Six months after the Los Angeles Rams captured the Vince Lombardi Trophy, the Super Bowl 56 champs are back in action and returning to SoFi Stadium.
But they won’t be inside the “Rams House,” as they’re the designated visiting team when they take on the Chargers on Saturday night, August 13. In fact, they’re likely going to be without the Rams who helped lift them to their 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals — as the starters ranging from Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey, Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Cooper Kupp, even newcomers Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner are anticipated to be on the sidelines.
But that doesn’t mean there’ll be no shortage of dynamic options for head coach Sean McVay and company against a Chargers team with their own Super Bowl hype. In fact, there’s one “explosive athlete” who became one of the talks of training camp who McVay said on Wednesday, August 10 on the final camp day that is expected to get some extensive action.
The Explosive Athlete to Watch
Daniel Hardy impressed the Rams coaches at Crawford Field on the UC Irvine campus from late July to the second week of August.
McVay named off the numerous rookies and second-year Rams he can’t wait to see at SoFi after the Rams’ final camp practice — and Hardy was one he mentioned.
“Want to see Daniel Hardy play with that effort and intensity that he’s played with,” McVay said.
Hardy comes to the Rams as a seventh rounder and a small school prospect out of Montana State. But, he was described as an explosive find by Pro Football Network analytics expert Kent Lee Platte. Rams reporter Stu Jackson helped explain Platte’s evaluation in a “get to know” feature about Hardy.
“Kent Lee Platte evaluates players’ measurements on a scale from 0 to 10 in what he terms a Relative Athletic Score (RAS). Hardy’s 9.34 RAS ranked 161st out of 2419 linebackers from 1987 to 2022 and included an “elite” composite explosion grade,” Jackson wrote.
But if that doesn’t explain his explosiveness, then this slow motion video involving him and a swimming pool can:
How Hardy Has Impressed the Rams
The edge rusher Hardy piled 16 sacks in his final season at Bozeman, Montana. And that includes two games of netting two sacks versus Sam Houston State and South Dakota State and before that, a three sack outing against traditional Big Sky Conference contender Weber State.
Here’s samples of the pad and helmet rattling plays he delivered in the state of Montana’s largest university:
Since then, he’s attacked everything at full speed — even if it’s a simple feet shuffling drill shown here.
He has skillfully showed his nose for the football during team drills and helped snuff out runs. And even when the calendar read “July,” McVay was already noticing how tenacious the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder from the Football Championship Subdivision was.
“He’s done a good job. He’s got great effort. You can see the athleticism,” McVay said. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable with the things that we’re asking him to do snap in and snap out.”
And the sixth-year head coach believed that time spent with one member of the Rams’ coaching staff has elevated the FCS standout.
“[Outside Linebackers Coach] Thad [Bogardus] is such a good coach with those guys to really be able to provide clarity when you’re going from outside linebacker to rush in and some of our sub packages. So, Daniel’s a guy that definitely has flashed,” McVay said.
Now, there’s a great chance Hardy will show that same flash he delivered for the Bobcats in the Rams’ return to the football field as he’s one to watch this month.