Los Angeles Rams – 2017 Preview
by Scoop Dougherty
The Los Angeles (nee St. Louis) Rams won their only “Read More”
Super Bowl in 1999 as the “Greatest Show on Turf”. At that time, new Rams mentor Sean McVay was only 13 years old. In the eighteen years since then, not only have the Rams relocated, they have descended into a prolonged period of non-relevancy. They have not won more than 7 games in the last five years, including a dismal 4 win season in 2016. That mark brought about the end of the Jeff Fisher era and led to the hiring of former Washington Redskin Offensive Coordinator McVay who, at 31, is the youngest head coach in National Football League history.
Offensively, the Rams were statistically the worst in not only the National Football Conference, but in the entire NFL. Their total offense was dead last at 262.7 yards per contest, as were their scoring (14.0 points per game) and third down efficiency (31.5%). Enter McVay, who helped turn Kirk Cousins into a quality NFL starter and sparked a resurgent ‘Skin offense. Two of his primary goals will be to groom former No. 1 pick Jared Goff into a successful pro QB and to have 2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Todd Gurley return to form after a pedestrian total of 885 yards rushing in 2016.
The Rams’ QB’s (Case Keenum and Goff) were sacked the second most times in the league last campaign (49). To help remedy that, the team signed veteran tackle Andrew Whitworth (from the Bengals) and center John Sullivan (from the Redskins). While they lost their top receiver from last season (Kenny Britt, 68/1002/5), they acquired from Buffalo both Robert Woods and underperformer Sammy Watkins. Tavon Austin is expected to help more as a receiver, complementing his kick returning skills. Gurley should benefit from both a more prolific passing game and a refurbished offensive line.
Legendary defensive guru Wade Phillips was hired to aid the young and inexperienced head coach. Phillips was the mastermind of the dominant defense of the Denver Broncos. He will change the Rams’ defensive scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Fortunately, the defense remains stout, unlike its offensive counterpart. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald (Pitt) is as good as they get and is generally considered one of the NFL’s top ten players. He has 28 sacks in his 3 seasons and should continue to thrive under Phillips. It is hoped that former Pro Bowler Robert Quinn will revert to form, stay healthy, and shine in a role similar to that of former Bronco DeMarcus Ware. The pickup of OLB Connor Barwin from Philadelphia could pay dividends if he can repeat his 2014 stats of 14.5 stats. He was not a good fit in Philly under DC Jim Schwartz. Aggressive interior linemen Alex Ogletree and Mark Barron help make the Rams’ front seven robust (last year ranked 9th overall in the league). The secondary will be led by two time franchisee Trumaine Johnson and not much else.
Greg Zuerlein (kicker) and Johnny Hecker (punter) will lead LAR’s special teams and the team will search for a replacement for the departed Benny Cunningham to help Austin with the kick returning chores.
It is unrealistic to expect the Rams to improve much, if any, over last year’s 4-12 record. Goff has to take huge steps in his second year and Gurley has to rebound. The defense will hold their own, but the success of the offense will dictate whether or not this team can climb out of its recent trend of mediocrity.