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2019 NFL Preview: The Los Angeles Rams

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The 2019 NFL season is on the way, and with that, The Athletes Hub will be looking into what every franchise has to offer heading into the new campaign. With that, the journey begins with the Los Angeles Rams. Although their Super Bowl title aspirations weren’t met, this is a roster with plenty of talking points.

Head Coach (Sean McVay) is getting ready to enter his third NFL season as a head coach. He currently holds a record of 24-8 in the regular season, and is 2-2 in the playoffs. McVay has begun a trend of front offices hiring young, offensive-minded coaches. He took the league by storm with one Super Bowl appearance to date in just his sophomore season.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff has had a stellar first two seasons under McVay and holds a 24-7 record as a starter under his tutelage. His first game came back when Jeff Fisher was head coach, as Goff started in Week 9 and went 0-7 as a starter. The gunslinger has nearly 8,500 passing yards, alongside 60 TD and 19 INT to date in his young career.

Blake Bortles is going into his sixth season in the NFL. He has one season as a starter where he won 5+ games. In 75 full games, Bortles has thrown 75 INT. Unless injuries force Bortles under center, he will ride the bench for the time being.

Wide Receivers:

Robert Woods elevated his play in 2018 and totaled 1,225 receiving yards and 86 receptions. His play in the sweep action accounted for 160 rushing yards as well. Between Week 2-15 last season, Woods racked up 60+ receiving yards consistently.

Brandin Cooks now has 1,082+ receiving yards in four consecutive seasons. He has been apart of three different offenses in that time span. Cooks is a model of consistency in the NFL, much like Woods. Last season, Woods and Cooks combined for 13 TD.

Cooper Kupp was drafted back in 2017 by the Los Angeles Rams. Despite injuries along the way, Kupp was on pace for 80 receptions and 1,130 receiving yards in his rookie campaign. With 6 TD in 8 games last year, Kupp could see his role continue to expand in the red zone.

Running Backs:

Between Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliot, and Saquon Barkely, it’s a tight race for the top rusher in the league. Gurley has 4,000+ yards from scrimmage in just 29 games for an average of 135 yards per game. With injury problems of his own, it’s unknown whether Gurley will be able to carry the same workload that he’s been used to in the past.

In limited work under head coach Sean McVay, Malcolm Brown has a little over 550 scrimmage yards with nearly 460 of them via the run game. With questions surrounding Gurley’s health at the moment, his role in the backfield could grow over time.

If Gurley isn’t 100% healthy, many are talking about rookie Darrell Henderson as the next man up. Out of Memphis, Henderson totaled a career-high 1,909 rushing yards and 25 total TD in 2018. In an offense that already premiers one elite running back, Henderson may fight to climb up the depth chart.

Tight Ends:

The Rams don’t generally utilize the tight end position, as Gerald Everett is coming off a year with 33 catches and 320 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Tyler Higbee is entering his fourth season with Los Angeles. With an offensive front that allows for the tight ends to focus more on pass and run-blocking, Everett and Higbee should see similar roles moving forward.

Defense

Defensive Line & Linebackers:

Aaron Donald is regarded as one of the top defensive players in the NFL, and has forced the media to place him in the MVP conversation in the past. With 20.5 sacks in 2018, Donald now has 8+ sacks dating back to his entrance into the league.

The continued effort of Dante Fowler Jr could be vital for the Los Angeles Rams in 2019. Despite a disappointing start to his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he has potential to make a further impact in this particular system. Since joining the Rams in 2018, Fowler merited 21 tackles, 2 sacks, and 4 tackles for loss. This was after no training camp sessions and being forced to learn on the fly.

The addition of Clay Matthews could be an exciting one for the Rams this season. With a two-year contract, the six-time Pro Bowler gives Los Angeles another veteran presence on the defense. Although his play has regressed over the last few years, Matthews can hold his own when called upon.

Defensive Backs:

The Rams have an interesting situation on their hands when it comes to Aqib Talib. As a veteran, Talib is now playing a mentoring role when it comes to the defense; particularly with Marcus Peters. Do not let his lack of interceptions (35 in 11 seasons) mislead you. Of the 35 interceptions, 10 have gone back for touchdowns.

Speaking of Marcus Peters, he has been known as a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks in the past. He disappointed in 2018, with only 3 INT under his belt. Hopefully a productive offseason will result in an increase in his performance.

Eric Weddle is still an elite member of the secondary, and based on his previous three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, he still has gas in the tank. Based on his tackling statistics, Weddle can account for up to 65+ tackles moving forward. Much like Aqib Talib, he may find himself in the mentoring role while on the field.

Los Angeles’ Three Biggest Concerns:

  1. How healthy is Todd Gurley? This is the biggest question mark heading into the season, considering the arthritis in his knee. This can flare up at any time, but the Rams have done a great job at downplaying their concerns. How much will the committee be used, and can Los Angeles find a way to replace his production?
  2. Will Cooper Kupp and Aqib Talib be the same since their injuries? Both are coming off serious injuries that resulted in respective surgeries. Talib had a high ankle sprain, while Kupp had a non-contact ACL tear. The benefit Kupp has involves the fact that he is 7 years younger than Talib. If neither player can go back to their expected form, who is stepping up in their absence?
  3. Which version of Marcus Peters will we see in 2019? Peters had an underwhelming first season with the Rams, especially since he was viewed as one of the top young talents coming into the year. Injuries weren’t necessarily the issue with Peters, but perhaps it was the spotlight. With the spotlight continuing to shine, is Peters going to be able to embrace it?

Featured Image, Troy Wayrynen, USA Today Sports

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