Vincent Bonsignore, The Athletic (https://theathletic.com/759467/2019/01/10/inside-the-rams-scouts-meticulous-work-to-prepare-them-for-the-playoffs/)
Agnew is the Rams’ director of pro personnel, and among his wide range of responsibilities is advance scouting all the teams the Rams play during the season. He is joined by Rams pro scout John McKay and pro scouting assistant Matt Waugh. Together, they help streamline the process by which head coach Sean McVay and his staff game-plan for opponents by first putting them through a CSI-level investigative scrub.
Working a week before the game, they examine their assigned teams in increments of four to six games through a combination of film audit and on-site game study to break down opponents, player by player and situation by situation. From that, a 20- to 30-page report is compiled and submitted to McVay and his assistants at the beginning of each game week.
The reports, which are filed first thing on Monday morning along with comprehensive film cut-ups produced by offensive and defensive quality control assistants Zach Kromer and Thad Bogardus, are the starting points for the game plan McVay and his coaching staff will painstakingly formulate over the course of Monday and Tuesday and then deliver, incrementally, to players throughout the rest of the week.
For instance, when the Rams offense reported to work on Tuesday in preparation for Saturday’s divisional round playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, awaiting the players was the first- and second-down play menu McVay believes will work best against the Cowboys — including offsets to counter specific defensive looks Dallas might show at the line of scrimmage. The Rams spent most of Tuesday studying and installing that phase of the game plan as an entire offense and while split up in individual position groups. First, they were in meeting rooms. And then they applied it on the practice field.
The same process unfolded for their third-down package on Wednesday. And on Thursday, they turn their attention to the red zone game plan.
A similar game-plan installation occurs for the defense, much of it predicated on what an opponent does in particular down and distance situations and out of the various personnel groupings and formations it utilizes.
It’s a broad and time-consuming process both in the lead-up and actual formulation and installation. And it involves an army of people, each of whom plays an important and pertinent role.
The result is an incredibly thorough visual and written deep dive into the next opponent – in this case, the Cowboys. It includes an extensive profile of every player on the roster, their individual and collective tendencies depending on the down and distance and personnel grouping and a video component that visually supports the findings in a way that is digestible and understandable to Rams coaches and players.
“As soon as we get in on Wednesday, we get a sheet with the whole depth chart on it,” safety Johnson Johnson told The Athletic. “And it has everything — their whole player profile for everyone on the roster.”
“It’s streamlining a bunch of information into an efficient and digestible way so that we can put together a game plan that we can ultimately give to our players in a way that makes sense to them and gives them that clarity, and then we can provide that ‘Why?’ ” McVay told The Athletic. “So that they’re able to go play fast and then say, ‘OK, here’s what we want to get done, here’s what we’re expecting and here’s what we need to do to perform at a high level.”
The key is presenting all of the scouting in an economical format that guards against either overwhelming the players with needless data or wasting precious time focused on the wrong thing.
“I just think you can chase ghosts if you overload yourself with information,” Rams center John Sullivan said. “That’s part of what the (staff) is doing. They scout the other team and pick out pertinent (information) to help what we’re trying to do.”
“It’s a good way to see some of these guys, and feel them live, just because our job is so predicated on tape,” McKay said. “There’s certain things you can see in person that you just can’t see on tape. Body language. Urgency. You can feel better live.”