The future is now
Leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, it felt like Los Angeles Rams General Manager Les Snead was making a deal a week. The moves on defense appeared designed to better suit Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive priorities while the trade for WR Brandin Cooks was designed to fill the void left when WR Sammy Watkins signed with the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency.
In the draft, the Rams were content to puff up the 53-man roster. The Rams bolstered the teams depth, addressed needs at edge rushers and chose offensive lineman building for the future.
But with all of the major acquisitions before the draft, the future is now.
This frenzied offseason has left Rams fans with exploding expectations that the team is posed to make a legitimate Super Bowl run this season. Even though on paper the roster is in better shape than 2017, the Rams will still need to play like a Super Bowl contender.
Heading into the 2018 season, here a few things the Rams must improve on in order to achieve the ultimate goal.
Navigate the schedule
The Rams have one of the toughest schedules on paper due in to the fact they won the NFC West finishing 11-5.
Last year, the Rams were 4-4 at home and 7-1 on the road. Last year’s home record was unacceptable and has to be improved since home field advantage is supposed to mean something even if Rams Owner Stan Kroenke thinks we don’t have such an advantage.
If the Rams remain as good on the road as they were last year and improve on the home record, the team’s chances of actually winning that elusive championship in the city of Los Angeles should be greatly enhanced.
I don’t care how it goes down or what the scores are. We’ve got to win more games at home.
Franchise QB Jared Goff needs to get better
Goff had a breakout season under the tutelage of first-year Head Coach Sean McVay. This year, Goff needs to continue rising. What separates the above average or good quarterbacks from the elite is the ability to bring their team from behind and win a game in the final moments.
Goff just hasn’t gotten there year. Last year in Week 2 against Washington at home, Jared threw an interception to seal the game after Washington QB Kirk Cousins had just led his team on a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Maybe it was just a bad playcall as McVay took the blame, the right thing to do if you’re trying to improve the confidence of a young quarterback. Still, the juxtaposition quarterbacks’ performances in the pressure-packed moments at the end of the game was obvious.
Three weeks later when the Rams played the Seattle Seahawks, Goff marched the offense down the field to set up a a chance to win, but WR Cooper Kupp couldn’t come up with the game-tying catch on 3rd down and the Rams turned the ball over on downs a play later. Losing that game on what one could argue was a catchable ball wasn’t the issue. The circumstances of preventing Goff from leading a late-game win via the offense is the concern.
Coming into 2018, Jared has to grow into quarterback teams legitimately fear giving the ball back to in the last minutes of a game. And it’s something Rams fans should demand to see happen, not hope for.
Improve the run defense
The biggest problem the Rams had on defense was their inability to stop the run on a consistent basis.
Each week was an adventure, There were times during the season when the Rams looked good stopping the ground game, but it was far from consistent enough. The Rams’ defense just gave up way to many big runs in 2017. Many times, defenders completely whiffed on easy tackles which would have led to lost yardage and instead led to big gains. And the lack of a run stopping defense was certainly a contributing factor in the playoff loss against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Rams linebacking corps still leaves much to be desired, it is inconceivable to me that the team would have made the moves they did unless Wade Phillips was convinced that the players replacing those lost are better against the run.
Taking into consideration how good the Rams’ offense was last year if the Rams defense becomes that force against the run I envision with their bevy of great players who can get to the quarterback, this team could be that something special that wins the Super Bowl
The coaching challenge is different in 2018...and bigger
McVay has his first year as an NFL head coach under his belt and a pretty impressive one having been named 2017 NFL Coach of the Year.
That means nothing in 2018.
The Rams can’t sit on their remarkable turnaround from last year. The offseason moves are proof positive that the team is in Super Bowl or bust mode. Last year, McVay’s job was to convince a young team that they could win games. This year, he has to get them through a year that they know they should win games.
I’m obviously excited for 2018 and I’m ready for some Rams football.
It’s time. Angelenos have been waiting for an NFL Championship since 1951.