Mike Fanelli | Aug 20th, 2019
In their second year under Sean McVay, the Rams finished tied for the best record in the league at 13-3. The offense averaged 32.9 points per game, second in the league, while star defensive lineman Aaron Donald won the Defensive Player of the Year award. With a great balance on offense and a forceful defense, the Rams made it to Super Bowl 53 verse the New England Patriots, but the journey didn’t come without controversy. In the NFC Championship game verse the New Orleans Saints, there was a clear no called passing interference late in the game that potentially impacted the outcome of the game. However, the Rams won that game but lost to the Patriots 13-3 in Super Bowl 53.
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After a very exciting 2018 offseason when the team signed or traded for several starters, they spent the 2019 offseason in a much quieter manner. The team did re-sign Dante Fowler Jr. to a one year contract while signing former Green Bay Packer’ Clay Matthews III to bolster their pass rush group. Starting safety Lamarcus Joyner signed with the Oakland Raider, but the Rams replaced him with former Baltimore Raven’ Eric Weddle. One year rental Ndamukong Suh wasn’t offered a new contract as the team felt the fit wasn’t ideal. For the most part, the defense remains the same as last year and should be very dominant, in large part thanks to Donald.
Offensively, the Rams lost three key players from their Super Bowl team. Late-season signee C.J. Anderson wasn’t offered a new contract and signed with the Detroit Lions while starting guard Rodger Saffold signed with the Tennessee Titans. Starting center John Sullivan didn’t have his team option exercised and remains unsigned. While a reunion is possible, it isn’t expected anytime soon. However, the Rams did spend two draft picks on offensive linemen in both the 2018 and 2019 drafts. With concerns over Todd Gurley‘s knee, the Rams matched Malcolm Brown‘s offer sheet and traded up in the third round to select Darrell Henderson to bolster their depth at running back.
While Gurley gets a lot of credit for the Rams’ high powered offense, as he should, Jared Goff took a big step forward in his second year with McVay. He posted career highs across the board, completing 64.9% of his passes, throwing for 4,688 yards and 32 touchdowns. Goff has the best trio of wide receivers in the league in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp. The argument can be made that the Rams have three WR1s on their roster and the team views them that way. Both Cooks and Woods had over 1,200 receiving yards, while Kupp had 566 yards despite playing in just six full games last year. With all three receivers back healthy and the depth at running back, the Rams could easily be the highest-scoring team in the league this year.
Anytime you have Donald on your defensive front, your defense is going to scare opposing offenses. However, the Rams have several impact players on this side of the ball. Despite turning 33 years old this offseason, Aqib Talib is still one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Talib along with Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman make up one of the best cornerback trios in the league. To add to that depth, the Rams spent a third-round pick on David Long. Weddle comes in to replace Joyner and pair up with underrated star John Johnson III and second-round rookie Taylor Rapp at safety. Fowler, Matthews, and Samson Ebukam give the Rams three legit pass rushers to take pressure and attention away from Donald.
Predicting the 53 Man Roster
QB (2): Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
Entering his fourth year in the league, Goff is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league. While Bortles was awful as a starter in Jacksonville, he becomes one of the best backups in the league in Los Angeles.
RB (4): Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
The top three spots are locked in stone, the only question is will Henderson or Brown be Gurley’s main backup. 2018 sixth-round pick Kelly will have to fight off Justin Davis for his roster spot or could find himself on the practice squad this year.
WR (6): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Jojo Natson, Nsimba Webster
Without a doubt, this is the best unit on the team. Cooks, Woods, and Kupp are all proven starters who provide multiple options for Goff. Reynolds might be the best WR4 in the league, while Natson is the team’s kick and punt return guy. Webster’s spot isn’t a lock but if the Rams keep six receivers, he has been the most impressive in the preseason.
TE (3): Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt
Everett and Higbee don’t get a lot of run in this offense because of their great three-receiver sets, but when Kupp went down with a torn ACL last year, both guys stepped up their game. Mundt will have to fight off the three UDFAs the Rams signed but he has experience and should make the roster over them.
OL (9): Andrew Whitworth, Joseph Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Blythe, Rob Havenstein, Bobby Evans, David Edwards, Aaron Neary, Jamil Demby
The starting five of Whitworth, Noteboom, Allen, Blythe, and Havenstein are locked in. With three starters returning from last year, this unit should be fine. However, the depth is inexperienced and the team should look to add a veteran in free agency or a trade. Jeremiah Kolone could push Demby and Neary for a roster spot but more likely ends up on the practice squad.
DL (6): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Greg Gaines, Tanzel Smart, Sebastian Joseph-Day, John Franklin-Myers
No real surprised with this unit as it’s the same group to make the roster last year, with the addition of fourth-round pick Gaines to replace Suh. Brockers is the longest tenured player on the defense while the team really values their depth here.
EDGE (5): Samson Ebukam, Clay Matthews III, Dante Fowler, Jr., Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Lawler
The top three guys at this position are all locks to make the roster. However, Okoronkwo and Lawler will have to fight off Trevon Young for their roster spots. If all three don’t make the team, look for the Rams to try to sneak them onto the practice squad.
LB (5): Cory Littleton, Micah Kiser, Bryce Hager, Travin Howard, Dakota Allen
After releasing Mark Barron in the offseason, this unit is led by Littleton. However, the starter next to him has yet to be determined. While there shouldn’t be any surprises with this unit, Ketner Kupp (Cooper Kupp‘s younger brother) could make the roster but more likely ends up on the practice squad.
CB (6): Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill, David Long, Dominique Hatfield
This unit is pretty much set in stone. The top five guys are locks to make the roster while Hatfield is the favorite to make the roster if the team keeps six cornerbacks. However, Hatfield will have to fight off Darious Williams, among others, for that roster spot.
SAF (4): Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian
The top three guys are all locks to make the roster with Weddle and Johnson as the starters, while Rapp will play plenty of snaps as the team’s top draft pick. Christian will likely push seventh-round pick Nick Scott off the roster and onto the practice squad but if the team fears he won’t make it through waivers, Scott could make the roster over Christian.
ST (3): Johnny Hekker, Greg Zuerlein, Jake McQuaide
There shouldn’t be any surprises with this unit at the end of the preseason. Hekker and Zuerlein are two of the best at their positions while McQuaide has been the team’s long snapper since 2011.
Coming off the disappointing Super Bowl loss, some might think the Rams will suffer the hangover and potentially miss the playoffs. However, those chances are slim as the Rams have arguably the best overall roster in the league. Goff will need to take the next step in his development and Donald will need to lead the defense as a top 10 unit. If both happen and the team avoids being killed by the injury bug, the Rams should be viewed as co-favorites in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl and make a strong push for the number one overall seed.
Season Prediction: 12-4 and co-favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 54.
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