THOUSAND OAKS – After coaching special teams for more than 30 years with seven NFL teams, Joe DeCamillis can joke about how it all works.
Starting his first press conference since being introduced as the Rams’ special team coordinator in January, Decamilis said, “When things get tough, that’s when I get asked.” “Same everywhere. Same everywhere.”
The Rams have nothing more to laugh at in the kicking, punting and comeback part of the game so far this season.
And things could really get dire if the Rams don’t see improvement in that area when they face the strong special teams of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 2-0 battle of clubs on Sunday afternoon at Sophie Stadium.
Rams’ field goal and pat kicking have been really perfect. But kickoff coverage has allowed the Chicago Bears to return 50 yards and the Indianapolis Colts 41 yards, and punting has been mediocre in some occasions. The punt return team blew the runback’s chance during the Rams’ win over the Colts.
He probably didn’t see comedy in botched play for the Colts touchdown in the fourth quarter, when Rams long snapper Moe Howard hit teammate Chevy Chase in the arm and drove Benny Hill out of the end zone. Real Names: Matt Orzek, Nick Scott and Johnny Hecker.
The mixup began when Scott moved a step to his left in a new blocking position, just as Orzek made a snap.
“I’ve never seen it (before), and I never want to see it again,” DeKamilis said Thursday before the exercise, calling it a “performance issue” that can be fixed. “Obviously (there are fans) are going to remember that drama. I am going to remember that play for a long time. My wife won’t let me forget it.”
DeKamilis, 56, who won a Super Bowl with the 2015 Denver Broncos as special team coordinator, was in his second sting with the Jacksonville Jaguars before the Rams hired him to replace John Bonamago, who was 32. -The team was ranked 30th in the NFL. 2020 in an analysis by FootballOutsiders.com.
After two games in 2021, the same analytics place Rams’ special teams in 32nd place. The Bucks are in fourth place.
“We need to get better,” coach Sean McVay said this week, expressing confidence in DeKamilis.
DeKamilis said: “I’m not happy with where we are in some respects.”
Between issues, punt team slaps aside:
• While rookie Jake Funk has been solid on kickoff returns, rookie Tutu Atwell is still learning to return the punt. Trusty Cooper Kupp is sent for a fair catch or let go of the punt if he looks likely to land inside the 10-yard line.
“I’m happy where he is,” Decamilis said of Atwell.
• On one of Atwell’s return chances, a missed block by rookie Robert Rochelle allowed the Colts’ George Odom to tackle him immediately. No other colts were within 10 yards.
“It’s really drama that I’m as upset as punt (Snap) to be honest with you, because it’s a house call if we get a block the way we want it to,” DeKamilis said.
• Early kickoff returns, probably a byproduct of the Rams’ youth special teams.
“You just have to learn to play together,” said Decamilis. “I think we’ll make gains down the road.”
• Hecker, coming in at a career low of 45.6 yards per punt in 2020, averages 39.8 in four attempts after battling COVID-19 and barely beating Corey Bjorkez in the preseason.
The bright side is that kicker Matt Gay is 4 for 4 on field goal and 7 on 7 PAT and brings a good vibe to Sunday against Tampa Bay with a game-winning field goal against the Bucks last November. Made his Rams debut.
Gay said that DeCamillis, with his 33 years of NFL experience and Super Bowl pedigree, is the right coach for the challenge.
“He brings so much energy and just passion to special teams that everyone buys into how important special teams can be,” Gaye said Thursday. “They work so hard. It’s just a matter of some mental stuff, and we’re going to fix that.”
DeKamilis said he is “hardened” for the extreme highs and lows of special teams. What is wrong will be right, he said. Maybe on a large scale.
“When I was in Jacksonville, we played a terrible game against the Rams in ’17,” Decamilis said. “The next week after that, we scored a touchdown to help us win the game. The next week after that, we scored a touchdown to help us win the game.
“You just have to keep chopping wood and keep working. If the process is right and people are preparing properly, then you have a chance.”
McVay was back on the field on Thursday after missing out on Wednesday due to a stomach bug. “Feeling good, much better today. It’s good to be back here with the guys,” he said. … Running back Darrell Henderson, who injured his rib cartilage against the Colts, is out of practice again McVay said it was too early to say whether Sony would open against Mitchell Books. “But you can expect to see Sony. Whether he is taking the first snap, or how many snaps he plays, is still to be determined,” McVay said. … McVay said outside linebacker Leonard Floyd’s ankle is responding well to treatment. But Floyd only took part in individual practice. “It’s kind of nagging (injury),” the coach said. The years didn’t stop.” … In Las Vegas, the Books continued to place most bets on Thursday. The line remained the Books 1 or 1½ for the third day in a row.