With the regular season just shy of 3 weeks away, we're getting to the nitty gritty Rams fans. The past few years, you've been hearing the Rams as a trendy 'sleeper' pick due to their youth and talent. Those whispers aren't as prevalent in 2016 primarily due to the secondary falling apart in free agency.
Instead, pundits are focusing on the offense that the Rams poured so many resources into during the offseason. As 'X-Factors' are identified across the NFL, these so-called experts are pointing at Jared Goff and Co. to make or break the Rams 2016 campaign.
Quarterback Jared Goff
The No. 1 overall pick is the obvious choice here, largely because the Rams so badly need him to be their breakout star. They gave up a ream of draft picks for the right to select Goff because they believe he can develop into their franchise quarterback. But it will take time. Goff not only must adapt to the speed of the NFL; he needs to grow accustomed to relaying plays and taking snaps from under center, after running a nohuddle offense primarily from the shotgun at Cal. -- Alden Gonzalez (ESPN)
WR Tavon Austin
Austin was supposed to be a game changer for the Rams, an undefendable Swiss army knife as a receiver and running back, and a threat to score every time he touched the ball in the return game. That hasn't happened yet, but Austin finally started to make good on some of that potential last year, scoring a combined 10 touchdowns: four rushing, five receiving, and one in the return game. (Danny Kelly, The Ringer)
While I think a lot hinges on the development of Goff and Austin, I don't think that they are the crux of the team. Jeff Fisher has put so much onus on the Run game that I believe Todd Gurley is the ultimate X-Factor for this team.
Let's face it. This passing game - even if drastically improved from 2015 - isn't going to win many games for the Rams in 2016. That issue will only be amplified if Gurley isn't productive this season. I'm not saying that he won't be, I'm just saying that his performance has more of an impact than anyone else on the team will.
The only other player that should be in the conversation is MLB Alec Ogletree. The Rams showed last season that they can be serviceable on defense without star players. But a lack of leadership on the field could seriously undermine an extremely talented unit.