Sean McVay realizes the magnitude of the rebuilding job he's facing with the Los Angeles Rams, who haven't finished a season with a winning record since he was a high school senior.
McVay realized the scope of his task from the time he talked his way into the job last winter as the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. At 31 years old, he has time on his side.
"We're trying to take every step you should take to complete this process, and it isn't an easy fix," McVay said earlier in training camp. "But it's a lot of fun to work with guys who want to compete, and who want to get better. If we do things the right way, we'll get there."
McVay also knows he shouldn't wait too long to mold a contending team around quarterback Jared Goff. The coaching staff is mostly new, but the losing is not -- and this year, the Rams aren't the only team in LA.
The Rams have missed the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons, and they haven't finished with a winning record in 13 straight seasons.
The Chargers, their future roommates in Rams owner Stan Kroenke's lavish Inglewood stadium, joined them in the Los Angeles market this season with a roster that appears to be much closer to playoff contention.
The Rams' defense was solid last season, and new coordinator Wade Phillips appears to have another competent unit. The onus is on the offense to improve from the NFL's worst in each of the past two seasons, and McVay knows it.
So the Rams acquired receiver Sammy Watkins from Buffalo to pair alongside Robert Woods. They signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth from Cincinnati, bolstering the most important position on the offensive line with a Pro Bowler who is four years older than his head coach.
And now McVay and new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur are building a scheme to get more out of the NFL's worst offense.
"What you try to do is have an identity," McVay said. "We're continuing to figure and find that out. Like you guys have heard me say before, we're trying to figure out what our players do best and then fit our scheme to them."
Here are more things to watch when the Rams begin their second season back home this Sunday against Indianapolis:
ABSENT STAR: All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald skipped the Rams' entire training camp while demanding a new contract after just three outstanding NFL seasons. Los Angeles GM Les Snead has kept the negotiations civil and private, but Donald has missed many weeks of work with the new coaching staff.
Donald didn't show up Monday when the Rams began preparations for the first week of the regular season, and his teammates are preparing to play without the run-stopping, pass-rushing dynamo at the heart of their defense. "We definitely wish he was here and preparing with us," linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "But there's a business side to this."
GOFF'S GROWTH: The No. 1 overall pick is winless as an NFL starter heading into the season opener, but his teammates and coaches believe he is much better equipped to handle the league's pressures and challenges this fall.
Goff worked strenuously in the offseason on his throwing motion and his physique. He also has the luxury of time: The Rams gave up an extraordinary amount to get Goff, and he's almost certain to get at least two more years to prove he can do the job. McVay is publicly confident that Los Angeles has a winner.
NEW TARGET: Watkins knows how to prepare for a new offense: "Over-study. Just study until you can't study anymore." The former No. 4 overall pick will have ample playmaking opportunities with his new team once he connects with Goff, who is already enjoying the upgrade in targets after the Rams' offseason moves.
BIG CORNER: Trumaine Johnson has been the Rams' top cover cornerback for three years, but he is playing his second year on the franchise tag after the Rams decided not to sign him to a multiyear deal. Johnson has said he thinks he'll be gone next year, so he should be amply motivated to impress other teams with a big season. Los Angeles lost backup corner E.J. Gaines in the trade for Watkins, so Johnson and Lamarcus Joyner will have heavy responsibilities in pass defense.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Rams are sharing the Coliseum with USC for the second of four consecutive years, but they've only got seven home games for the second straight season, thanks to yet another "home" game in England. The sharing arrangement worked out surprisingly well last year, and the Coliseum received offseason improvements including two large video boards. The Trojans host Stanford on Saturday, kicking off about 20 hours before the Rams host the Colts.