2018 LOS ANGELES RAMS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

HEAD COACH: Sean McVay (Second Season)

RECORD WITH RAMS: 11 – 5

CAREER RECORD: 11 – 5

2017 RECORD: 11 – 5

2017 DIVISIONAL RECORD: 4 – 2

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Aaron Kromer/Shane Waldron

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Wade Phillips

STADIUM: United Airlines Memorial Coliseum (93,607)

 

2018 SCHEDULE

September 10 at Oakland

September 16 Arizona

September 23 LA Chargers

September 27 Minnesota

October 7 at Seattle

October 14 at Denver

October 28 at San Francisco

October 28 Green Bay

November 4 at New Orleans

November 11 Seattle

November 19 Kansas City

BYE

December 2 at Detroit

December 9 at Chicago

December 16 Philadelphia

December 23 at Arizona

December 30 San Francisco

 

2017 RESULTS

Indianapolis 46 – 9

Washington 20 – 27

San Francisco 41 – 39

Dallas 35 – 30

Seattle 10 – 16

Jacksonville 27 – 17

Arizona 33 – 0

NY Giants 51 – 17

Houston 33 – 7

Minnesota 7 – 24

New Orleans 26 – 20

Arizona 32 – 16

Philadelphia 35 – 43

Seattle 42 – 7

Tennessee 27 – 23

San Francisco 13 – 34

POSTSEASON

Atlanta 13 – 26

 

FIVE – YEAR WINNING TREND

2013: 7 – 9

2014: 6 – 10

2015: 7 – 9

2016: 4 – 12

2017: 11 – 5

 

STARTERS RETURNING OFFENSE: 9

STARTERS RETURNING DEFENSE: 6

 

2017 TEAM STATS

OFFENSE:

TOTAL: 361.5

RUSHING: 122.1

PASSING: 239.4

SCORING: 29.9

THIRD DOWN%: 41.1

PUNT RETURNS: 10.2

KICK RETURNS: 25.0

 

DEFENSE:

TOTAL: 339.6

RUSHING: 122.4

PASSING: 217.2

SCORING: 20.6

INTERCEPTIONS: 18

SACKS: 48

TURNOVER MARGIN: +7

 

2017 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

PASSING: Jarrod Goff, 296 – 477 –3,804 – 28TD – 7INT

RUSHING: Todd Gurley, 279 –1,305 – 4.7 – 13TD

RECEIVING: Todd Gurley, 64 – 788 – 12.3 – 6TD

TACKLES: Alec Ogletree, 95

SACKS: Aaron Donald, 11.0

INTERCEPTIONS: Mark Barron, Lamarcus Joyner, 3

 

2018 LOS ANGELES DRAFT: B

OT Joseph Noteboom, TCU

C Brian Allen, Michigan State

DE John Franklin – Myers, Stephen F Austin

LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma

LB Micah Kiser, Virginia

RB John Kelly, Tennessee

OT Jamil Demby, Maine

DT Sebastian Joseph, Rutgers

LB Trevon Young, Louisville

LB Travin Howard, TCU

DE Justin Lawler, SMU

 

KEY PLAYER MOVEMENT

ADDITIONS

WR Brandon Cooks, New England

CB Marcus Peters, Kansas City

CB Sam Shields, Green Bay

DT Ndamukong Suh, Miami

CB Aqib Talib, Denver

LB Ramik Wilson, Kansas City

 

SUBTRACTIONS

WR Tavon Austin, Dallas

LB Connor Barwin, free agent

CB Trumaine Johnson, NY Jets

LB Alec Ogletree, NY Giants

LB Robert Quinn, Miami

OT Tyrunn Walker, free agent

CB Kayvon Webster, free agent

WR Sammy Watkins, Kansas City

 

OFFENSE PREVIEW

Just too short seasons ago, the Rams produced one of the worst offenses in the National Football League. They averaged just 262.7 yards and 14 points per game under then head coach Jeff Fisher. In one year, Sean McVay turned the offense into one of the best in the league. They scored twice as many points and added just under 100 extra yards per game to its production. Quarterback Jared Goff look like a broken player in his rookie season. Last year, Goff emerged as one of the league’s best young quarterbacks. Goff through for 3,804 yards with 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Part of Goff’s issues as a rookie was bad coaching and terrible support. The coaching staff will not let Goff be content and are eager to see him take another step to becoming a prolific quarterback. He now has plenty of offensive support around him including running back Todd Gurley. Gurley was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, and is one of the most well–rounded running backs in the league. Gurley is a workhorse who rushed for 1,305 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. He led the Rams in receiving with 64 receptions, averaging just over 12 yards per catch. Malcolm Brown is the primary backup and is a good complement when he is healthy. Justin Davis will also be in the mix, but with Gurley being a one – man – wrecking crew, it’s unlikely Davis will get many carries.

Goff will have another young, explosive and deep receiving unit featuring Gurley out of the backfield along with Robert Woods who emerged in his first season in Los Angeles as more than just a possession receiver. Woods caught 56 passes for 781 yards and five scores. Cooper Kupp made a smooth transition to the NFL with 62 receptions for 869 yards and five touchdowns. The Rams did lose Sammy Watkins to free agency, but added former New England receiver Brandin Cooks to the equation. Cooks has put together three straight seasons of more than 1,000 receiving yards with the Patriots. Also in the mix will be Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas. All three are young, athletic and have great potential. Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee and Temarrick Hemingway are young, developing tight ends.

The offensive line returns virtually intact and that is good news for Goff and Gurley. The Rams added left tackle Andrew Whitworth and center John Sullivan last season and that completely changed the dynamic upfront. Whitworth protected Goff’s blindside and became a huge locker-room leader. Rodger Saffold will stay at left guard, where he had a breakthrough season in 2017. Third – year lineman Jamon Brown is a staple at right guard with Rob Havenstein at right tackle. Also in the mix will be Darrel Williams, rookies Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen.

 

DEFENSE PREVIEW

Los Angeles was already respectable on defense in 2017. It’s not very often that a team can add three All-Pro players on one side of the football in the off-season, but that’s what the Rams did. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib along with DT Ndamukong Suh were signed, giving the Rams the most aggressive ball – hawking defense in the NFL.

It was bad enough dealing with Aaron Donald, but now you add Suh to the mix. The Rams have something they haven’t had in many years. Both are run stuffers and past rushers and will make everyone better on this defense. DE Michael Brockers will lock down the edge and will put heat on opposing quarterbacks. Dominique Easley, Ethan Westbrooks and Tanzel Smart will add depth along with rookies Sébastian Joseph and John Franklin – Myers. Morgan Fox and Justin Lawler will also be looking for playing time.

If there is one area the Rams have a weakness it could be at linebacker. They lost starters Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin. Quinn and Barwin combined for 13.5 sacks in 2017. Ogletree and Quinn were traded in the off-season. Now the Rams must find a way to fill some big holes on defense. Mark Barron will fill one inside spot with Corey Littleton, Ramik Wilson and rookie Micah Kiser battling it out for the other inside position. Second – year player Samson Ebukam will get a shot to replace Ogletree with Matt Longacre and rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo the favorites to replace Barwin.

The secondary also took a hit after losing Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster, but they feel they may have gotten better with the additions of Peters and Talib, both All-Pros. They are premier press corners that fit into Wade Phillips’ 3-4. Los Angeles also added Sam Shields in free agency and will count on Nickell Robey-Coleman, Troy Hill and Dominique Hatfield as experienced backups. Safety Lamarcus Joyner returns to Los Angeles on the franchise tag and will be joined by John Johnson, who had an impressive rookie season. Rookie Travin Howard could contribute early. Marqui Christian, Blake Countess and Isaiah Johnson are in the mix for playing time. Overall, this secondary should be very good if the pass rush lives up to its potential.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker Greg Zuerlein is one of the best in the NFL, when healthy. He converted 38 of 40 field goals in 2017, and it 30, is in the prime of his career. Punter Johnny Hekker joined the Rams in 2012 and has averaged better than 47 yards per kick over the last three seasons. The return game won’t be decided until training camp largely because the Rams want to see who will make the team at wide receiver.

 

WHAT THE SCOUTS ARE SAYING

Los Angeles had one of the most amazing turnarounds in NFL history. Give much of the credit to head coach Sean McVay for be leaving in quarterback Jared Goff, who went from being lost to being a Pro Bowl quarterback. Now the expectations are much higher. Will Goff take the next step and can Todd Gurley match his 2017 season?

Adding help on defense will make the Rams much better on that side of the football. Wade Phillips already had Aaron Donald as one of the best five players in the NFL. Adding Suh, Peters and Talib takes Los Angeles to a whole new level. Now McVay will need to bring all of this talent together and surpass what they were able to accomplish last year.

 

PREDICTION:

The Rams got better and younger in the off-season and they should be good for a long time. They looked at their roster in the off-season and decided they were just a few players away from a potential Super Bowl. Now they believe they have what it takes, especially on defense, to get to their destination. Loading up on big names doesn’t always lead to success. One thing for sure, opponents will no longer take them lightly and will get everyone’s best shot. If they are going to survive a very difficult NFC, they will have to have the big-name acquisitions live up to their reputations. Goff and Gurley are among the best young players in the league at their positions. There is no reason why the Rams shouldn’t win their division and with a break or two, they can be a Super Bowl team.

 

PREDICTED FINISH: First, NFC West