Since free agency has been concluded for quite a while now, you may have forgot really how much “major” turnover the Los Angeles Rams have had. Now, it may not seem like such a large change, but when you “lose” (I’m using this term very loosely) a lot of snaps, they’ve got to be replaced, and hopefully with effective players. The PFF team took a look at the Rams offseason, and where their lost snaps come from.
TOTAL SNAPS LOST: 6617
OFFENSIVE SNAPS LOST: 4400
DEFENSIVE SNAPS LOST: 2217
Center Tim Barnes fled to the rival 49ers, taking his 96.0 PBE with him. The Rams traded their former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson to the Lions for an undisclosed 2018 draft pick, finally closing that chapter and hopefully things work out well for both the Rams and Robinson. Lance Kendricks left for Green Bay in free agency. Kendricks had the worst drop rate among qualified tight ends in 2016 at 12.28.
Well, I’ll be honest, I don’t think the Rams will particularly miss any of these players. Tim Barnes has annually been one of the least effective centers in football, specifically in the run game. Greg Robinson’s tenure will rival Jason Smith’s as one of the Rams all-time biggest busts. Lance Kendricks was an unheralded player, one who had bad hands, and was merely average - and with the savings the Rams created by letting him go, it was likely worth it. Kenny Britt was by far the most effective loss, but it was clear the Rams never had any intention of having him return. Britt was a “fisher guy”, and evidently McVay wanted his own receivers in the building.
The Rams replaced the lost snaps at center by signing John Sullivan in free agency. They’ll saw a major upgrade at left tackle with the addition of Andrew Whitworth to protect the outside for QB Jared Goff. Whitworth was PFF’s second highest graded tackle last year, and Sullivan’s grade was a slight improvment over Barnes’. The additions of Sullivan and Whitworth should help increase the amount of time Goff has to throw in 2017. Lance Kendrickks’ 830 snaps will likely be filled by rookie Gerald Everett, who was head coach Sean McVay’s favorite player in the draft class. Robert Woods was signed in free agency to be the Rams’ primary wide receiver. Third round pick Cooper Kupp should see significant snaps as a rookie and should emerge as Goff’s primary target in the slot. Kupp had the third most routes ran out of the slot in the nation in 2016 and had the sixth highest catch rate out of the slot.
This is where most of the excitement lies within from the offseason. Andrew Whitworth is bound to be a massive upgrade on GRob. Whitworth has been a premier LT in the league for years. John Sullivan replaces Tim Barnes, which also figures to be an upgrade, though his injury history is one to be focused on. Robert Woods wont blow anyone away, but for a team starved for a receiver who can work the intermediate part of the field and convert 3rd downs with a solid set of hands, he’ll be a welcomed addition. Gerald Everett offers McVay some gamebreaking ability, and though most rookie TE’s don’t contribute much, there is hope that the duo of Everett and Higbee can offer two dangerous weapons in the middle of the field. Lastly, the addition of Cooper Kupp is one that has many Rams fans thrilled. A short to intermediate WR, Kupp offers excellent route running ability as well as some of the best hands in the draft, something this offense has been starved for.
The biggest loss for the Rams on the defensive side of the ball is represented by the departure of T.J. McDonald’s 1072 snaps to the Miami Dolphins. McDonald was the 19th ranked safety in run stop percentage last year at 5.2%. The lost snaps of Eugene Sims and Cam Thomas can both be plugged with new pieces but the defense will also be operating a new scheme under Wade Phillips.
There aren’t many losses on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest, obviously coming from starting SS T.J. McDonald, will likely be effectively replaced by Maurice Alexander, who showed last year in his own right, he was a defender deserving of a starting spot. Cam Thomas and Eugene Sims were reserve role defenders.
The Rams plan to replace T.J. McDonald’s snaps by shifting some existing pieces on their roster. Maurice Alexander who played both free safety and strong safety last season will likely be directing replacing McDonald’s snaps at strong safety. Lamarcus Joyner is moving to free safety but will likely get moved around in sub packages. The signing of Nickell Robey-Coleman also adds another defensive back to the mix who can play in the slot in addition to the versatile Joyner. The aptly named Nickell was fourth in the NFL in cover snaps per reception allowed among qualified cornerbacks, allowing a catch only once per 13.0 slot cover snaps. While Barwin hasn’t been very productive he does have familiarity with coach Wade Phillips defense and should be a “plug and play” veteran, who along with frenetic rookie Samson Ebukam can replace the lost 536 edge snaps of Eugene Sims. Rookie sixth round pick Tanzel Smart should be able to replace the snaps lost by the departure of Cam Thomas if more established veterans can’t fill the void. Smart was seventh among qualified college defensive tackles last year in PRP, coming it at a mark of 9.9.
PFF seems on-point here. Like I mentioned earlier, Alexander replaces McDonald. With Lamarcus Joyner sliding to FS, the addition of Nickell Robey-Coleman helps as he is one of the leagues better nickel CB’s, making the backend far more versatile and un-predictable. Whereas Connor Barwin (who’s excelled under Wade Phillips before) will replace Eugene Sims, and a collection of depth replaces Cam Thomas.
The Rams lost a lot of offensive snaps, though that was by plan, and defensively where the Rams haven’t struggled much, they didn’t need to add to much, just some refinement pieces and some veterans that can help with a move to the 3-4. Only time will tell how the additions work out.