Irvine, Calif. – The corner was Stetson Bennett’s fourth reading.
The Los Angeles Rams quarterback has known his lead runs from right to left this training camp to play drills. One teammate’s twitch route was the first look, and the skinny one the next. Then came the axial path and only then the corner.
But when Bennett slipped and moved with pressure, the fourth-round rookie saw that wide receiver Lance McCutcheon — a cornerback — had a step on his defender. So Bennett dumped her. found McCutcheon.
“How did you get there?” Bennett says coach Sean McVay asked.
“Well, it was a man-to-man thing,” Bennett explained. “I had to slide. I felt some space and I just saw it and threw it.”
The play shows why Bennett is so exciting for the Rams and where the biggest room for growth still looms.
Count Bennett’s off-schedule throws, improvisation, and football instinct are among the reasons the Rams spent the 128th draft on the Georgia product. Count Bennett’s success is down to a sense of familiarity rather than progress or familiarity with the playbook as a reminder of where Bennett can still grow in earning the trust of coaches and teammates. The Rams hope they don’t need Bennett to go into 15-year pro Matthew Stafford’s release this season. They hope, even, that Bennett’s services will not be of much use for some time afterwards.
“I’m a huge fan of his game and how he plays it,” Rams general manager Les Snead told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously the mobility worker who comes into our league, he has it. Time will tell if he has what it takes to be the heir apparent. But now?
“If I’m being selfish, I’ll definitely try to convince (Stafford) to give us three more seasons.”
Bennett’s job: Learn as much as he can from Stafford
Three more seasons for Stafford could benefit not only the veteran and the Rams but also his new teammate. Bennett himself states that he didn’t save and now turn around the Georgia offense that Baltimore Ravens coordinator Todd Monken did before he earned Offensive Player of the Year honors in Georgia’s national championship victory earlier this year. take time.
And it could help Stafford, a former Bulldog teammate who Bennett says is “the coolest guy ever.”
The 2009 No. 1 overall pick has a strong arm that Snead says looks more like the appendix of a 19-year-old than the arm of a 35-year-old. Stafford threw for 52,082 career yards and 333 touchdowns, and won 89 regular season games and four more playoff games, including Super Bowl LVI. Bennett can learn from Stafford’s skill and the vast encyclopedia of professional appearances he faces.
“When they talk in the language of the playbook, I’m like, I wish you’d fiddle with it so I can have a little bit of this conversation. Otherwise, I’m sitting here grinning,” Bennett said, describing his world-class rookie experience. “But when I ask (Stafford) questions, me and him Speaking, he is good at filtering and knowing what I understand.
“He speaks in my tongue and is gentle.”
The learning curve is steep, Bennett scrambling to absorb new speech and acclimate to team play calls rather than side cues, a cue he says “hits your brain (in) a whole different way.”
The level of play is higher than what he encountered in Heisman’s finals campaign his senior year at Georgia, which boasts 4,128 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, just seven interceptions, plus 10 rushing touchdowns.
In his preseason debut on Saturday, Bennett played from midway through the second quarter onwards and had a solid outing with 191 yards on 17 of 29 passes with a touchdown pass and no interceptions against the Chargers.
Pre-season will be a meaningful step towards Bennett’s conditioning and one that Snead says will better reflect his potential than training camp practices.
“Because when you have to deal with the Stetson, do you have to put him down?” Sneed says. “This is where you see some of his superpowers come to fruition.”
The road ahead of Bennett
Bennett laughs when he is reminded to celebrate victories amid what can feel like more frequent waves of frustration. He has reached a level where he knows what football is He should It looks and feels, but it also stepped up to a level where it usually takes time for those visions to come true.
The same difficulties that frustrate him also comfort him because “I crave discipline. I like to train. I like to be told what to do because … if I know what to do, I do it, you know what I say?”
But then you also know when Can Having that freedom only sets you free.”
He similarly regards moving from Athens, Georgia—where he’s been out of the limelight—to the immensity of Los Angeles as an exercise in both discipline and freedom. There are rules on and off the field. But without a developed personality, is there a different freedom to be yourself than it was during his Georgia presidency?
“I went there as a teenager and spent six years there,” Bennett said. “You kind of find yourself there and when you find yourself in a place like that and then you leave, you’re like, ‘Oh, man. Was that me or was it just me?'” there? So there is this learning curve that goes into it.
“There is pressure and I like the pressure to play football.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Lafleur sees Bennett embracing this pressure, which is the apparent contrast between live events and meetings, where “you can see the wheels turning in a good way… because he’s so thoughtful.”
“All you had to do was pop on the tape and you just saw — the best way to say it’s a ‘baller’,” Lafleur told Yahoo Sports. “He had good fundamentals and all that and a great system. But you could just tell the game fell silent on him. It came easily to him.”
The quiet continued during a late OTA practice when Bennett lined up with the second team and a play call needed to be adjusted. Bennett didn’t flinch, correcting the look in a two-minute drill to trigger a caution on a corner road not yet covered in the meetings. He found tight end Brycene Hopkins for a touchdown.
“Man, it just got so much more comfortable,” Lafleur thought to himself.
When that relief will truly settle in, however, remains to be seen as the Rams coaches and front office members aren’t looking to rush access any more than Bennett. Bennett knows his NFL career isn’t foolproof. On the one hand, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott stepped up from fourth to start his rookie season, now Prescott’s eighth year in the role that marks the longest active tenure of any NFL quarterback with the same team. On the other hand: Only 46.9% of fourth-round draft picks since 2000 have found a starting role in the NFL. Opportunities at quarterback are fewer and farther apart than at most positions.
Bennett knows what the overall goals are: winning the Super Bowl and getting started in the NFL. But he refuses to focus on goals because “as always, I’m not afraid of goals, but I like to live life. I like to do my best every day and then see where it comes out.”
So he sidesteps the specific goals of a chronic commitment to improvement, invoking a favorite quote from Georgia coach Kirby Smart along the way.
“Success comes to those who are too busy looking for it,” Smart told his players.