The 2016 Los Angeles Rams returned to LA after 22 years on the promise of finally turning a corner. Annually billed as a dark horse candidate, the Rams once again were the youngest team in the NFL looking to make good on potential for the first time in...well, for the first time. Period.
Now seven games and a bye week into the 2016, which Rams have disappointed most based on their expectations heading into the season?
RB Just Todd Gurley
Despite the Rams drafting Cal QB Jared Goff #1 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, it was Gurley who was hyped up as the team superstar this offseason. Gurley graced the Hard Knocks title entrance. Gurley led the commercials and billboards across LA. And it was Gurley who topped the list of the most jerseys sold in California this season, a state with three other NFL franchises competing with the Rams for attention.
Coming off of winning the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Gurley was easily the most hyped up player on the Rams. The mere suggestion that perhaps that pressure was undue was enough to send some Rams fans into internet commenter rage fits.
But as that last link covered, a popular over/under for Gurley’s 2016 rushing yardage was 1,500 yards. Consider the poll results from this stat prediction piece from TST’s Misone Adiasor:
Sit on those stat lines for a moment.
Todd Gurley is currently on pace to finish the 2016 season with 921 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 384 receiving yards and 0 receiving TDs.
WR Tavon Austin
It’s going to all focus off the run game. We’re going to be able to, if need be, hand it off to Todd (Gurley) and if someone says "we’re not going to let you do that," then we’re going to spread it around. And so when it’s all said and done, I think we’ll be able to look back and I think see Tavon maybe double in catches over what he had last year. And that’s the most important thing, is just get the chunks downfield.
That was Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher on Tavon Austin in early June predicting Tavon Austin would "maybe double" his output from 2015 to 2016.
In 2015, Tavon Austin finished with 52 receptions for 473 yards to go with 434 rushing yards on 52 attempts.
He is currently on pace to hit 82 receptions (˄58%), 683 receiving yards (˄44%), 29 rushes (˅44%) and 142 rushing yards (˅67%).
That’d make 825 offensive yards from Tavon Austin in his fourth year in the NFL after signing a huge contract extension keeping him a Ram through 2021.
QB Jared Goff
The #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft remains a backup through the first half of the season while watching several of his peers (chiefly Philadelphia Eagles QB Carson Wentz and Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott) take the field in their rookie season.
There remains legitimate hope for Goff’s long-term NFL potential, but the fact that he was outplayed in the preseason by Case Keenum, the Rams’ backup QB in 2015 and one of this season’s worst QBs in the NFL, and has yet to earn the immediate trust of Fisher and the staff to the point of taking over is souring that hope.
TE Tyler Higbee, WR Pharoh Cooper and WR Nelson Spruce
Ah, the darlings of the preseason.
Higbee, Cooper and Spruce were tabbed as the potential Mr. Fix-Its of the preseason and training camp, the panacea for the Rams’ offensive illness. The two fourth-round rookies and UDFA were the rookies who were going to come in and provide an injection of talent to the passing target group that was sorely needing an upgrade.
To this point, Higbee remains a non-factor in the passing game with just two catches for six yards despite playing more than a third of the Rams’ offensive snaps this season. Cooper, yet to log his first NFL reception, has been a healthy scratch as of late ceding time to sixth-round Mike Thomas and second-year pro Bradley Marquez largely for special teams value. And Spruce has been stuck in injury/rookie limbo yet to make his NFL debut.
The defensive line
Long pushed as the best unit on the team, the 2016 Rams defensive line underwent some major changes from the year prior. DE Chris Long was no longer a part of the rotation for the first time since the Rams took him #2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft. With William Hayes promoted to the starting slot across from DE Robert Quinn, the Rams added depth through free agency in signing DE Quinton Coples and adding DT Cam Thomas.
Heading into Week 9, the Rams have just 10 sacks, tied for 29th in the NFL. The line has nine of those sacks with S T.J. McDonald accounting for the outlier.
There’s an easy asterisk to point to here with injuries to Quinn and DT Michael Brockers affecting personnel consistency, but the output has nonetheless been subpar for what should be one of the more terrorizing defensive lines in the NFL.
HC Jeff Fisher
This option might be a bit of an outlier in that there were few Rams fans expecting much from Fish in 2016, but there was a niche there. Touting his experience, defensive oversight and the physicality of his teams, some did pipe up in defense of Fish.
Now having guided the Rams to a 3-4 start, he’s just five losses away from being the losingest head coach in the history of the NFL.
So who’s your pick for the most disappointing Rams of 2016?