2020 Los Angeles Rams

L.A. Rams 2020 NFL Season Preview

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Welcome to “Elite Football Previews”here at PigskinNut Football, your #1 source for team previews for the 2020 NFL Season. The entire series can be watched on video via YouTube or by going to PigskinNut.com and clicking on the “team previews” tab.

And ALL of our team previews will be focusing on critical areas such as:

  • 2019 Season Analysis
  • Offseason Analysis via Draft and Free Agency
  • Coaching Analysis
  • Current Roster Evaluation
  • Outlook & Projection for the 2020 Season

Kicking Things Off…

In this edition of Elite Football Previews, we will be looking at the 2020 Los Angeles Rams. They are led by 4th-year Head Coach, Sean McVay, and 5th-year QB, Jared Goff. The Rams have been a much-improved team since McVay took over as head coach in 2017. After three seasons, McVay is 33-15, but this offense hasn’t been the same since the Super Bowl loss to New England. Honestly, the offense started to show issues before the Super Bowl game, sometimes looking flat late in the 2018 regular season.

After an underwhelming rookie campaign in 2016 by Goff, his 2017-18 seasons showed vast improvement. Goff is undoubtedly one of the harder QBs in the NFL to figure out. He goes from hot to cold more any other starter. Sometimes we get Jared Goff in near-MVP form, and sometimes he’s completely underwhelming. Still, Goff still has good career passing numbers with 87 TDs, 42 INTs, and a 91.9 QB Rating. It’s no secret that Goff is taking a lot of heat in the media (some warranted and some not) for the Rams offensive decline in 2019.

What ACTUALLY went wrong for the Rams in 2019?

Did the NFL catch up to McVay’s playcalling? Was it Todd Gurley’s decline in play? Was Jared Goff the real problem?

LOOK, If I had to sum up the Rams’ predominant issue in 2019, it was their offensive line play and losing their punch in the running game more so than McVay or Goff.

I haven’t seen many position groups in the NFL take a 1-year nosedive like the Rams backfield and offensive line. In 2019, the only week-1 starter for the Rams they could count on was Left Tackle (LT), Andrew Whitworth. Although he’s turning 39 in December, Whitworth is still a top-tier player at his position. Thankfully, he will be back for another season.

Offensive Line and RB Woes

The right side of the offensive line is where the Rams had the most issues. Rookies David Edwards (RG) and Bobby Evans (RT) struggled mightily as a unit. They desperately missed RT, Rob Havenstein, who signed a 4-year, $38 million contract extension in 2018. in 2019, Havenstein dealt with a torn meniscus and missed more than half of the season. Unfortunately, when Havenstein was available, he wasn’t always 100%, so injuries also impacted his play on the field.

There was a good deal of OL dysfunction outside of the two rookies manning the right side. A number of these guys were not even playing their natural position.They added Austin Corbettbut plugged him at center instead of guard (his natural position), filling in for an injured Brian Allen, who also missed half of the season. The Rams O-line did have some better outings down the stretch, but looking at the totality of the season, the injuries, rookies, and shuffling of positions, it’s no surprise they were one of the very worst offensive lines for much of the 2019 season.

On top of all that, Todd Gurley was not the same player. He was still effective at times, but nothing like he was before. Statistically, Gurley went from averaging 87/YPG rushing over the previous two seasons to only 57/YPG in 2019. Gurley was also less of a threat as a receiver, which was a big part of the Rams’ offensive success in previous seasons.

What about Jared Goff?

Scouting the position for many years, I’ve seen several QBs who play at a high level when protected, yet entirely useless when protection breaks down. Jared Goff, to me, is one of those guys.

When adequately protected and on his game, Goff’s ball placement is often on par with the best QBs in the league. Despite the lack of O-line help and usually substantial rushing attack, Goff HIMSELF still has to be more consistent. He’s one of the highest-paid QBs in the NFL if he is going to play up to the 4-year $134 million contract extension the Rams gave him.

At his best, Goff is deserving of that contract. The problem is, he isn’t at his best often enough. Without a bounce-back season, his detractors will continue to view him as an overpaid QB. Time will tell if he can play at a high level consistently. He’s not Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, or Deshaun Watson, where you can just put everything on his shoulders and expect massive success without serious protection. That’s just not Jared Goff, and it never will be. Still, he has a long career ahead of him, and McVay loves him as their QB.

Sean McVay struggling as a play-caller?

Sean McVay’s calling card was his ability to keep defenses guessing, predominantly while almost exclusively using 11-personnel formations. You knew the 2017-18 Rams could just run it down your throat with Gurley, which opened up a LOT for this offense. That led to a barrage of jet sweeps utilizing the quickness of both Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, which forced opposing defenses to seal the edge, creating even more running lanes for Gurley.

That, in turn, opened up the play-action game, which ultimately helped Jared Goff become a more proficient passer. In 2019, with Gurley declining, Brandin Cooks having two concussions, an abysmal offensive, and inconsistent play from Goff, Mcvay couldn’t open up his playbook as he did in the prior seasons, and it showed. You didn’t see all the jet-sweeps and play-action from past seasons, but that doesn’t mean McVay suddenly forgot how to call plays. The problem is, Sean went from Corvette to Civic and didn’t know how to get the most out of the weaker engine. He just needs to get back to basics, and a healthy OL and backfield might just help him do that.

L.A. Rams Offseason Review:

Notable Departures: Looking back at the 2019 NFL offseason, notable departures include WR, Brandin Cooks (Texans), RB, Todd Gurley (Falcons), LB, Dante Fowler Jr. (Falcons), and CB, Nickell Robey-Coleman (Eagles).

Notable FA Signings: The Rams added help for Aaron Donald, singing DT, A’Shawn Robinson to a 2-year $17-million contract. Dante Fowler Jr. was arguably their most significant loss, as the Rams have already been lacking a robust edge-rushing presence for years.

Rams 2020 NFL Draft, Top-3 Selections

No, the Rams did not have a 1st round pick, but they drafted good football players with high upside and did so at positions of need.

Cam Akers, RB FSU (RD. 2, 52nd overall):

In the 2020 NFL Draft, the Rams were smart to draft Cam Akers from FSU with the 52nd overall pick. Looking at what this team needs to get going again, I believe he is the most critical offseason addition on the entire squad. Akers has nearly everything you’d want in a downhill RB prospect. He’s powerful, explosive, shows dynamic cutting ability, a great athlete, and his body should hold up to punishment from NFL defenders.

I believe FSU’s offensive line play hurt Cam’s draft stock. I see Akers thriving on an NFL field. He’s there to replace Gurley, and pairing him with 2nd-year RB Darrell Henderson could be a dynamic combo if the Rams offensive line can get back to form.

Van Jefferson, WR, FL (RD 2, 57th Overall):

Five picks after selecting Cam Akers, the Rams added WR Van Jefferson with the 57th overall pick. Jefferson is a supreme route-runner. He’s not being viewed as a top-tier athlete, but I think he could be very difficult to deal with at the NFL level right away. Watching tape on him, I see his ability to beat press and separate at the top of routes. I believe he could be an immediate boost to a WR corps that just lost Brandin Cooks.

Terrell Lewis, Edge, Alabama (RD 3, 84th Overall):

Four weeks after losing Dante Fowler Jr to the Falcons, the Rams drafted OLB Terrell Lewis (Alabama) with the 84th overall selection. Lewis has a notable injury history but has a good first step, length, and raw tools. This makes him an exciting developmental pick for new Rams Defensive Coordinator, Brandon Staley.

2020 Projections: The Coaches, The Players, The Season:

Rams Coaching Staff Projections

Head Coach Sean McVay:

Rams Head Coach, Sean McVay, now entering his 4th season, is feeling the sting of missing the playoffs for the first time in his head coaching career. Regardless, I believe The Rams’ ability to be a downhill running team will help McVay and the team get back on track., People can say what they want about the running back position and how the NFL is a QB-drive league, but if you look at last year’s NFL Team Rushing Leaders

Eight out of the top 11 rushing teams made the playoffs. If McVay is going to get back to that style of football, he will do it with the help of the Rams’ new Offensive Coordinator, Kevin O’Connell.

OC Kevin O’Connell:

O’Connell, only 35, is a former 3rd string QB for the Jets during the Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan era. Former QBs and teammates Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy have been raving about O’Connell’s football IQ since his days with the Jets. He has five years of NFL coaching experience, having spent the last three years working as an Offensive Coordinator, QB Coach, and Passing Game Coordinator in Washington. Watching some interviews and reading about O’Connell, I believe him and McVay and wired very much the same, and I think O’Connell is the right guy to help run that offense. He was conservative and methodical last year in Washington, trying to focus on the quick pass game, before exploiting matchups. While he didn’t call a lot of PA (play-action) last season, his assortment of RBs, combined with coaching under McVay, could change that.

Defensive Coordinator Brandon Staley:

Staley has a 14-year coaching career, most of it spent in college as a coordinator, LB, and DB coach. His 3 years of NFL experience have all been under Vic Fangio, serving as LB’s coach for the Bears and Broncos. With no Khalil Mack or Von Miller, it will be interesting to see what he can do with Leonard Floyd and Rookie edge-rusher, Terrell Lewis.

Special teams coordinator, John Bonamego:

It’s special teams, so I will be short and sweet. Bonamego has over 20 years of NFL coaching experience as a Special Teams Coordinator, has been voted best special teams coach in the NFC North, last year by his peers when he was working with the Lions.

Roster Projection

Offensive Projection, A Bounce-Back Year:

I believe the Rams will bounce back on offense for 4 few key reasons:
  1. The offensive line is healthy again, and everyone will be playing their natural position, opening up the ground game, making things easier on Goff.
  2. Cam Akers is capable of taking over the Todd Gurley role (not saying he will be as good), and 2nd year RB Darrell Henderson is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. I would not be surprised if both backs go over 1,000 yards. Henderson only played 8% of the Rams total snaps in 2019, due to injuries, Gurley taking away carries, and being new to the offense. He should see a lot more playing time in 2020, despite drafting Akers.
  3. Robert Woods is still a better WR than people think, and Van Jefferson should make an immediate impact. Jefferson has the versatility line up outside or in the slot.
  4. OC, Kevin O’Connell will allow Sean McVay to be more effective.

Defensive Projection, Middle of the Pack and worse than last year:

Until this team can put together a quality duo of edge rushers, they will be average at best. Yes, Aaron Donald is as good as ever, new addition A’Shawn Robinson will make Donald’s job easier, Michael Brockers is a good DL, but this team has been desperately needing help on the outside for a while. Right now, they don’t have a proven edge rusher on their roster. Someone has to step up now that Dante Fowler Jr. is on the Falcons. They are thin at LB, with the only proven starter being Leonard Floyd, and he may play inside anyway.

2nd year DB (Safety) Taylor Rapp has a lot of versatility, and I expect them to demand a lot from his this year as an in-the-box tackling safety, supporting a weak LB core. Losing Nickell Robey-Coleman as a slot corner could hurt their secondary. Jalen Ramsey is Jalen Ramsey, but I think this team is still in dire need of another CB.

Season Projection: 10-11 wins

The NFC West is more competitive than it has been in a long time. The 49ers are the defending NFC Champions, Seattle is always in the mix, and the Cards appear to be a team on the rise. While I expect their offense to be trending upwards again, their defense is worse this year (on paper). I believe their defense is what will cap them at 11 wins max. Their strength of schedule is 10th hardest in the NFL when looking at their upcoming opponents’ W-L percentage last season (.516). Again, I think their success will ultimately come down to getting a dynamic run game going. This, of course, all starts with re-establishing better o-line play, as we saw from the 2018 Rams team. I believe it will be mission-critical to accomplish in the Los Angeles Rams 2020 season.

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