The 23rd spot in my power rankings comes with the first major surprise. The Los Angeles Rams have endured quite the fall since they reached the Super Bowl in 2018. Since then, it seems that defenses have figured out Sean McVay‘s gameplan and Jared Goff. Todd Gurley is now out the door and replaced with a bundle of other young backs vying for the starting role. The defense has lost valuable pieces as well. The Rams need to figure it out fast if they want to make the most out of this small window still left.
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- Overall – 78.453 (23rd)
- Offense – 79 (21st)
- Defense – 77.785 (23rd)
- Coach and Culture – 82.25 (T-12th)
- Home Field Advantage – 70.5, 31st (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 77.5, T-19th (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Goff regressed big time from his 2018 season. While he only had 50 fewer yards, he had 10 fewer touchdowns and four more interceptions from his Super Bowl year. The issue with those stats is that Goff also threw 60 more passes than he did in 2018. The rushing attack took a major dip last year as Gurley was injured and the offensive line couldn’t open up holes for him to run through. Teams took away Goff’s first read and made him read defenses himself, which is something he isn’t used to, while also swarming to him in the pocket.
John Wolford takes over for Blake Bortles as the backup quarterback. Wolford went to college at Wake Forest and played in the AAF where he threw for over 1,600 yards and threw 14 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions. While Wolford does cause some concerns as he isn’t a veteran backup option with a high floor, he does know how to run McVay’s system. Rookies Bryce Perkins and Josh Love will battle in the preseason for the third quarterback spot if the Rams decide to carry one. I expect Love to win the job as he was in a similar scheme to McVay’s while he was at San Jose State.
Running Backs – 71.5, 32nd (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
With Gurley going back to his home state of Georgia to play for the Falcons, it leaves the Rams in a difficult spot at the position. Malcolm Brown will likely have the first crack at being the lead back as he has been on the Rams since 2015. Brown had the best season of his career last year as he had five touchdowns. John Kelly only has 30 carries for 98 yards in his two-year career, while last year’s day two pick, Darrell Henderson only had 39 rushes for 147 yards and caught four passes for 37 yards.
Cam Akers is the rookie running back with the clearest path to a starting role in his rookie year. Akers had over 2,800 yards and almost five yards per carry in his time at Florida State. He also added almost 500 yards receiving as well. The Rams need to figure out the offense as Goff took a major step back and the running game suffered from an abysmal offensive line. Los Angeles has a few intriguing options at running back, but no true superstar or number one option.
Pass Catchers – 87, 5th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
The Rams have their top three receivers and a ton of other depth behind them. Both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods finished with over 1,000 yards apiece and 12 combined touchdowns. The combination of Kupp and Woods is one of the best in the league. Unfortunately for the Rams though, they are in salary cap hell and might not be able to retain Kupp. The third option in the offense is now Josh Reynolds who had 21 catches for 326 yards and a touchdown last year. There are over 110 targets that have been departed just between Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and a lot of those will now go to Reynolds. The Rams also selected Van Jefferson with the 57th selection of the draft, who might have a better chance at succeeding Cooks than Reynolds.
Greg Dortch has bounced from team to team in his short career but could find himself as the team’s return man when the season starts. Undrafted free agent, Trishton Jackson could surprise during the preseason and is coming off a season at Syracuse where he went over 1,000 yards and caught 11 touchdown passes. Tyler Higbee continued his breakout last year as he caught 69 passes for 734 yards and three touchdowns. Higbee and Gerald Everett, who had 37 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns, form a nice one-two punch at tight end. As if that wasn’t enough, Los Angeles also brought in Brycen Hopkins from Purdue who is coming off an 800-yard season.
Offensive Line – 70.5, 28th (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
The main reason for the Rams’ offensive struggles last year was the play of the offensive line. While Andrew Whitworth is still a good tackle, he is creeping up on the 40-year-old threshold and the Rams haven’t found his replacement. Rob Havenstein took a major step back last year from his 2018 campaign and the interior has lost a lot, especially with Rodger Saffold in Tennessee. Austin Corbett was added via trade last year but couldn’t provide much of a spark and Austin Blythe is a low-level starter at right guard while Brian Allen is fine at the center spot.
It would be beneficial for the Rams to give Bobby Evans and David Edwards more playing time so they can develop and take over at spots, but the coaching staff hasn’t given them much playing time. Los Angeles ranked 31st in terms of the offensive line per PFF last year and didn’t do much of anything to improve it, instead opting to add more weapons to an already stacked receiving core instead.
Run Defense – 79.5, 20th (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
The Rams finished 19th in rushing defense a year ago, but have lost pieces, while also gaining pieces during the offseason. The front three is stacked with Aaron Donald manning the middle, Michael Brockers returning, and newly signed, A’Shawn Robinson. Los Angeles also has plenty of depth pieces on the defensive line with Sebastian Joseph-Day accounting for 44 tackles, two sacks, and six tackles for loss last year. Morgan Fox also had 18 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss. Greg Gaines should be in the rotation as well.
Both Dante Fowler Jr Clay Matthews III are gone. They combined for 28 tackles for loss last season. Both are now seemingly replaced by the rookie Terrell Lewis, and new addition Leonard Floyd. Cory Littleton came out last year and proved himself as one of the best young linebackers in the league last year and is now in Las Vegas. Littleton wasn’t replaced at all as the Rams only selected one linebacker, Clay Johnston, in the seventh round. The front-runner for the starting role now falls on Micah Kiser, who missed all of last year with a torn pectoral. Troy Reeder is another option but has limited playing time as well.
Pass Rush – 77, 23rd (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
The Rams finished with 50 sacks last year, which was one of the best in the league. Unfortunately, a lot of that sack production is now in other places. Fowler and Matthews accounted for almost 20 sacks last year and are replaced by Floyd and Lewis. Floyd will likely play as a linebacker hybrid as he only had three sacks for Chicago last year. Lewis will likely start coming off of an 11.5 sack season last year at Alabama. Samson Ebukam had 4.5 sacks in a rotational role last year and is now going to be starting. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo should also get more playing time this year as well.
A lot of the pass rush will likely come from the front three. Donald is still one, if not the best defensive players in the league today. He is coming off a 12.5 sack season and now has more help on the defensive line. Brockers had three sacks as well last year while Robinson can add in some help rushing the passer as well. Fox and Joseph-Day can also help as well. The Rams should’ve retained Fowler any way possible. Unfortunately, they couldn’t because of their salary cap issues.
Linebackers – 72.5, T-27th (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
As I said earlier, the Rams did little to nothing to try and replace Littleton in the middle of the defense. Instead, they are putting a lot of faith that Kiser is healthy coming off of his torn pectoral and that Reeder can put together some better tape this year. Kenny Young was added as part of the Marcus Peters trade midseason last year, but only accounted for four tackles once being brought on board. Travin Howard played plenty of snaps last year and finished with 22 tackles last year, but could be out in favor of Kiser. The Rams had little to no cap space and had to let go of some key defenders as a result.
Secondary – 82.5, T-9th (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
Jalen Ramsey was acquired midseason and is a polarizing figure in the league today. While he is still one of the better cornerbacks in the league, the Rams gave up quite the bounty for him, surrendering two first-round picks. Opposite of Ramsey will be Troy Hill who ranked inside PFF’s top 25 cornerbacks in the league last year. Hill had eight pass deflections and two interceptions. David Long will also be playing in a bigger role this year with Nickell Robey-Coleman leaving. Darious Williams will also play meaningful snaps as well this year. The cornerback room isn’t as deep in recent years, but the top three are solid.
Taylor Rapp and John Johnson could make some noise this year as one of the best safety tandems in the league. Rapp played more in the box last year, securing 100 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, while also adding eight pass deflections and two interceptions. Johnson also added 51 tackles, two pass deflections, and two interceptions as well. Terrell Burgess was also added in the third round of the draft and will play a role as the dime safety, nickel cornerback as well.
Burgess is similar to Rapp as he can play in the box as he had the most tackles on Utah’s defense last year. Los Angeles also spent a sixth-round selection on Jordan Fuller from Ohio State. Fuller also led Ohio State in tackles last year and was elected to First-Team All-Big-Ten honors last year. The Rams secondary is still young but has a lot of potential.
Coach and Culture – 82.25, T-12th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
McVay is still one of the best offensive coaches in the league today. He does a great job scheming up his offense and needs to get back to his 2018 form for the Rams to get back to the playoffs. Los Angeles ranks seventh in coach and culture thanks to McVay.
Wade Phillips is now gone and replaced by Brandon Staley as the defensive coordinator. Staley has worked under defensive mastermind, Vic Fangio in the past and has worked with the likes of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. With plenty of new faces and a new defensive coordinator, the Rams come in 23rd for defensive coach and culture.
The Rams are in a difficult phase. They are trying to make the most out of this last window of opportunity they have with their offensive firepower. Unfortunately, it seems too little too late as Los Angeles. They had to let plenty of key players walk due to the lack of salary cap space. The receiving core, defensive line, and secondary are still great. However, other key positions like the offensive line and linebacker are lacking. The Rams are hoping that the unproven players can take a step forward and get back to the playoffs. However, those odds are getting slimmer by the day. The Arizona Cardinals made a ton of moves this offseason and are getting better while the Rams get worse.
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