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Rams Seek Answers Around Goff

@1057TheFan

The Rams are easily among the worst NFL franchises in the last decade. In fact, over the last decade, the Rams own the worst overall record in the National Football League at 46-113-1. They have not had a winning season since 2003 and have not been in the postseason since 2004. From 2007-2011 they posted the worst 5-year record in the NFL … ever. They have been historically bad. They have some work to do this offseason, just to get back to respectability.

Outgoing head coach Jeff Fisher did have a couple of seasons near .500, but it was not enough. As new head coach Sean McVay takes the reins he is tasked with rebuilding a woeful offense, solidifying a talented but under-performing defense, and finding a way to get back over the hump in the NFC West. This is what Coach McVay is seeing as he takes over the Los Angeles Rams:

Quarterbacks

At the pivotal QB position the Rams are something of an enigma. On one hand, they traded up in the 2016 draft and took Jared Goff with the #1 overall pick. On the other hand, they sat him for the first 9 games of the season despite Case Keenum’s struggles. In Goff, they may very well have their long-term answer at QB, but nobody yet knows. His development will make or break the early career of Sean McVay. Behind him is Sean Mannion, a 3rd-round pick in 2015. Keenum will undoubtedly move on in free agency, so the Rams will need to find a veteran backup to compete. An intriguing possibility there is Mark Sanchez, a southern California native who played his college ball at USC. After success early in his career with the Jets, Sanchez has settled into a career backup role in the NFL. He might be exactly the veteran presence the young Rams QB crop will need.

Running Backs

Todd Gurley came off a scintillating rookie campaign to post pedestrian numbers in 2016. Gurley possesses all the talent in the world and is expected to bounce back next year in an improved offense. The Rams will need to address the backup role in the offseason if Benny Cunningham is not resigned. McVay and his staff will have to determine if Malcolm Brown, a 2015 undrafted free agent, is the answer there. If not, expect the Rams to look for a running back to serve the backup role in the middle rounds of the draft.

Wide Receivers

The wide receiver corps will get a lot of attention this offseason. During 2016, the lone bright spot at the position was Kenny Britt, who nabbed 68 catches for 1002 yards. Britt, however, is expected to leave the Rams this offseason. Brian Quick, another large target who has shown flashes of both brilliance and ineffectiveness, is also a free agent. Among the starting three in 2016, only Tavon Austin is under contract for 2017. DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins, whom McVay coached last year, would be a welcomed addition. Pierre Garcon, also a free agent with the Redskins, makes sense, too. It would behoove the staff to target more than one starter at the position as the entire corps is woefully suspect. If McVay sees enough in Pharoh Cooper or Mike Thomas, or re-signs the erratic Brian Quick, this may be handled internally. Adding at least one productive starter, in any regard, is a must.

Tight Ends

A favorite target of many fans for an upgrade this offseason, the TE corps is expected to remain largely intact. The Rams added two promising prospects in the 2016 draft in Temarrick Hemingway (6th round) and Tyler Higbee (4th round). Lance Kendricks is signed through 2019 and was mentioned in Sean McVay’s introductory press conference as one of the players he was “excited to work with.” The Redskins tight ends, under Sean McVay, combined for more than twice the productivity of the Rams tight ends last year. Expect this group to stay together and blossom in the new system.

Offensive Line

This is one of the most suspect groupings on the Rams. The offensive line has been perennially bad through the Rams decade-plus of ineptitude. Despite spending high picks in the draft, adding free agents, and shuffling personnel, this unit remains awful. Decisions will have to made. Every starter and backup on roster in 2016 is signed through at least 2018, so cuts will have to be made to upgrade the talent. McVay may opt to keep the unit intact and “coach it up” if he feels the talent is already there. Regardless, it would behoove the Rams to add a big name or two simply to hedge their bets. If the unit does not improve, and McVay and his staff add nothing to it, it would be a black spot on his early record as the coach of the Los Angeles Rams.

Defensive Line

If the offensive line has been the most maligned in recent years, the defensive line has been the most exalted. Peppered with superstars, the defensive line will boast the return of arguably the league’s best tackle in Aaron DonaldMichael Brockers, William Hayes and Robert Quinn return as well. Although highly praised, this unit under performed in 2016. That could change in a hurry under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, particularly for Robert Quinn. Quinn is a sack artist whose numbers have declined in recent years due to injury. This unit should return to glory under one of the finest defensive minds of the era.

Linebackers

The linebacking corps, however, will need some retooling. The first two questions for Wade Phillips to answer as he takes over the defense are: Is Alec Ogletree really a middle linebacker, and is undersized Mark Barron even a linebacker at all? These answers will go a long way towards understanding the needs of the position. It is possible the Rams will have to look for two or more linebackers in the draft and free agency, just to have a serviceable unit at all. This will be one of the most interesting projects of the offseason, and one to keep a close eye on.

Secondary

Trumaine Johnson is most likely gone, allowed to seek his fortunes elsewhere. E.J. Gaines is signed through 2018 and will man one outside position. Lamarcus Joyner will be in the mix, continuing his role as a slot corner and competing starter. The Rams will have to add another cornerback to at least compete for a starting role, if not presume one. At safety, Maurice Alexander returns to man one spot. The Rams will need to address the other side if T.J. McDonald is allowed to leave in free agency, and if Mark Barron remains at linebacker.

With many question marks, and many holes to fill, Sean McVay may need all of his five-year contract to return the Los Angeles Rams to the playoffs. Still, this is the NFL and what looks bad on paper one year can look stellar in play the next. In 1999, the Rams – than in St. Louis – came off a 4-12 record, installed a new offense, found a suddenly potent QB, posted a 13-3 record, and won the Super Bowl. If Jared Goff blossoms under the tutelage of Sean McVay then areas of weakness can become areas of strength overnight. To compete in the suddenly-crowded Los Angeles market, the Rams will be hoping for a miraculous turnaround as they prepare to open their new stadium in just under three years.

Daunting, yes. The odds are against it, sure. But this, again, is the NFL and miracles happen all the time in the NFL.

Just ask those ’99 Rams.

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2 Comments

  1. Rizzle

    January 25, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    With the Ram’s not having a 1st or 3rd round picks in this years draft, do you think the Ram’s will be looking at WR with their 2nd round pick?

    • Tom Cummings

      January 25, 2017 at 6:29 pm

      Great question, Rizzle! First of all, let me point out that it’s expected the Rams will receive 3 compensatory picks, and one of those is a 3rd rounder. If this happens, the Titans will receive that pick (the compensatory one) instead of the Rams (early) 3rd round pick. They’re actually not too bad off in this draft!

      To answer your question, though, I would say it’s too early to tell. A guy like JuJu Smith-Schuster from USC may be there and hard to resist. But if versatile LB Jarrad Davis (Florida) is around when the Rams pick, that’s a solid choice in a thin position. I also get the feeling you don’t get a Wade Phillips to come to town without promising some attention to defense. 😉

      And, remember, the Rams might double-dip into free agency at the WR position.

      All I know is, it’s going to be as exciting an offseason for a Rams fan as we’ve seen in a while.

      Thanks for taking a minute to read and respond, Riz! Really appreciate it!

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