Gearing up for the 2018 NFL season leaves plenty of unanswered questions around the league.
From players’ health, coaches adaptability to the ever-changing game, and other situations (contracts? ex: Aaron Donald).
What are the story lines to follow? Dan Graziano, Mike Sando, and Kevin Seifert of ESPN examine 99 situations that will help define the 2018 season, which can be found here.
Let’s take a look at the Los Angeles Rams-related themes:
48. What can Head Coach Sean McVay do for an encore?
The Rams led the NFL in scoring in 2017, and the only major change was replacing Sammy Watkins with Brandin Cooks. With Coach of the Year Sean McVay leading the offense and running back Todd Gurley taking handoffs from Jared Goff, the Rams should continue to be fun for a while.
I mean, yeah. The offense was great last year and could potentially improve this season. The major replacements come at WR - Sammy Watkins to Brandin Cooks, and at TE - Tyler Higbee to Gerald Everett. Both Cooks and Everett bring an infusion of speed and dangerous big-play ability to an offense that already has it in bundles.
55. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams:
Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year has been seeking a new contract for more than a year. His price has only gone up in the interim. The Rams seem committed to getting him signed, and could use the franchise tag next spring if they do not, but until then, Donald is officially at the top of the list of pending free agents.
I’ve got the most crazy idea: #PayTheMan.
62. Brandin Cooks, WR, Rams:
Assuming Odell Beckham Jr. gets his new deal this offseason, Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin (and maybe Martavis Bryant) would headline next year’s free-agent wide receiver class. It remains to be seen whether Cooks (who doesn’t even turn 25 until September!) can produce better numbers in the “Sammy Watkins role” in the L.A. offense, but obviously the lackluster stats didn’t keep Watkins from cashing in.
As mentioned above, this is going to be an interesting situation within the offense. The major difference between Cooks and Watkins? Well, Cooks gets the full offseason to work with his new QB as opposed to two weeks prior to the start of the season.
86. Star power in Los Angeles:
The Rams played fantasy football by adding Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh and Brandin Cooks. It will be exciting if things go well -- and potentially volatile if they do not.
I..... guess. Lots of character was added to the locker room, there’s no dispute there. That thing could erupt at any point in time. But as they say - winning heals all wounds. As long as the Rams are winning games, will players be kept in check? We’ll find out soon enough.
Bonus: 10 games you wont want to miss:
Week 1: Rams at Raiders. Jon Gruden returns to the sideline against former understudy Sean McVay and the revamped Rams.
This game definitely has some fun story lines. Obviously the Rams and Raiders have a long-standing California rivalry, but that seems to span more across fan bases as opposed to franchises.
Also, as ESPN’s talent noted, the week one matchup will be the master vs student so-to-speak. Can Head Coach Sean McVay out-maneuver his mentor?
These are some of the fun story lines that’ll define the 2018 season. The Rams are firmly entrenched as a team with major aspirations.