Rams Offense Presents New Challenge for Former Aztec

Kevin O'Connell has been tasked with helping to get one of the most potent attacks in football back on track

At last count, the NFL’s COVID-19 testing had turned up fewer than one half of one percent positive results. Now the National Football League is going to start testing … less.

The league is basing that decision on the belief that anyone who has the virus will not catch it again for at least three months, thanks to the presence of COVID-19 antibodies. The NFL will not test anyone with a confirmed positive result for 90 days.

As things seem to be going well on the testing front, the Rams are tinkering with their once-potent offense. L.A. went from scoring 33 points a game and a Super Bowl appearance in 2018 to averaging 24 points a game and missing the playoffs by one win last year. So head coach Sean McVay made a big change at offensive coordinator. He hired one.

After not having an officially titled O.C. the last two years, McVay hired La Costa Canyon High School alum and former Aztecs quarterback Kevin O’Connell. He took over play-calling for Washington in the middle of the season, and although McVay will handle that duty with the Rams, O’Connell learned a ton about the job, and himself.

“You always imagine what it would be like to call plays and what you would do, and the scenarios, and then you get a chance to do it, and you end up being not as aggressive as you thought you would always be,” O’Connell said. “You’re a little more conservative than you thought you’d be. So I’ve definitely learned that perspective as far as actually being the one calling the plays and putting the team and all 11 players in the huddle in the best possible situation.”

One of the reasons O’Connell wanted to join the Rams staff is to see how McVay operates first-hand. McVay is a little outside-the-box when he’s calling a game, with calls that use celebrity names like Halle Berry, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro.

Part of the Rams offensive creativity comes in the coaches room, where there are no constraints.

“There’s no such thing as a bad thought as long as you can explain it, articulate it and put it into motion,” O’Connell said. “That’s one thing that I’m so excited about -- not only is the communication where we all seem to be on the same page but feeling like you’ve got the green light to share an idea.”

Of course, one of the challenges with this season is O’Connell hasn’t gotten much time on the field to get to know his new players. Until the last two weeks, everything has been done virtually. The good news is that O’Connell already has quarterback Jared Goff buying in.

“He’s been incredible," Gof said. "He’s been really good. You can tell he knows what he’s doing and he’s done it at a high level. “It always helps when you’ve got a guy who played the position helping you, as well. It’s been a good marriage up to this point, and I’ve enjoyed it.”

When you hear O’Connell’s assessment of Goff, it’s obvious the respect is mutual.

“Incredibly talented -- as a former QB myself that sometimes had trouble throwing it, I knew where to throw it but couldn’t always throw it exactly where it had to go," O’Connell said. "We’ve worked a lot on his fundamentals, a lot on his lower half, having a little more athletic stance and posture. To me, what it’s translating to is his natural accuracy is something truly special.”

Goff’s numbers should also improve if the Rams running game improves, which O’Connell said is a top priority. If he can help fix it then O’Connell will no doubt find himself on the short list of NFL head coach candidates soon.

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