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No Stupid Questions: 2020 Rams

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What are some thoughts that could be obvious to many, but not everyone?

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

There sure are a lot of stupid questions posted online, the modern sports radio. That’s what the entire internet should be boiled down to actually: modern day sports radio. Well, one place you won’t find stupid questions is here in this post, which I guess means this is not sports radio.

Except that it is.

“Are the Rams good?”

By most accounts, the Rams are not bad. They’ve gone 33-15 in the last three seasons and what they’ve lost on defense could potentially be made up for with changes at coordinator and expected regression in regards to the offensive line. But predictions for next season are worth ... well, they are not worth much.

Last year, SI predicted the Browns to go 11-5, the Chargers to go 10-6, the Ravens to go 7-9, the Colts to make the AFC Championship game, the Patriots to win the Super Bowl (again), and the Rams to go 12-4.

Instead, LA went 9-7. (But they weren’t that far from 12-4.)

Because of the losses on defense (Cory Littleton, Dante Fowler, Jr, Nickell Robey-Coleman) and uncertainty on the o-line, some do think that LA will be below .500 and perhaps last in the NFC West. The Bills, Titans, Texans, Ravens, and Seahawks all made the postseason in 2019 to the surprise of some and that’s a common story every year.

So are the Rams “good”? There is simply a line that says: the San Francisco 49ers sure look a hell of a lot better right now. It doesn’t mean that the results will play out that way. The Rams were picked to finish well ahead of San Francisco less than a year ago.

“Who is the Rams best player?”

Aaron Donald. And LA has some other great players too, but Donald has been the most dominant football player, at any position, since joining the league in 2014. That’s something I’ve been saying for at least a few years now too.

His 72 sacks since 2014 ranks second behind Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals, but Donald plays a position that is not supposed to get even close to 12 sacks per season. In that time he also has a commanding lead in QB hits and tackles for a loss.

Consider how strong of a Hall of Fame argument that Marshall Faulk made as a running back for the Rams at the turn of the century: from 1998 with the Colts to 2002 with St. Louis, he averaged 2,096 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns per season, making three first team All-Pro rosters. In the last five seasons, Donald has made every single first team All-Pro roster.

One more and he’ll match the six in a row by Lawrence Taylor from 1981 to 1986. J.J. Watt, who entered the league three years before Donald, had four in a row and five total. Taylor is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Watt is a three-time winner, and Donald is a two-time winner.

He just turned 29 a month ago.

“What’s bad about the Rams?”

The biggest dropoffs in quality from 2018 compared to 2019 were mostly attributed to the offensive line. Losses to free agency, retirement, injuries, age, inexperience — it all hurt LA’s offensive line. This can happen to any team and it has screwed up a lot of “dynasty” plans throughout NFL history. We’ve also seen examples of lines that came back stronger.

What was bad about the Rams may have started with the offensive line last season but that won’t necessarily be true next season. They should be expected to regress closer to the mean in most scenarios.

What could be bad about the Rams next season is the losses of middle linebacker Cory Littleton and edge rusher Dante Fowler, Jr to the middle(ish) of the defense. But that, like everything else, is only a concern at this point. It hasn’t proven to be a problem yet, because nothing is known until the games begin.

“Can you say something else good about the Rams to offset that?”

Not only is Aaron Donald the best defensive player in the NFL, but Jalen Ramsey has the talent to be the best cornerback in the NFL, if he hasn’t been already. Safety John Johnson is a valuable player who missed most of 2019 and is returning. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd is at least an upgrade for the run defense, if not a match to Fowler as a pass rusher. Nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson could create opportunities for Donald and make a significant impact on the defense.

So while they did lose Littleton and Fowler, the Rams might actually improve on defense and they could be a sleeper for having one of the league’s best overall.

“Is there going to be a season?”

Nobody knows.

“A season without fans in the stadium?”

Unknown.

“Can we let some fans in? Maybe 25 or 50%?”

Can’t tell you.

“What if a player tests positive for COVID-19 just before the game?”

We don’t know what will happen in those cases, yet. Virtually nothing is known about how the NFL will proceed. They are probably waiting to see what happens with the MLB and NBA, both of whom would start sooner than the August preseason if they get rolling on an expected schedule.

“If the Rams struggle, is Sean McVay on the hot seat?”

Moves like that would be far from unprecedented and you can feel the tension building with the fanbase, not only in regards to the underwhelming performance from the offense in 2019, but also because of the poor outcomes from the extensions handed out and some acquisitions made that have strapped them financially and stripped them of first round picks.

However, the Rams do have so much invested in the McVay era that things may have to be catastrophic for him to be fired. And I don’t mean going 4-12. I mean catastrophic. If LA flounders and has a few embarrassing games and Jared Goff gets benched and goes 4-12, that’s still not enough to convince me that if he were fired, McVay wouldn’t be the most popular head coach available.

Similarly, the best place for McVay to be in 2021 is with the Rams. They might not have a first round pick, but they’ve got the dozens of players who were brought in to run the offense and man the defense for McVay.

I’m not making a personal statement on what the right or wrong decision is, only sharing an opinion that the organization would feel they’re best served to see the McVay era through at least 2021. He is signed through 2023.

That’s enough for No Stupid Questions today. Sorry for the stupid questions.