2017 Season Preview Los Angeles Rams

Anthony Joki is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Forever Rebuilding and is one half of the 1085 Gridiron Podcast covering all things Browns.

2016 Record: 4-12 (3rd in NFC West)
Head Coach: Sean McVay (1st Season)

Key FA Additions: WR Robert Woods (5 YRS, $34-Million), LT Andrew Whitworth (3 YRS, $33.75-Million), CB Kayvon Webster (2 YRS, $7.75-Million), Resigned K Greg Zuerlein (3 YRS, $6.75-Million), OLB Connor Barwin (1 YR, $3.5-Million), RB Lance Dunbar (1 YR, $1.5-Million), C John Sullivan (1 YR, $1-Million)

Key FA Losses: WR Kenny Britt (CLE), TE Lance Kendricks (GB), QB Case Keenum (MIN), SS T.J. McDonald (MIA)

2017 NFL Draft Selections: TE Gerald Everett (R2, 44th Overall), WR Cooper Kupp (R3, 69th Overall), S John Johnson (R3, 91st Overall), WR Josh Reynolds (R4, 117th Overall), OLB Samson Ebukam (R4, 125th Overall), DT Tanzel Smart (R6, 189th Overall), FB Sam Rogers (R6, 206th Overall), DE Ejuan Price (R7, 234th Overall)

Will Jared Goff improve from his less than stellar rookie season?

Jared Goff did not see the field until Week 10 of the 2016 NFL Season. Case Keenum, who started the first nine games (4-5 record) for the Rams, was benched prior to week ten for Goff. The Rams would proceed to go 0-7 to finish the season.

Goff had a QBR of 22.2 in those seven games. To put that in perspective, Josh McCown had a QBR of 35.1. Now the horrible seven game stretch was not entirely Goff’s fault. He had a beat up offensive line, which the Rams addressed in the off-season. They signed LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan.

Sullivan started in every game he played in from 2009-2014, and was named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Pro team in 2012. However we was sidelined in 2015 with micro-fracture knee surgery. He played in 13 games last season with Washington, starting one game.

Whitworth is a 3-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Bengals. He was Mr. Reliable for the Bengals starting in 126 of 128 games from 2009-2016.

While the Rams gave Goff protection, they also gave him some new offensive weapons this off-season. They did lose Kenny Britt to the Cleveland Browns, but they signed Robert Woods to a nice deal in free agency. They spared no expense in using their draft picks on offensive players. Their first pick came in the second round when they took TE Gerald Everett. They then took WRs Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds to go along with Tavon Austin who signed a big extension before the 2016 season.

Not only does Goff have new weapons to throw to but he also has a new head coach, Sean McVay. McVay is the youngest head coach in the NFL at 31 years old. He attended college here in Ohio at Miami University. For the last three seasons, he was the offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins helping grow Kirk Cousins into the what can be the most sought after quarterback in the 2018 Free Agency period since Peyton Manning hit the market.

McVay looks to do the same thing with Jared Goff. While Goff had a bad first seven games last season, the front office of the Rams have heavily invested in him and he is the guy they are going to build around. He looked good in a joint scrimmage against the Chargers on Saturday. Now it needs to translate to the regular season.

Can the Rams’ defense still be effective without Gregg Williams?

The Rams fired Jeff Fisher and did not retain the rest of their staff after last season. As we know here in Cleveland, Gregg Williams is the new defensive coordinator of the Browns after they parted ways with Ray Horton. While the offense of the Rams was tough to watch, the defense is what kept them in games.

The Los Angeles Rams ranked ninth in total yards allowed, 10th in passing yards per game and 16th in rushing yards per game.

There is no questioning the talent on the defensive side of the ball. DT Aaron Donald led the team with eight sacks. MLB Alec Ogletree led the team in tackling with 136 tackles, seventh in the NFL.

The Rams lost T.J. McDonald in free agency to Miami, he started all 16 games at safety last season. This off-season, McDonald received an eight game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, slot cornerback Lamarcus Joyner will move to safety to take McDonald’s spot. To accommodate this, Maurice Alexander, who played free safety last season, will move to strong safety.

When will the holdout end?

Currently, Aaron Donald has not reported to training camp. Donald currently has two years remaining on his rookie deal worth approximately $1.8-Million and $6.8-Million respectively.

The Rams recently exorcised the fifth year option on the contract, hence the big jump in salary in the last two years of the deal.

Neema Hodjat of Over The Cap looked at a potential extension for Aaron Donald in the range of 5 YRS, $100-Million that would kick in beginning in the 2019 season. He estimates that the franchise tag for a defensive tackle in 2019 would be approximately $16-Million.

We will see if Aaron Donald plays in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

2017 Projected Starters
QB Jared Goff DL Ethan Westbrooks
RB Todd Gurley DL Michael Brockers
FB Sam Rogers DL Aaron Donald
TE Gerald Everett LB Connor Barwin
WR Tavon Austin LB Robert Quinn
WR Robert Woods LB Alec Ogletree
LT Andrew Whitworth LB Mark Barron
LG Rodger Saffold CB Trumaine Johnson
C John Sullivan CB EJ Gaines
RG Rob Havenstein SS Maurice Alexander
RT Jamon Brown FS Lamarcus Joyner

All statistics are from Pro Football Reference and all contract information is from Spotrac unless otherwise noted.