Key Additions: Eric Weddle, Blake Bortles, Clay Matthews, John Wofford
Key Departures: Marc Barron, Ndamukong Suh, Rodger Safford, CJ Anderson, Lamarcus Joyner, Sean Mannion, John Sullivan, Blake Countess, Ramik Wilson
Key Returns: Dante Fowler, Troy Hill, Cory Littleton, Malcolm Brown, Bryce Hager
|Week 1||Sept. 8th 1:00 PM ET||@ Carolina Panthers (FOX)|
|Week 2||Sept 15th 4:25 PM ET||vs. New Orleans Saints (FOX)|
|Week 3||Sept. 22nd 8:20 PM ET||@ Cleveland Browns (NBC)|
|Week 4||Sept. 29th 4:05 PM ET||vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (FOX)|
|Week 5||Oct. 3rd 8:20 PM ET||@ Seattle Seahawks (FOX)|
|Week 6||Oct. 13th 4:05 PM ET||vs. San Francisco 49ers (FOX)|
|Week 7||Oct. 20th 1:00 PM ET||@ Atlanta Falcons (FOX)|
|Week 8||Oct. 27th 1:00 PM ET||vs. Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)|
|Week 10||Nov. 10th 4:25 PM ET||@ Pittsburgh Steelers (FOX)|
|Week 11||Nov. 17th 8:20 PM ET||vs. Chicago Bears (NBC)|
|Week 12||Nov. 25th 8:15 PM ET||vs. Baltimore Ravens (ESPN)|
|Week 13||Dec. 1st 4:05 PM ET||@ Arizona Cardinals (FOX)|
|Week 14||Dec. 8th 8:20 PM ET||vs. Seattle Seahawks (NBC)|
|Week 15||Dec. 15th 4:25 PM ET||@ Dallas Cowboys (FOX)|
|Week 16||TBD||@ San Francisco 49ers (TBD)|
|Week 17||Dec. 29th 4:25 PM ET||vs. Arizona Cardinals (FOX)|
Despite having the best record in the NFL, and being one of the best offensive teams in the league the Rams 2018 season will only be remembered for one thing. Jared Goff, Sean McVay, and the offensive line blowing it in Super Bowl LIII. Having the second-best offense in the NFL and only putting up three points is an unacceptable feat, especially considering the Rams defense played lights out, holding the Patriots to three points through three quarters. McVay ignored his All-Pro running back in Gurley only giving him ten carries, and went pass-happy on a New England team that was obviously expecting it. The offensive line let Goff get hit play after play, and Goff couldn’t handle the pressure. The main takeaway from 2018 is that the Rams relied on their talent, but lacked one key component that a championship team needs: experience. Luckily, there’s no better way to gain experience than to get outplayed by one of the best coaches in NFL history. Goff learned he needs to get better at reading defenses and McVay learned that just because his game-plan works against most teams it’s not invincible and he needs to learn to make adjustments quicker. They’re both young, and if treated as a learning experience the Goff/McVay duo can become a Super Bowl mainstay.
Being a top team like the Rams there’s not many roles open for rookies to step in and start. That’s why in the draft the Rams decided to add depth to their secondary and depleted offensive line. Without a first round pick the Rams had to wait til late in the second round to make their first pick, and selected safety Taylor Rapp (Washington). Rapp will back up Eric Weddle and John Johnson III, but has the versatility to lineup anywhere on the field including stepping up to play some linebacker. The Rams had three third round picks, and first they took running back Darrell Henderson (Memphis) which considering Todd Gurley’s knee problems is a great pick for Los Angeles. Henderson provides a safety net if Gurley goes down and if Gurley stays healthy he makes their already 3rd ranked rush offense even stronger. Next they took corner-back David Long (Michigan) who will mostly be playing special teams his first year. He gets to learn from a veteran secondary and has the tools to flourish into a valuable starter sooner than later. Then they drafted offensive tackle Bobby Evans (Oklahoma) who will be spending time playing both tackle and guard. He adds extra depth to an offensive line that needs as much depth as possible. In the fourth round they took defensive tackle Greg Gaines (Washinton). Gaines will be the most important rookie in this Rams draft class, and a key factor in the Rams defense. With the departure of Ndamukong Suh, Gaines will be thrown into Suh’s nose tackle spot week one. In the fifth round they selected offensive tackle David Edwards (Wisconsin). He won’t start, but he adds more depth which is all the Rams need at this point. The Rams had two seventh round picks and took safety Nick Scott (Penn State) and linebacker Dakota Allen (Texas Tech). Nick Scott should see some time on special teams and Dakota Allen will start the season on the practice squad.
The Rams decided they are all in on Jared Goff after giving him a $134 million contract with $110 million guaranteed. Goff has a lot to prove this season, he’s already shown he can win in the regular season and playoffs, but he needs to show that he can grow, takes loses in stride, stays composed in the pocket, and not let the pressure of an overwhelming defense get to him. With Gurley’s knee a concern the Rams drafted Darrell Henderson, so even if Gurley goes down their run game can still remain relevant. The offensive line will be the biggest question mark with the departures of guard Rodger Safford and center John Sullivan. 2018 third and fourth-round picks Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen step in as starters and have a huge task on their hands not only protecting Goff but making sure to open holes for Gurley.
Both saw the field numerous times last season, and despite lacking the experience of Stafford and Sullivan, they both have the potential to be long-time starters. Cooper Kupp is back after his ACL injury and will rejoin Robert Woods and Brandon Cooks in a receiver corps that will be just as explosive as last year. To add some extra security the Rams signed Blake Bortles as a replacement for Sean Mannion which is an immediate upgrade and gives the Rams one of the best backup QBs in the NFL. The Rams offense ranked second in the NFL last year (fifth in passing and third in rushing), and if Gurley stays healthy and the offensive line steps up, there’s nothing holding them back from being the best offense in the NFL.
If there’s one thing the Rams learned from Super Bowl LIII it’s that Wade Phillips is an outstanding defensive coordinator. Seeing as the offense didn’t need many new pieces the Rams used their offseason to build more upon their defense. They added Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle to add some veteran consistency to their already thriving defense. Matthews is an immediate upgrade to Samsum Ebukam, and despite not being the player he once was, he still greatly improves the defense. They also re-signed Dante Fowler, Corey Littleton, and Bryce Hager to keep their starting linebacker corps intact. For the most part the Rams let a lot dead weight go, they cut Marc Barron who was never healthy, let Lamarcus Joyner walk who was a non factor in 2018, and let Blake Countess go due to the additions of rookie Tayor Rapp, and their biggest free agent signing Eric Weddle. Eric Weddle is a huge upgrade to Lamarcus Joyner, and could end up being one of the biggest steal this offseason. He still has the ability to play at a high level, and despite lacking the ball hawk abilities of other safeties he has elite vision and instincts. Weddle will provide leadership and experience, and will provide Phillips with a coach on the field. The biggest loss on defense is losing Ndamukong Suh in free agency, and the Rams will have to rely on rookie Greg Gaines in a trail by fire role at nose tackle. Gaines has the tools and ability to be a starter, but it’s unlikely he can fill the mammoth sized hole left by Suh. The Rams defense wasn’t the best in 2018, but as they showed in the Super Bowl they can be dominant. With the additions of Matthews and Weddle, and another year under Wade Phillips they have the potential to be a top ten defense.
Based on last seasons records the Rams go into 2019 with the third easiest schedule in the NFL. Their only real competition in their division is the Seahawks and they get to play their away game against them in week 5. The Cardinals and 49ers don’t pose too much of threat and as long as the Rams don’t sleepwalk into those games they should sweep both teams. The first three games of the seasons will be a real test as they start off at Carolina, then they get home game against the Saints, and then they go into Cleveland against the new and improved Browns. Their second real test in the season is in weeks 10-12. Coming out of their bye week in week 9 they go into Pittsburgh, and then they have back to back games at home against Chicago and Baltimore. If they can come out of those six games 4-2 it’s highly likely they will be able to match their 13-3 record from last year. The only other challenges they may face is week 7 in Atlanta and week 15 in Dallas, but if the Rams want to repeat their Super Bowl success they should be able to win both games.
The Rams go into 2019 with something to prove. They were a young team that made it to the largest stage and had all their inexperience exposed. McVay needs to be a better play caller and know how to adjust while Goff needs to be more composed and be a better decision maker. With an offense as strong as the Rams there’s no question they should continue being a top NFL offense even if Gurley’s knee is worse than it seems. Wade Phillips and the defense will only be more consistent, and with the veteran free agents’ signings of Matthews and Weddle, they should be strong enough to become a top ten defense. Despite playing in a weaker conference the Rams will get tested early giving McVay and Goff the opportunity to show how Super Bowl LIII changed them. With the team the Rams have anything less than another Super Bowl trip would be a disappointment, and 2019 could be the start of a legendary dynasty in Los Angeles.