' superstar defensive tackle caused a stir when he skipped out on the three weeks that encompassed organized team activities. Donald remained in Pittsburgh and worked out on his own while hoping for a restructured contract. He returned for the mandatory minicamp, but steered clear of team activities. The Rams have said all the right things about working something out with Donald. It will be a difficult process, because he deserves to be paid among the game's best defensive players and because he is currently so affordable for these next two years. But nobody is worried about Donald's state of mind. He continues to work hard, and his role won't change under the new system. Said new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips: "The elite players like Aaron Donald, you say you’d like to have them practicing all the time. But as long as you have them in the fall, I think that’s when you want him.”
No serious injuries yet: Austin, who had arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist in early May, spent most of the offseason program running routes and catching tennis balls off to the side. Robert Quinn, transitioning from defensive end to outside linebacker, sat out the minicamp after undergoing a surgical procedure to his right hand that McVay considered "minor." Linebacker Mark Barron, cornerback E.J. Gaines, running back Lance Dunbar and wide receiver Bradley Marquez also sat out the minicamp. And strong safety Maurice Alexander was only starting to come back from a hip injury by the time the offseason program ended. But McVay said that none of those ailments will keep those players from being ready by the start of training camp. The Rams expect everybody fully healthy by then, which is always a good start.