As the Rams’ losing season took another downward slide on Tuesday — center Brian Allen and receiver Ben Skowronek won’t play in their last three games because of calf injuries — coach Sean McVay looked around the NFL to see how former Rams coaches and players thrived.
Kevin O’Connell, the Rams’ offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons, is enjoying success coaching the Minnesota Vikings, and quarterback Jared Goff is doing well in his second season with the Detroit Lions.
Under O’Connell, who brought former Rams assistant Wes Phillips to Minnesota as offensive coordinator, the Vikings are 11-3 and have secured a playoff berth.
McVay, whose team fell back to 10-4 with a 24-12 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night, said he spoke with O’Connell and Phillips after the Vikings’ dramatic comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday .
“You’re always happy when people you care about succeed,” McVay said during a video conference call with reporters. “Give me a smile despite all the challenges we’ve been through.”
In January 2021, the Rams traded Goff, two first-round draft picks and a third-round pick to the Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Things were going well for the Rams: Stafford led them to a Super Bowl LVI title.
This season, Goff has had 23 touchdowns with seven interceptions for a Lions team that has won six of their last seven games to contend for a playoff spot.
“He did a great job,” McVay said of Goff. “You can see he’s playing with confidence. [Lions offensive coordinator] Ben Johnson did an excellent job of being able to put them in good spots and then Jared finally brings them to life. … Jared is playing at a very high level and has done extremely well.”
Stafford, meanwhile, remains on injured reserve and will not play again this season due to a spinal cord injury described by McVay. The 14thth Year Pro went for 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions in nine games.
Allen and Skowronek joined Stafford, star receiver Cooper Kupp and a long list of offensive linemen lost to season-ending injuries.
McVay declined to rule out star defense attorney Aaron Donald’s return after spraining his ankle.
But the loss to the Packers eliminated the Rams from playoff contention, so Donald almost certainly won’t play the Denver Broncos on Sunday or the Chargers and Seattle Seahawks in the last two games.
The nine-time Pro Bowl selection is not on injured reserve but has not practiced for three weeks.
“We take it a week at a time, and a lot of that means, OK, what’s his progress?” McVay said.
The injury Allen sustained on Monday was the latest in a series of setbacks for the fifth-year pro.
In a season-opening loss for the Buffalo Bills, Allen suffered a knee injury, forcing Coleman Shelton to switch from right defense to center.
Allen underwent surgery and returned after six games and played through various injuries before being sidelined for two more games during a season that included the Rams Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins and Baker Mayfield as starting quarterbacks.
“Coleman does a good job stepping in, but he did [an] Impact on the whole of the unit,” McVay said of the loss of Allen. “It sure is a challenge, especially with the amount of moving parts we had at the quarterback position.”
Sophomore Skowronek’s profile grew after prospective starting receiver Van Jefferson underwent knee surgery during training camp.
Skowronek played receiver in the first set before being used by McVay at fullback against the Atlanta Falcons. He scored his first touchdown of his career on a 17-yard streak in a jet sweep against the Carolina Panthers.
Skowronek has 39 receptions for 376 yards. He hit a career-high seven passes in a 17-16 win over the Las Vegas Raiders, including a 32-yard reception that helped set up Mayfield’s game-winning touchdown pass to Jefferson.
Skowronek said last week he’s enjoying his versatile role.
“It’s fun,” he said. “I’m proud of it and it helped me learn the game even better.”
McVay acknowledged the growth.
“He’s done a good job of giving a lot of opportunities to continue to mature and grow as a receiver and really a complete player on this team,” McVay said.
Linebacker Jake Gervase, the punt play caller and special teams staple, suffered a season-ending ankle injury against the Packers, McVay said. … Tyler Higbee’s touchdown catch against the Packers was the pro’s first in the seventh year this season. Higbee has had five touchdown catches each of the past two seasons.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/rams/story/2022-12-20/rams-sean-mcvay-jared-goff-kevin-oconnell Sean McVay says he is happy for Jared Goff and Kevin O’Connell