Prior to Sean McVay’s arrival, the Los Angeles Rams hadn’t won an NFC West title since 2003. They also went 12 years without making the playoffs, failing to post a single winning season since going 12-4 in 2003.
Under McVay, though, they’ve won back-to-back division titles, won 24 regular-season games – the same number as they won in the previous four years combined – and reached the Super Bowl once. They’re eyeing a third straight division title in 2019, which the Rams haven’t done since 1977-79.
Robert Woods knows it won’t be easy, especially with the aggressive moves some of their division rivals have made this offseason. During an appearance on NFL Network’s “Total Access,” Woods was asked to name the Rams’ biggest threat in the NFC West.
He gave a political answer by complimenting all three teams.
“Going undefeated in the division, everyone’s going to be coming for us, every single team,” he said. “They’re matching up. You see what Arizona’s doing on the defensive side, adding (Terrell) Suggs. I know the 49ers are getting a lot of offensive weapons back, they played us pretty well. And Seattle, they always play well – great linebackers, great leaders.”
Host Scott Hanson tried to get an answer out of Woods by asking who will finish second in the division, but the wideout wasn’t giving anything away.
“Who cares about second? Who cares about second?” he said with a big smile and laugh.
The 49ers’ offseason has consisted of trade talks surrounding Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., as well as the acquisition of Dee Ford. The Seahawks lost Earl Thomas but retained Frank Clark on the franchise tag, and always have Russell Wilson to carry the load. Arizona signed Terrell Suggs and a host of free agents early in the process and could select Kyler Murray first overall to pair with Kliff Kingsbury.
The NFC West is always competitive and while the 49ers and Cardinals had rough 2018 seasons, Jimmy Garoppolo is returning and Arizona should have a new-look offense. All three teams will be gunning for the Rams, attempting to knock them off the hill atop the division.
This is the week that was for Ross. Two years ago this Saturday the Bengals took Ross with the ninth pick and both he and the team are looking for him to take off like he took off with the NFL scouting combine 40-yard dash record. The 4.22 seconds has translated into 21 catches and while his seven touchdowns are maybe one of the most overlooked stats of last season, Ross wants more.
“I overlook it myself because I feel like the touchdowns I was scoring weren’t really for someone of my build,” Ross said. “I was scoring (six) touchdowns in the red zone. I’ll take it, of course. It helps the team, and I definitely want to continue do that and other things and (make) bigger plays.”
He thinks he’s in the right offense for that, although he began the Taylor Era Tuesday like he began his career two years ago. On the sidelines for spring ball. But that’s the only similarity. Two years ago he didn’t get on the field until training camp because of shoulder surgery. Yet he may be back out there before the end of this camp because he says they’re just keeping an eye on after he developed some tightness in the wake of a stepped-up off-season conditioning program.
“I had to up my workload,” Ross said. “I’ve been grinding it getting into shape … I have to … Each year it gets bigger for me.”
Ross is looking to make the same kind of leap wide receiver Tyler Boyd did in his third season last year when he went from part-timer to a clutch 1,000-yard man. Throw in Hall-of-Famer A.J. Green and no wonder Ross has been looking at Rams tape since Taylor got hired. After all, the Rams, with Taylor as the quarterbacks coach, went to the Super Bowl with wide receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks each getting more than 1,200 yards. Quarterback Andy Dalton agrees that this can be a Ross revival.
“You see everything that the Rams did, not that we’re going to be identical to the Rams,” Dalton said. “But they had three guys that were going to get 1,000 yards until (Cooper) Kupp got hurt. You see the skill set that (Ross) has if you compare him to a couple of those guys. Cooks probably has more straight-line speed than Woods does, but John has got that straight-line speed and he’s got some shiftiness. It will fit really well.”
With the Bengals unable to talk playbook with their new coaches until two weeks ago, Ross had been immersing himself in Rams video. It’s all he had and he liked what he saw.
“Something new is always exciting. Especially coming from where (Taylor) came from. I think a lot of us are excited. A lot of big plays. Not just from one player. A lot of people,” said Ross, who saw two things stand out on the tape. “Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. Those are two great receivers that do their jobs really well. They play with a lot of energy and effort. That’s something for sure I know I can bring.”
While the helmetless Ross and Green (toe) shadowed receivers like Boyd and Auden Tate Tuesday during team work and seven-on-seven, their mates brought enough for Taylor to note and compliment.