After a 21-year stint in St. Louis, the Rams returned to Los Angeles last season. While the return was met with excitement, the organization didn’t finish its first season in L.A. before making the decision to dismiss head coach Jeff Fisher before he could complete his fifth season with the team.
The team is now under the direction of 31-year-old Sean McVay, who many have labeled as brilliant. It has been 13 years since the Rams enjoyed a winning season and 12 since they last met the playoffs. McVay’s innovative and fresh approach is needed for an organization that has averaged less than five wins per season over the last decade.
Unfortunately for Rams fans, the playoff chances seem bleak for 2017. With that said, what does a successful season look like for the Rams? Let’s examine.
Jared Goff to take considerable step forward
Priority No. 1 for the Rams in having a successful season is for 2016 No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff to demonstrate considerable growth. While the organization mortgaged the future to move up to select Goff, the learning curve was always steep. Coming from a no-huddle, spread, exclusively shotgun scheme, learning the NFL passing game and offensive concepts is a lot to absorb.
In Year 2, growth is expected and the Rams employed the services of McVay, who was the mastermind behind the NFL’s second-ranked passing offense last season with the Washington Redskins. McVay added Greg Olson as the quarterback’s coach, who is a former offensive coordinator; offensive coordinator Matt LaFleuer, who is known for his work with Matt Ryan in recent years; and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who also has experience as an offensive coordinator. Goff is surrounded by a coaching staff with an outstanding offensive reputation. The teachers are in place.
Goff’s rookie season was underwhelming, but the organization faced the monumental task of moving across the country with an unprecedented travel schedule. Goff should be more comfortable in his sophomore season and he needs to improve. The Rams are his team and it’s time to start delivering the belief that he can be the long-term answer at the game’s most important position.
Todd Gurley to recapture rookie season hype
What a difference a year can make. Gurley came out hot in his rookie season, eclipsing 1,100 yards in just 13 games while averaging 4.8 yards per attempt with 10 touchdowns. Last season Gurley rushed for 885 yards across 16 games with six touchdowns and only averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Gurley’s receptions also dropped from 43 to 21.
With Gurley being the desired focal point of the offense, his efforts were supported by the 31st-ranked passing offense. The attention was on Gurley while defenses dared the Rams’ quarterbacks to beat them, and they couldn’t.
The design of the offense should be superior under the direction of McVay and his staff, and the offensive line is improved with the addition of star left tackle Andrew Whitworth.
For the Rams to have a successful season, Gurley must re-emerge as a playmaker to take pressure off Goff.
Young pass catchers to emerge
Using three of their first four draft picks on receivers, the Rams’ 2017 draft had an apparent theme: Surround Jared Goff with weapons. After signing polished route-runner and sure-handed receiver Robert Woods via free agency and recently trading for Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles drafted tight end Gerald Everett, wide receiver Cooper Kupp and wide receiver Josh Reynolds. All three offer complementary traits to fill different roles in the offense.
Those players meshing with Goff and the offense is important as McVay builds the infrastructure of the offense. Matching the three rookies with Woods, Watkins and Tavon Austin gives the Rams an arsenal of weapons with wide-ranging skills.
The young pass catchers proving to be fits and carving out roles worthy to build around is needed as the foundation of the roster is laid in Year 1 of the McVay era.
Defense needs to jell
The strength of the Rams in recent years has been their defense, which is now under the direction of Wade Phillips, who is entering his 40th year as an NFL coach. His resume speaks for itself.
With Phillips comes a change in scheme as the alignment shifts from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base. Several players, including stars Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, are learning new positions. The roles of Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are much different.
If any coach can bring about the change in scheme it’s Phillips, but there is an adjustment and it doesn’t happen over night. The Rams’ defensive building blocks must adjust to their new roles and prove to be the foundation of the defense moving forward.
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