The last encounter between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams ended in a 45-7 rout at Wembley Stadium. But after four years, a move from St. Louis, and a bevy of personnel turnover, the Rams will again be making a long flight eastward to revisit the Patriots this Sunday.
Some, in the process, will be revisiting a club they once knew well.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels served as the Rams’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2011. Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly oversaw the Rams’ D-line from 2009 through 2011. Assistant Rams offensive line coach Andy Dickerson worked in the Patriots’ operations department as an intern in 2004 and a full-time assistant in 2005. And Rams O-line coach Paul T. Boudreau coached the Patriots’ five-man front from 1997 to 1998.
Then there’s Mike Groh, Los Angeles’ passing-game coordinator and receivers coach, who happens to be the son of former Patriots defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Al Groh. New England special-teams captain Matthew Slater, in another family tie, is the son of Rams Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.
But connections are also seen between the rosters of New England and Los Angeles, with five players who’ve been members of both sides.
Here’s a glance through the list as the 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium draws near.
Danny Amendola, wide receiver – In September of 2009, the Rams signed Amendola to their active roster off the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad. The former undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech proceeded to spend the next four seasons in St. Louis, catching the first 196 passes of his NFL career while accumulating 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns receiving along the way. Amendola, who also returned 89 punts and 118 kickoffs during his tenure with the Rams, eventually made his way to New England on a five-year, $28.5 million contract with $10 million guaranteed in March of 2013. And in wake of two restructures, Amendola has set a new single-season high with four touchdown catches this go-round.
Chris Long, defensive end – Long landed in St. Louis as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, and from there, the Virginia product went on to accrue 246 tackles, 54.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles over eight seasons. But last February, the Rams elected to move on from the 31-year-old Long, who was set to incur a salary-cap hit of $14.25 million in the final year of his deal. A month later, the Patriots signed the veteran defensive end to a one-year pact that included a base salary of $1.25 million. Long has notched 25 tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and two batted passes over 11 games and seven starts this year.
Bryce Williams, tight end – The Patriots signed Williams as an undrafted rookie via Marshall and East Carolina this past spring. Yet after two preseason appearances and one reception, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound target was waived as New England’s roster was whittled to 53 players. Williams ultimately cleared waivers and signed to the Rams’ practice squad the next day. He remains on Los Angeles’ 10-man scout team three months after joining.
Dominique Easley, defensive tackle – The Patriots called Easley’s name at No. 29 overall in the 2014 draft. But after 22 games, three starts, 25 tackles, three sacks, one interception and two trips to injured reserve with knee and quadriceps injuries, respectively, the former Florida Gators pass-rusher was waived by New England in April. Easley, who went through the workout circuit after going unclaimed, has since landed on his feet with the Rams, who inked him to a one-year, $600,000 contract with no guarantees, incentives or bonuses in May. The 24-year-old has posted 24 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles through 11 games this campaign.
Troy Hill, cornerback – The Patriots made a move on Christmas Day 2015, waiving tight end Asante Cleveland and claiming Hill off waivers from the Cincinnati Bengals. Hill, then an undrafted rookie out of Oregon, had entered for three contests during his stint with Bengals earlier that season, yet would not enter for one during his stint with the Patriots. Five days after arriving, Hill was waived by New England. And by New Years Eve, the Rams claimed him. The well-traveled cornerback, now on the Los Angeles practice squad, has logged nine games, four starts, 38 tackles and four passes defended thus far into 2016.