The NFL Free Agency big names have (mostly) been signed. The NFL Draft has come and gone. Rookie mini-camps are in full swing and OTA’s will be happening coast-to-coast over the next few months.
If you’re an LA Rams faithful last years incredible run was a total rush but ultimately ended too soon. This is not a knock on what the very young team, coach and players alike, were able to accomplish. Quite the contrary, the good feelings from last season are still running hot, as they should be. Rather this is an acknowledgment of the ultimate goal of every special group of players in the NFL, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as many times as you possibly can.
It’s not defense or offense but rather talent that wins championships and the uber-talented LA Rams were able to mitigate the loss of a few key players as well as add to the mix making a team strength even stronger. Let’s break it down as we look at a few key items on the burgeoning 2018 LA Rams Depth Chart.
Wide Receiver – Upgraded
Sammie Watkins is gone and there is no denying a top-tier talent left LA for KC. However, the talent never matched the on-field production. He did draw “attention” from opposing defenses yet never demanded consistent double-teams and frankly was standing in the way of Cooper Kupp and Rober Woods development.
The team then went out and traded for Brandin Cooks in a deal with the Patriots for a fourth-round pick and this gives them a player who can blow the top off a D whose production matches his talent. You have to wait and see how he works out with Goff but all arrows are pointing up.
Pharoh Cooper is the perfect WR4 for the group. They are better off now than at the end of last season and have their WR1/2 combo dialed in for the next few seasons. Definite upgrade.
OLine – Upgraded
The team was able to keep their starting five together. The longer a group of offensive linemen work together (ideally in the same system) the better they become. Throw in the mix that Goff and Gurley actually get to work in the same offensive system for the second year and this unit’s outlook is positively rosy for 2018. Clear upgrade.
RB – Upgraded
The running backs and offensive line are tied together and they both get the same grade for the same reasons. Unlike linemen, backs don’t get better past 30 but that’s not the case here. What is the case is for the first both groups get to grow in the same offensive scheme for a second consecutive season and that is pure gold when it’s being run by an offensive mind like Sean McVay. Huge upgrade as Gurley is that versatile and dangerous.
TE – Upgraded
Derek Carrier is now a Raider and is viewed as “a talent” across the league. 8 receptions for 71 yards is not a loss. He provided nice depth. Tyler Higbee is the man and the future is bright for the TE unit as he is again backed up by Gerald Everett. Higbee should see a nice bump in last years production as he is still learning the game, however, this should be his breakout season and his head coach is known for inventing new wrinkles to his scheme on a yearly basis ala Belichick. Like the units above, being the second year in on an offensive scheme weighs huge on the upgrade.
DL – Upgraded
Are you freaking kidding me? Who cares which player mans the other DE? Suh and Aaron Donald are sitting in the car and they have Wade Phillips navigating. This is a train wreck on a play-by-play basis and it will happen on national TV on a weekly basis. Is this legal? Actually, it does matter who the other guy is and this should be a breakout year for Michael Brockers at DE as he should get free runs at the QB and the ball carrier from time to time. This is one time Suh will have an impact as big as his talent as it won’t be what he does alone on the field that is critical to the team. It will be the effect having both him and Aaron Donald side-by-side WITH a talented Brockers being guaranteed 1×1 attention maximum. This is a ludicrous Upgrade.
LB – Upgraded
This is arguable, but hear me out. Yes, there is no disagreement that both Connor Barwin and Alec Ogletree were talented, productive LB’s. However, you put this crew of guys all in their second year with Wade Phillips, one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL, put them behind the DL above we just covered and consider their skill sets. Corry LiLittletonSamson Ebukam, Mattt Longacre, and Mark Barron are all athletic guys who can fly to the ball. The excel in space and let’s be frank, with Suh and Donald in front of them they won’t be facing a lot of traffic to sift thru from the opposing linemen. This crew can stop the run, pressure the QB and cover when they need to. All of this and both them AND Wade Phillips have a better understanding of each other. It’s not a huge upgrade, but it’s still an arrow pointing up in my opinion.
CB – Upgraded
Trumaine Johnson is a talented CB in the NFL and he is gone. You can focus on that if you want to. Give me Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters manning the edges for Wade Philips on game day and I will take that option every week. Throw in the fact Wade and Talib have already proven they can excel together and this is an easy call. Solid Upgrade
S – Upgraded
Look at all of the units above that maintained solid talent and are now (finally) playing in the same scheme for multiple seasons. Unless you have players approaching or passing 30 years of age you are ok and here the Rams have a very young Johnson combined with Joyner who is entering his prime. Solid upgrade.
Any way you slice it when you break down the Rams unit by unit each one has the arrow pointing up in regards to their 2018 performance expectations. You can add that up any way you like and it points to big-time results in the teams future is what fans are looking for and I for one don’t think they will be disappointed when the playoffs come rolling around.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over
PS – QB – Upgraded – did I really need to add this one? 🙂