Finally being free from the reign of mediocrity under Jeff Fisher, the Los Angeles Rams look to start fresh with former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay at the helm. The prolific Redskins’ offense has ranked second in passing over the past two seasons, and Rams’ leadership hopes McVay can light a fire under this historically flat offense. Under Fisher, the Rams’ offense has ranked 23rd or worst in offense every year including ranking dead last over the past two seasons. A quick warning to hopeful Los Angeles Rams fans: things may have to get worse before they get better.
If anyone can build an offense around Jared Goff, it’s Sean McVay. It will take time though considering Goff may have the NFL’s worst supporting cast; we’ll get to that soon. I was never a Jared Goff fan. I never understood the idea of trading the farm to move up in the NFL draft only to select a guy that you expect to sit the bench year one. When has that ever worked? The best quarterbacks drafted in the same fashion as Goff since 2000 are Michael Vick, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco. That is the echelon of quarterback I see Goff as at his peak. You can win a Super Bowl with him, but it probably won’t be because of him. Until Goff is surrounded with talent, the quarterback position is easily a weakness.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams had one of the worst offensive lines in football, but things are looking up. Their best lineman last season, LG Roger Saffold, returns with some new additions. Coming over from the Bengals, the always impressive LT Andrew Whitworth looks to protect Goff’s blindside as he develops. C John Sullivan was also signed from the Redskins who will have some insight into McVay’s offensie and how the offensive line is suppose to work. Sullivan may be a schematic fit for the line, but if he can revamp his career in Los Angeles is still to be seen. Other than Saffold and Whitworth, RG Rob Havenstein and RT Jamon Brown haven’t been great, but they is still potential there. This offensive line has the potential to be average in 2017, but average at the very best.
Todd Gurley disappointed many fantasy owners and Rams’ fans last season, and I’m not sure how much he will improve this year. Sean McVay never coached a rushing attack ranked higher than #19 even with a much better offensive line in the nation’s capital. On the other hand, he’s never had a talent like Todd Gurley to coach in the backfield. After an abysmal 3.2 yards per carry, Todd Gurley must resurge for this offense to succeed in 2017. Behind him there is not much. Being a Texas Longhorns’ fan, I root for Malcolm Brown, but he’s part of one of the worst backup running back units in the NFL.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
This is easily the worst receiver/tight end unit in the league. The newly signed Robert Woods and first round disappointment Tavon Austin are the worst wide receiver tandem in the NFL. They drafted Cooper Kupp, but he thrives in the same area of the field as Woods and Austin: short and intermediate routes. Behind these three, there is nothing. The tight ends are almost as bad. An outstanding blocker, second round rookie Gerald Everett may struggle in the receiving game as most tight ends do, but I expect him to develop well in the future. Behind him (again) isn’t much. Tyler Higbee may develop, but this backup tight end unit is not looking great.
In terms of wins and the rate of development of Jared Goff, the Rams will immediately regret not resigning Kenny Britt. Rookie quarterbacks often benefit from large veteran targets like Britt. Goff is much less likely to succeed with this embarrassing lack of talent around him
EDIT: The Rams have traded for Sammy Watkins and a 6th round pick in exchange for EJ Gaines and a second round draft pick. If Sammy Watkins can stay healthy, he should be able to play a key role in the development of Jared Goff. This receiver core is still very thin, and relying on Sammy Watkins to stay healthy is quite the gamble.
This front seven is the clear strength of this football team. It all starts with Aaron Donald. The fourth year defensive tackle is a top 5 defensive player in the NFL hands down end of story. Michael Brockers next to him is solid in his own right, but Ethan Westbrooks has a whole lot to prove as the clear weak spot on the front seven.
The linebackers are all solid, but not imposing. Robert Quinn has had trouble staying healthy, but he has recorded 10+ sacks each season he played all 16 games. He must stay healthy in 2017. Alec Ogletree had his best season yet in 2016 after moving from weakside linebacker to inside linebacker to replace James Laurinitis. Mark Barron was signed from the Buccs who is the weakest link of the linebackers, but he should be enough at the other inside linebacker spot. The Rams also signed Connor Barwin to set the edge after an inconsistent run with the Eagles. His pass rushing days are behind him, but Barwin is a solid addition to play strongside outside linebacker.
Mo Alexander was the big surprise in this secondary at strong safety after a huge improvement after a lackluster 2015 season. If he can repeat his 2016 performance, Alexander should be a solid strong safety this season. At free safety, Lamarcus Joyner should.
After horrific coverage seasons for EJ Gaines and Troy Hill, the Rams signed one of the leagues best slot corners in the league in Nickell Robey-Coleman. Trumaine Johnson is the best outside corner on roster. He’s dependable, not great; it will be interesting to see how he performs in a contract year. The other outside corner spot is the clear weakness of the secondary. EJ Gaines was awful last season, and Kayvon Webster was buried on the depth chart in Denver before being signed. This secondary can be solid, but has the potential to be decent.
EDIT: EJ Gaines has been traded to the Bills. This won’t be a huge loss because of how pooryl Gaines has been playing, but the outside corner spot opposite of Trumaine Johnson is now an even bigger question mark. It is easily the worst position personnel-wise on this defense.
Rams Schedule and Record Prediction
Week 1: W vs Indianapolis Colts
Week 2: L vs Washington Redskins
Week 3: W @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 4: L @ Dallas Cowboys
Week 5: L vs Seattle Seahawks
Week 6: L @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 7: W vs Arizona Cardinals
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: L @ New York Giants
Week 10: L vs Houston Texans
Week 11: L @ Minnesota Vikings
Week 12: L vs New Orleans Saints
Week 13: L @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 14: W vs Philadelphia Eagles
Week 15: L @ Seattle Seahawks
Week 16: L @ Tennessee Titans
Week 17: L vs San Francisco 49ers
Final Record 4-12
Like I said, things are going to get worse before they get better for the Rams. The days of constantly being an average team record-wise (when we all know the Rams stink) are over. Their record will finally portray their level of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I like Sean McVay, but he has almost nothing to work with in Los Angeles in terms of personnel. The defense is sold, but there is only one true stud on that side of the ball.
In the end, this team will be drafting a wide receiver with a top 5 selection in the 2018 NFL draft. Good.
Oh, and pay that man Aaron Donald.