The vast majority of free agents with viable skills have been signed. The NFL Draft is in the rear view mirror. Each team has had a brief “Rookie Mini-Camp” giving the coaches and fans their first look at the hopes for the future. When your team had a .438 winning percentage the preceding season the future is the most treasured of places.
It’s been a challenging offseason. While in the midst of moving the organization from St. Louis to Los Angeles the club faced a cap driven free agency period that saw the team forced to let a lot of talent walk from the defensive side of the ball. The Rams have a solid defense, an offense driven by a superior running game and are in obvious need of a field general.
Coach Fisher has an offensive team template he wants to build. He desires special talent at RB and QB. 2015 first round pick Todd Gurley is the answer at running back. 6’1″, 222 lbs of pure football player who has speed, power, instincts and a love of the game. He’s the complete package and better yet, this isn’t a prognosis but a review. Gurley is one of the best running backs in the NFL.
The Rams have sifted through a bevy of options at QB with ineffective Nick Foles sitting at the top of the depth chart. Unlike Gurley Foles “review” is not glowing. Suffice to say before the 2016 NFL Draft the answer at QB was not on the team. In a passing league, that’s a problem.
One epic trade later, enter QB Jared Goff. The most pro-ready quarterback in the draft brings his 6’4″, 215 lb frame, solid arm and ability to make all the throws to the Rams. You can check all the boxes on this guy. Size, arm, athleticism, ability to make reads and operate under center he is a tantalizing talent.
The California product is an elite NFL prospect who will start sooner rather than later for the club and that’s a good thing. With the Rams giving up a ton of picks this year and next for the right to draft Goff it’s going to be harder for the team to keep pace with with the rest of the division in regards to talent acquisition over the next few seasons.
Already up against the cap the draft is a key tool in balancing an organizations salary structure with (much) cheaper rookie contract talent. This year the Rams had a first round pick then nothing til the fourth. Next year they will have to live without their first and third round picks. Getting better isn’t going to be easy, but it’s the price one pays to move up in the draft. Challenge defined. How is it being answered?
Though picking late the team still managed to add intriguing talent with TE Tyler Higbee and WR Pharoh Cooper in the fourth round. Higbee has a domestic violence incident from 2014 hanging over his head that helped push him down the draft charts. Cooper is a solid pick that has the skill set to be a weapon in his first year from the slot. Both have open paths to making the club. ILB Josh Forrest in the sixth also has a shot.
Just as important for the club as the offensive field general now in the fold is the offseason shuffling at LB. It’s addition through subtraction as long time starter James Laurinaitis was released, Alex Ogletree moved inside and converted Safety Mark Barron was resigned to man the outside. This is a much better setup than the team had in 2015 with Ogletree missing and should pay excellent dividends on game day.
Foles is penciled in as the starter to begin 2016. After posting 7 touchdowns versus 10 interceptions in 11 games for the team in 2015 I have to believe Goff, even as a rookie would be an upgrade. The only real question is if starting the rookie would help or hurt his development. That’s critical because once he breaks out (and he will), this team is playoff caliber.
It’s a good idea to temper expectations when relying on the emergence of rookie QB’s. Yet Goff won’t be asked to carry the team. The Rams can win games by being conservative, keeping it close and letting their running game work for them. The teams defensive line is one of the most talented in the league and will be healthy again for 2016. This team is coming together.
Coach Fisher isn’t afraid to pound the rock and a dominant running game can be a rookie QB’s best friend. So yes, it’s “smart” to temper ones expectations in regards to a rookie QB and the 2016 season. But I can’t help be a little excited at the possibilities with Goff at QB, Gurley at RB and a healthy defense.
It’s the offseason. Hope springs eternal.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over