NFL

The Round-up: Los Angeles Rams edition

As Greg Zuerlein hit a field goal to give the Rams their first trip to the Super Bowl since “The Greatest Show on Turf”, the team rode that momentum to the Super Bowl as they won their division with a 12-4 record and had supplanted the Seahawks as the no. 1 team in the NFC West for the second straight year. However, the offensive gameplan fell apart once they faced the Patriots as they only put up 3 points in Super Bowl 53, despite having their defense only give up 13 points.

Two notable moves that the Rams made from an organizational standpoint was to extend GM Les Snead and head coach Sean McVay through the year of 2021. To re-establish themselves as a contender in the NFC for years to come, these moves were necessary as McVay turned the offense into a juggernaut while Snead gave him the ammunition to do so.

The Losses

Dec 2, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Los Angeles Rams nose tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

The Rams lost 5 starters on their roster during the offseason, with the most notable departure being DT Ndamukong Suh, as he left to replace Gerald McCoy in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. During the regular season, Suh was recognized as an under-performer, but began to create havoc among offensive lines in the playoffs.

On the other side of the trenches, G Rodger Saffold will take his talents to the Music City, as he will strengthen the potent offensive line unit there. Saffold, a largely underrated player during his time with the Rams, is well known for his prowess as a run blocker, while he also brings a good pass-blocking skill set to the team. John Sullivan, the team’s starting center since the 2017 season, was let go from the team when his option was declined for the next season. Sullivan helped elevate the Rams’ run game to another level as Todd Gurley finished as the top fantasy back during the past two seasons.

Lamarcus Joyner, the former CB turned S, will rep the silver and black for the Raiders for the next four years. Joyner was rather valuable to the team; he could cover just about every position (wide receiver ,slot, tightend, running backs). Mark Barron, who started at middle linebacker for the Rams since the 2015 season, left to join the Pittsburgh Steelers on a two-year deal worth $12 million. Also, bowling ball C.J. Anderson has left the team to play for the Detroit Lions on a one-year deal. Backup QB Sean Mannion was signed by the Vikings for the 2019 season as well.

In terms of coaching staff, the team lost QB coach Zac Taylor, as he left to become the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Additions

Jan 6, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens free safety Eric Weddle (32) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers during an AFC Wild Card playoff football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

During free agency, the Rams started off by signing Pro Bowl S Eric Weddle to a two year deal worth about $10 million. Weddle is now in his 13th season at age 34, but has shown no signs of slowing down throughout his career. It’s also worth considering the Weddle signing as a steal due to the emerging inflation of the safety market. The 13-year veteran has always elevated the play of those around him and looks to do so for a defense that is only going to grow for the next two seasons.

The Weddle signing looked cheap compared to the money that OLB Dante Fowler will receive on his 1-year, $12 million deal. Fowler, a former no. 3 pick, looks to have a breakout season after showing pass rush prowess since he has put on a Rams uniform. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is known for bringing the most out of talented linebackers, as he has done so with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. Backup RB Malcolm Brown will also return to the Rams on a two-year deal.

The Rams also added plenty of talent through the draft. S Taylor Rapp, a blue chip prospect by the standard of NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks, looks to fill the void of former S Lamarcus Joyner as he has shown to be a versatile player for the Washington Huskies throughout his college career. On defense, the Rams also added CB David Long, DT Greg Gaines, S Nick Scott, and LB Dakota Allen. Throughout his career at Michigan, Long was known to bully opposing receivers in coverage when he played press coverage for the Wolverines defense. With the Rams secondary struggling with Talib’s injury last year, Long could make a serious push for the slot position played by Nickell Robey-Coleman, and may start outside if the team decides to let Marcus Peters and/or Aqib Talib walk in free agency. DT Greg Gaines could fill the NT void left by Ndamukong Suh as he was known to be a run stopper for the Washington Huskies. S Nick Scott looks to be a special teams ace and potential return man for the Rams, as he flashes speed and is a player who loves to hit. Dakota Allen, a LB from Texas Tech and a fan favorite in the Netflix series Last Chance U, looks to be a special teams contributor for the team as he is shadowed by ILBs Micah Kiser, Travin Howard, and Bryce Hager on the depth chart.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Rams added RB Darrell Henderson, and offensive tackles David Edwards and Bobby Evans. Henderson looks to help the Rams potent run game going as he eats into Gurley’s workload, due to the recent news that the star running back has arthritis. Edwards is credited for his work as a run blocker as he was a member of the offensive line that blocked for a Heisman candidate in Jonathan Taylor. T Bobby Evans is known for his ability as a pass protector, and was one of the few offensive tackles that could stop no. 2 pick Nick Bosa, due to having long (35″ ) arms.

An Overview

While the Rams look to be a playoff contender for this year, their performance relies on having roster holes to be fixed quickly through their emerging talent. The team will be relying on C Brian Allen, and G Joe Noteboom to fill voids left by veterans Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. The team isn’t new to this situation as G Austin Blythe played well when G Jamon Brown was suspended, resulting in Brown’s release. A competition worth looking for would be the NT battle of Greg Gaines and Sebastian Joseph-Day. ILB Micah Kiser is expected to fill the void by Mark Barron, who was a good player on the defense. Like previous seasons, the Rams still pack the same special teams punch as they did last year with All-Pros K Greg “the leg” Zuerlein and P Johnny Hekker.

The most important variable that will decide how many games the Rams will win will be effectiveness of their rushing attack. If Gurley is able to remain healthy this season or the rest of the running back group is able to replace the lost production, the Rams could match their win total from the previous season and Gurley may become a weapon for the team when they reach the playoffs.

Season Prediction

The Rams are projected to win 10 games this year, as they will beat the Panthers, Buccaneers, Bengals, Ravens and Cowboys in non-division games. Within the division, the team will sweep the 49ers and Cardinals, but will split games with the Seahawks, as the home team will win in those games. Non-division teams that they will lose to include the Saints, Browns, Steelers, Falcons and Bears.

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