2019 NFL Season Preview- Los Angeles Rams
The Rams continued to take steps in the right direction in 2018.
Los Angeles won their first eight games of the season which set the foundation for their strong season. The Rams won the NFC West for the second straight season, the first back to back division titles for the team since the late 70s. The team started their playoff run by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 in the divisional round then defeated the top seeded New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game 26-23 in overtime, a game which featured a controversial no call on an apparent pass interference against Los Angeles. In Super Bowl LIII, the Rams fell to the New England Patriots 13-3, becoming the second team in NFL history to fail to score a touchdown in a Super Bowl.
The offense had score the most points in the league over the last two seasons and has the highest point differential. Running back CJ Anderson was signed late in the year after being released by Carolina and provided fresh legs with back to back 100 yard rushing games. The offense hasn't gotten consistent production from the tight ends. Gerald Everett has shown signs of being something special but Tyler Higbee has reached his ceiling. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp missed the final half of the season with a knee injury but he Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks form a solid trio when all are healthy. Josh Reynolds stepped in for Kupp and played better than expected as the fourth receiver. The offensive line wasn't as dominant as they were in 2017, but the team still feels good about the lineup. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth showed no signs of his play diminishing at age 37. Austin Blythe and Rob Havenstein are fixtures on the right side. Center John Sullivan took a step back in his play.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh failed to live up to expectations after signing a $14 million contract. Michael Brockers wasn't as good as he was the previous two years because of the scheme. Outside linebacker Samson Ebukam struggled with the learning curve as the starter in his second season. The team traded for Dante Fowler midseason and brought the edge rush the defense had been lacking. Inside linebacker Mark Barron was solid despite missing four games. The secondary was solid after cornerback Aqib Talib returned to the lineup after missing eight games and he paired well with Marcus Peters. Nickell Robey-Coleman was a solid slot corner.
The Rams have one of the best special teams units in the league. Kicker Greg Zuerlein made 87% of his field goals and missed just one extra point while recording 57 touchback on kickoffs.
The Rams had four Pro Bowlers in quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and special teams gunner Cory Littleton while Gurley, Donald, Littleton, and punter Johnny Hekker were named to the All-Pro team. Goff made his second straight Pro Bowl with 4,688 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. Gurley is still the engine that drives the offense but missed the final two regular season games with a knee injury and was never fully healthy for the playoffs. Donald won his second straight NFL Defensive Player of the Year with a league leading 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss. Littleton excelled on special teams and as the starting inside linebacker with 125 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, a touchdown, and a safety. Despite recording the fewest punts of his career, Hekker was his usual productive self and recorded the longest punt in Super Bowl history at 65 yards.
Despite not have a first or second round pick, the rookie class produced some nice depth and potential future starters. Tackle Joseph Noteboom showed promise in spot duty. Center Brian Allen is the starting center of the future. Defensive end John Franklin-Myers flashed as a situational pass rusher. Linebacker Micah Kiser was an ace on special teams and could push for a starting role in the future. Linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo broke his foot in OTAs but the team likes his upside. Running back John Kelly played in just four games but has a bright future as a change of pace back.
Opponent Passing YPG
Opponent Rushing YPG
With the 13-3 season, head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead have to keep the team's momentum going as the have one of the best young rosters in the league have the most wins in the NFL over the last two years.
After quarterback coach Zac Taylor left to become the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, passing game coordinator Shane Waldron assumed he role of quarterbacks coach as well.
Notable Additions- QB Blake Bortles, LB Clay Matthews, S Eric Weddle
Notable Departures- QB Sean Mannion, RB CJ Anderson, G Rodger Saffold, C John Sullivan, DT Dominique Easley, DT Ndamukong Suh, LB Ramik Wilson, CB Sam Shields, S Lamarcus Joyner
Rams 2018 Highlights
2019 NFL Draft
Holding the 31st overall pick in the draft, the Rams have to complete their roster if the want to hoist the Lombardi trophy. They need added help at defensive lineman, outside linebacker, and safety.
Outside of Aaron Donald, the defensive line was underwhelming for much of the season. The line needs a young buck who can start day one.
The team signed Dante Fowler to a extension, but Clay Matthews is on the backend of his career. The defense needs more explosive pass rushers.
With Lamarcus Joyner now in Oakland, the secondary needs a reliable strong safety to play opposite Eric Weddle.
On draft day, Los Angeles traded back with Atlanta so the Falcons could draft Kaleb McGary. So on day two of the draft, the Rams selected Washington safety Taylor Rapp with their second round pick. Rapp was viewed as the top tackling safety prospect in this class, but lacks speed to cover deep on single high looks.
Other Notable Draft Picks:
Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis- High energy and runs with burst, lacks size and top gear speed
David Long Jr, CB, Michigan- Quick reactions, absorbs rather than initiates contact
Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma- Agile blocker, hands need to be faster
Greg Gaines, DT, Washington- Strongest defensive tackle prospect, short and stubby frames
David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin- Exceptional run blocker, Injury concerns
Nick Scott, S, Penn State- Aggressive play demeanor, one year as a starter
Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech- Leads by example, poor instincts
Taylor Rapp Highlights
What To Expect
Many people expect the Rams to make it back to the Super Bowl, but they still have a few unanswered questions.
Jared Goff has flourished under Sean McVey, but has to prove he can perform in big games and cut down on turnovers. Todd Gurley has been one of the league's most productive backs but as we saw in the Super Bowl, his health is key moving forward. Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods are all capable of 1,000 yard receiving seasons and Josh Reynolds is an above average backup. There are still questions at tight end, but the team hope Gerald Everett can emerge as a reliable target over the middle. With the departure of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan, Brian Allen is the obvious successor at center and Joseph Noteboom might be pushed inside to left guard.
Offenses have shown they don't have a consistent plan for Aaron Donald and he should continue to wreck havoc. The team hopes Michael Brockers can have a rebound season and either Greg Gaines or Sebastian Joseph-Day will take over the nose tackle starting job. Clay Matthews is the short term answer at outside linebacker at age 33 and hopefully Dante Fowler can play as strong as he did once arriving in Los Angeles. Micah Kiser is the likely replacement for Mark Barron to play alongside rising star Cory Littleton. The cornerback duo of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib should be solid if they both can stay healthy while Eric Weddle and Taylor Rapp will be a nice safety tandem, even if Weddle is 34.
Los Angeles should still be favorites to win the NFC West, but it is still too early to say they are a true Super Bowl contender.
Best Record They Can Hope For: 11-5