“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”
- Eckhart Tolle
Getting back to the Super Bowl in search of redemption is a mentally uncomfortable place to be for fans who have no control over what turns the season may take. How can we be present in the here and now when we keep looking back at what could have been, and forward to what might be?
It’s not a very Zen way to look at things.
Thankfully, there is an alternative.
Even though the 2019 Los Angeles Rams’ fortunes over the next five months are currently a mystery, the intrigue will ramp up on a weekly basis. Here are some of the storylines that could make this season plenty of fun and will help us enjoy the ride to wherever this season ultimately takes us.
Clarity regarding the 2018 draft class
After outlasting the Jeff Fisher regime, Rams General Manager Les Snead has enjoyed a resurgence behind the rise of new Head Coach Sean McVay. Snead has now had three drafts to restock the cupboard in the post-Fisher era, and has had to be creative in doing so due to a limited draft stock at his disposal thanks to the Rams’ trades for QB Jared Goff in 2016, WR Sammy Watkins in 2017 and recent trades for WR Brandin Cooks, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib and EDGE Dante Fowler, Jr.
The results? Snagging slot rocket Cooper Kupp and safety John Johnson III in the the third round make it hard to view Snead’s 2017 NFL Draft haul as anything short of a success. In that draft, Snead also selected tight end Gerald Everett, receiver Josh Reynolds, and EDGE Samson Ebukam who have all contributed during big moments since being selected.
The Rams’ 2018 NFL Draft is trickier to evaluate though, largely because as the Rams have become a good team, there has simply been less opportunity for rookies to contribute. Last season the only rookie to see much playing time at all was defensive end John Franklin-Myers who played on roughly 30% of the team’s defensive snaps.
So the jury is out on the 2018 class...but not for long.
This season the Rams are projected to start three of their sophomores: center Brian Allen, guard Joseph Noteboom and nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. Linebacker Micah Kiser would have made it four had he not injured his pectoral muscle in the preseason requiring season-ending surgery. JFM was somewhat shockingly released this week, but the contributions of Noteboom, Allen, and Joseph-Day will go a long way toward letting us understand how the depth of the roster will look once the Rams have write big checks for guys like Goff and Kupp.
We will also be able to gauge how great our trust in Snead should be in overseeing future drafts for McVay’s staff which would be reassuring since they both recently had their contracts extended through 2023.
Will Goff’s ascension continue?
Following a horrid rookie campaign (with some built in excuses that rhyme with swisher, chorus, and uhhh…what rhymes with Greg Robinson?), Goff has shown improvement each season. It generally seems like a lock that the Rams will end up extending Goff, but if they want to wait they will have the luxury of seeing what steps Goff takes this season first. It has been reported that Goff looked stronger in training camp and is flicking passes around more effortlessly, which is a good sign. We won’t know if Goff’s ability to make quick reads and identifications against elite defenses has improved until teams like the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens visit the Coliseum later in the season, but the results of those contests will be an excellent barometer on where the Rams’ and Goff’s ceiling lies.
Only time will tell whether Todd Gurley’s knee is worth fretting about in any sort of excess, but we know he has looked comfortable throughout the offseason. That’s mighty intriguing since the Rams drafted an absolute burner/contingency plan in Memphis running back Darrell Henderson. In the event that Gurley remains healthy, the Rams backfield is going to be a cool and deadly two-headed beast that McVay is going to have a ball game-planning with. Should Gurley’s knee concerns become an issue again, it will still be really fun to watch Henderson as a featured back. Either way, keeping an eye toward the Rams backfield should be fascinating.
Last season started out with plenty of excitement regarding the newly constructed “Lock Angeles” defense, that would feature cornerbacks Talib and Peters. Unfortunately, that group was pretty much derailed by injuries by the third week of the season. They’ll get another crack at it this season though, and will have additions in safeties Eric Weddle (FA), Taylor Rapp (rookie), and cornerback David Long Jr. (rookie). Last season, Peters was compromised with a calf injury but looked much more comfortable when Talib returned late in the season. If the corners do their thing, and John Johnson III continues to be one of the defense’s better players, this unit could make it much easier for the Rams pass rush to get home. Let’s see.
While the Rams’ ultimate goal remains righting a wrong in the Super Bowl, we may as well enjoy what’s in front of us one game at time, after all what choice do we have?