It starts with the head coach.

Sure, things have been very different for the Los Angeles Rams this offseason compared with 2017, following their first year after returning to L.A. The expectations are so much higher, the level of anticipation is so much greater.

‘Last year, we  didn’t really have as much pressure to do what we did’

That’s what happens after an 11-5 finish, followed by big-name additions such as cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. But thanks to the guidance of coach Sean McVay, safety John Johnson is convinced the Rams won’t become caught up in all of the hype.

“Last year, we didn’t really have as much pressure to do what we did because we were coming off a not-a-so-great year,” Johnson told Vic Carucci and  Pat Kirwan recently on Movin’ The Chains. “But this year, all we’ve got to do is cut out the noise. That’s what we focus on. It’s ‘we’ not ‘me.’ The guys in the building know how everything operates. Coach McVay hammers on daily excellence and daily improvement. And with those two things, that’s how you can get the competitive greatness and be great when the time is needed.

‘I think, when we’re at our best, our best will be pretty darn good’

“We just kind of cut out the noise, cut out the media. The fans, they’re on our side, but sometimes you’ve got to silence them, too, and just focus on the guys in the room. And I think, when we’re at our best, our best will be pretty darn good, so we’ve got to go from there.”

Johnson was a rookie last season, but as with all of the other players, he was looking to see how another rookie, McVay, would prove whether he was capable of handling the massive task of being an NFL head coach at the tender age of 31.

‘It’s like he knows exactly what to say, he knows exactly what to do, exactly what the players need’

“It didn’t take long, let me tell you,” Johnson said. “You just look at the guy, he’s put together. He doesn’t really stutter too much. It’s like he knows exactly what to say, he knows exactly what to do, exactly what the players need. It’s hard to explain, kind of like a gift. He has the pedigree in his name; his family is all football. He’s one of the smartest guys I’ve ever been around. Not just as an offensive coach, but as a defensive coach and as a head coach.”

Wade Phillips, the Rams’ defensive coordinator, turned 71 last month. That makes him 49 years older than Johnson, yet the safety is amazed by how well Phillips is able to connect with the players he coaches.

‘Wade is like a history book’

“He relates to us,” Johnson said. “I think it’s just from being around the game and seeing the game evolve and him adjusting to it. I think that’s really how it is. He’s so hip. I didn’t even know he was 71, but it’s crazy. You’ve got to hang around the guy to actually see.

“Wade is like a history book. Every day before we got out to practice, he’ll get the defense together and whatever he’s preaching for that day, he’ll have a story to back it up — with a Hall of Famer, with a championship team, or anything like that. I just sit there like a little kid and just take it all in.”

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