Sean McVay has noticed growth from some of his younger Los Angeles Rams players in the near three weeks the team camped out in Orange County.
But one in particular was one who had a rough start to the training camp experience in 2021 — by falling on the reserve/COVID-19 list to start and later never found his way into the lineup. And it happened during a time he was expected to play a pivotal role for the Rams as one of their key offseason finds before the Super Bowl run.
Where are things now with Tutu Atwell? McVay answered that question of if Atwell has had a change in mindset and work ethic since his rookie season.
‘Matured the Right Way’
During practices at Crawford Field on the UC Irvine campus, Atwell is not only a more toned 165-pound wide receiver, he’s delivered some field dynamics that the Rams drafted him for in the first place.
Atwell has been seen by spectators and the Rams blowing the top off defenses with his speed. Most recently, the second-year WR from Louisville torched the Rams defense on a deep bomb from backup quarterback John Wolford — one that saw the wideout who blazed the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds use that same speed to streak past both safeties for the score.
McVay addressed the state of Atwell in the final training camp practice on Wednesday, August 10. And the question was asked: Has the head coach seen a change in mindset from his first pick of the 2021 draft?
“I think the comfort level of going into your second year — I think he’s gotten more opportunities. He has matured in the right way,” McVay told the media on hand at Crawford Field at UC Irvine. “He definitely has taken positive steps. And I think if anything else, when you make plays, confidence comes with that. Being able to say ‘Hey, I’m making these plays, let’s build off of it.’ That’s the position and the place he’s in right now, and we want to keep him there.”
McVay praised how Atwell has “done a really nice job.” But does that mean he’ll get some reps when the Rams return to SoFi Stadium on Saturday, August 13 against the L.A. Chargers?
“We’re working through exactly what his role is through the preseason looks like,” McVay said.
The Rams captured some of Atwell’s top camp moments from Tuesday, August 9 practice as he was given a microphone.
Key Receiver Not Expected to Participate in Preseason
While McVay and the Rams are determining what Atwell’s role will be for the August slate of games, one player who also has a speedy and return man element to his game won’t be in action.
Brandon Powell is dealing with a knee ailment that kept him from taking part in practices during the final week of camp.
“He banged his knee up a little bit,” McVay said. “We’re waiting to get results. Nothing that we’re too concerned about. But he’s a guy who won’t play in the preseason.”
Powell being absent could mean that Atwell, who had 84 punt return yards in 2019 at Louisville and a combined 141 return yards on punts and kickoffs before his shoulder surgery that ended his 2021 season, may get some action there if needed. Another option is returner J.J. Koski, who delivered 109 total special team yards on punts and kickoffs last year. Koski, who came to the Rams as an undrafted rookie out of Cal Poly, is now entering his third season with the Rams.
Elsewhere, Van Jefferson was seen doing some light workouts as he rehabs his injured knee that surfaced on the July 30 practice. Jefferson ultimately needed minor surgery on that knee. McVay provided an update on where his health status is.
“Van is doing good, making real good progress,” McVay said. “He’s got a really good look in his eye. Not ready to set any sort of timetable. Obviously, the goal is always week one but we’re making sure that when he’s back out there for us, he’s at his best. If he picks up where he left off and the way he’s going about his work right now, I feel good about what kind of year it’ll be for Van Jefferson.”