When the LA Rams take the field next season, we know that they’ll have a new stadium, new colors, new logos, and new uniforms. So much about the Rams, like the world, has changed recently. However, fans may expect that the team couldn’t actually be all that different from the team that won the NFC and went to the Super Bowl in February of 2019. It was only a year and change ago, after all.
They may also assume that this “window” of time for the franchise is the same in Fall of 2020 as it was in Fall of 2018. That could be because Sean McVay is still the head coach, Jared Goff is still the starting quarterback, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods still the leading receivers, Aaron Donald is still the best defensive player in the NFL, and even Andrew Whitworth still manages the left side of the offensive line.
But the reality is that at least half of the LA Rams starters from last February’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots is gone and many reserve and role players will have been swapped out by Week 1 of next season too. Here’s a quick rundown of the changes to the Super Bowl “starters” from 15 months ago.
Super Bowl starters:
QB - Jared Goff
WR - Robert Woods
WR - Josh Reynolds
TE - Tyler Higbee
LT - Andrew Whitworth
RG - Austin Blythe
RT - Rob Havenstein
The offense has lost four starters over the last year.
Gurley has been replaced by Cam Akers. Cooks has been replaced by Van Jefferson. Saffold and Sullivan’s spots have had a few names run through those positions, including Blythe, who himself is maybe not a starter anymore either. Though he did re-sign with the team. Kupp was injured and is the real starter over Reynolds anyhow.
And when I say “replaced” I don’t mean that these players have been replaced in production, nor do we know if these rookies will start, but it would be great to avoid a semantics argument.
Gurley and Cooks were on the roster and now Akers and Jefferson are on the roster.
DE - Michael Brockers
DT - Aaron Donald
OLB - Samson Ebukam
Dante Fowler, Jr
SS - John Johnson
I’m listing 12 players here because Robey-Coleman did play 40 snaps.
Not only did the defensive line lose Suh, but of nine players I listed playing behind Donald, seven are now gone. The Rams are re-doing their entire linebackers unit and secondary with the exception of Ebukam and Johnson, both of whom would still have to win jobs next season, to some degree. The team also nearly lost Brockers but you’d have to think that with an uncertain offseason ahead, having some veterans around besides Donald to guide the team into next season could be helpful.
None of this is to imply that the Rams will be worse off because of the changes.
Jalen Ramsey is an upgrade over either Peters or Talib. Taylor Rapp should be an upgrade over Joyner. I think the team should be optimistic about the additions of A’Shawn Robinson and Leonard Floyd.
There’s also the change at coordinator, where Brandon Staley replaces Wade Phillips and hopes to inject the youth and modern innovation that so many teams and fans crave these days. Offensively, Kevin O’Connell has taken the job after leaving his post with Washington. If the LA Rams return to the Super Bowl next season, it will be more because of the things that they did in getting away from that iteration of the team, not necessarily because they stuck with the same plan that got them there in the first place.
It may also take an improvement from the defense, which actually did get better last season — from 17th in DVOA during their Super Bowl campaign to ninth in 2019 — and now has more fresh blood than old guard as they prepare for an offseason that will require that some of these players meet for the first time over Zoom.
But the necessity for smooth adaptation during constant evolution is simply part of the job expectations.