As we near the 2019 NFL season, the predictions are beginning to fly. Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski recently wrote an article outlining why he believes the Los Angeles Rams are bound to take a “step back” in 2019.
Sobleski’s main arguments can be summarized as:
The Patriots provided a game plan to beat them.
McVay’s offensive approach became too predictable
The offensive line is in flux
Gurley’s knee is the great unknown
The defense took a slight step back
Some of these concerns are more valid than others, so let’s dissect them.
Offense was solved
This is a bogus point. Anybody who’s attempted to make this a valid factor as to why the Rams will regress is skipping over the exact proof that the “offense being solved” has no relevance whatsoever. The Rams faced a ferocious and stifling defense in week 14 when matched up against the Chicago Bears and Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio’s defense. The offense had a horrific showing that amounted in a loss where they only mustered six points offensively. By all accounts, the offense was “solved” that cold day in Chicago, yet the Rams were still able to score 23, 31, 48, 30, and 26 points in their next five games, four of which were wins. Not to mention, that stretch allowed them to earn their spot in Super Bowl 53.
Offensive line in flux
This concern is legit. The Rams lost LG Rodger Saffold in free agency to the Tennessee Titans. They also declined to exercise C John Sullivan’s player option, sending him to free agency with his linemate. The replacements for both guys are 2018 rookies Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen. The concern isn’t necessarily a knock on the replacement players’ talent levels, it’s more about the completely unknown ability of both Noteboom and Allen. Replacing Saffold — who was one of the best guards in football — will be no easy task, and replacing the whit and smarts of an 11-year veteran Sully could prove just as tough.
This is the second legit concern on the list. Much has been made about the Gurley knee saga, so there’s no point to re-hash those issues. What happens in 2019 will be interesting, though the Rams ensured they’d be ready for all scenarios when they spent a relatively premium pick on one of the most explosive college football players in the nation in third-round pick RB Darrell Henderson.
Once again, I disagree with Sobleski here. His concern stems with the losses of NT Ndamukong Suh and FS Lamarcus Joyner. Suh’s loss will be felt, sure, though the “loss” of Joyner will hurt much less. By allowing both of them to walk, the Rams were able to sign Edge Clay Matthews, FS Eric Weddle, and retain Edge Dante Fowler Jr. To help fill the void of Suh, the Rams spent draft capital on NT Greg Gaines. Gaines won’t have the same impact as Suh, though did Suh really have as big of an impact as anyone expected? Particularly when playing next to a superhuman in Aaron Donald?
The potential for a slight step back is obviously there, it is for every NFL team. The belief that the Rams could get knocked off their rocker is a strange one though, especially considering how effective the regime under Head Coach Sean McVay has been.