QB: Jared Goff
RB: Todd Gurley
WR: Brandin Cooks
WR: Robert Woods
WR: Cooper Kupp
TE: Gerald Everett
LT: Andrew Whitworth
LG: Rodger Saffold
C: John Sullivan
RG: Jamon Brown
RT: Rob Havenstein
DE: Michael Brockers
DT: Aaron Donald
DT: Ndamukong Suh
OLB: Matt Longacre
ILB: Mark Barron
OLB: Samson Ebukam
CB: Marcus Peters
CB: Aqib Talib
CB: Nickell Robey-Coleman
S: Lamarcus Joyner
S: John Johnson III
That’s the projected starting lineup for the Los Angeles Rams from NFL Network’s Gregg Rosenthal that doesn’t include a single rookie from the Rams’ class via the 2018 NFL Draft.
While it’s not all that surprising, it does perhaps tamper some of the wilder expectations some Rams fans have had around rookies like Oklahoma Sooners EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Virginia Cavaliers ILB Micah Kiser.
Rosenthal’s other lineup projections are worth checking out as teams head into Phase III of the offseason program, but his notes on the Rams lineup are worth keeping in your back pocket:
Don’t necessarily expect Brandin Cooks to get the targets of a traditional No. 1 receiver. The Rams will want more production out of Cooks than Sammy Watkins gave them last year, but the yardage could still be split evenly between Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
This is something I touched on in reacting to ESPN’s Mike Clay’s statistical projections and a point of discussion on S10E9 of Turf Show Radio especially given how fans reacted to the proposition of re-signing Watkins this year in free agency. Many bristled at the idea of handing out a major extension after Watkins caught just 39 passes on 70 targets for 593 yards. Watkins signed a three-year, $48m deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. Now that the Rams have Cooks in his stead at WR1, how much production would be needed to justify a similar deal? Cooks’ contract expires after this season, so the Rams are going to have to make a decision on him as well as a bunch of other key starters.
Gerald Everett played far less than Tyler Higbee as a rookie, but tight end is a notoriously difficult position to make a quick impact. Everett’s explosiveness as a receiver should get him on the field more.
I love me some Young Gerald. I’d have no problem seeing more of him in 2018.
The Rams tried to address their lack of offensive line depth in the draft, but it’s fair to say that 37-year-old Andrew Whitworth remains one of the most irreplaceable players on the team. General manager Les Snead has a lot of work to do because so many of his starting lineman are nearing free agency.
No position unit carries higher long-term concerns than the offensive line. Whitworth turns 37 in December. Sullivan hits 33 in August. Saffold, Brown and Havenstein are all on contracts that expire after this season. Yes, the Rams brought in TCU Horned Frogs OT Joseph Noteboom and Michigan State Spartans C Brian Allen, but it’s going to take more than that to transition into a functional long-term solution.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has a lot of options for how he can line up this loaded defense, but a three-man line of Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers looks ferocious. That trio should make unproven outside linebackers Matt Longacre and Samson Ebukam become far more well-known.
The linebackers don’t need to be that special playing behind perhaps the stoutest line in football and playing in front of perhaps the best secondary. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib both play a gambling style that fits perfectly in Phillips’ scheme. Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson are an underrated duo at safety who will provide cover on the back end. The entire group has a tenacious playing personality.
Yeah, that second paragraph.
There are virtually no position battles on this team for starting jobs, which is one sign of a team ready to contend for a Super Bowl. Coach Sean McVay still needs to figure out its second inside linebacker and second defensive end, but those spots are unlikely to top 500 snaps.