Over the years, the fine NFL analysts over at ESPN have always done a variety of preseason rankings prior to the start of the new season. These rankings usually focus on specific position groups and coaching staffs, but some of their bigger exercises include variations of offensive and defensive units, i.e. skill positions, secondaries, front sevens, etc.
On Monday morning, Bill Barnwell released the first edition of his “offensive weapons” rankings, which takes into account the skill players that teams are able to surround their quarterbacks with. After being considered one of the best teams over the last two seasons, offensively and defensively, the Rams offense took a bit of a hit after they lost both Brandin Cooks and Todd Gurley this offseason.
Here’s what Barnwell had to say about that:
“The dream fell apart for the Rams, who responded to a frustrating season by doing something that would have been unimaginable two years ago: trading away Brandin Cooks and cutting Todd Gurley. They replaced the duo by using second-round picks on Cam Akers and Van Jefferson. Sean McVay desperately needs Akers or 2019 third-rounder Darrell Henderson to step up as an every-down back given how ordinary Malcolm Brown has been for most of his career.”
Without Cooks, the likes of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are going to have to continue their respective hot streaks that both of them started while picking up the slack in the passing game. Tyler Higbee also saw a huge jump in production which likely signifies a dynamic shift in trust towards the former WKU grad over teammate Gerald Everett.
“The big three at wide receiver is now a big two with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, but Los Angeles still has three devastating receiving weapons when you add tight end Tyler Higbee to the mix. Over the last five weeks of 2019, Higbee led all receivers — not tight ends, but all pass-catchers — in receiving yards (522). That number probably isn’t sustainable with Gerald Everett back in the mix, given that the other Rams tight end played just four snaps over that five-game stretch, but if Higbee is a top-end TE1, this team might not miss Cooks.”
Even minus the likes of Cooks and Gurley, McVay has built himself an offensive system that isn’t reliant on the skillsets of its best players. It is essentially a flotation device that helps mitigate the loss of production from injuries and sub-par talent by being extremely adaptable to whoever lines up out on the field on a play-by-play basis.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s as much cause for concern as Barnwell makes it seem like there is at the moment. This team will be just fine, offensively.
Now for today’s links.
Stu Jackson highlights how rookie Cam Akers was named a top-10 candidate for NFL Rookie of the Year (TheRams.com)
Cameron DaSilva thinks Darrell Henderson’s quiet rookie year may set up for a gem of a fantasy season in 2020 (The Rams Wire)
Bret Stuter lists the five jersey swaps we won’t get to see in 2020 (Ramblin’ Fan)
Bill Barnwell ranks every NFL team’s “offensive weapons” heading into the 2020 season (ESPN)
Jeremy Fowler ranks the top-10 edge rushers in the NFL with help from players, coaches, and execs (ESPN)
Washington is officially retiring their team name and logo (Bleacher Report)
Brent Sobleski pens a early 2021 mock draft (Bleacher Report)
NFLPA rep Nate Solder warns the public of the potential for “no football” if NFL does not keep players safety in mind (Pro Football Talk)
Ben Standig wonders if the uncertainty around the college football season will force players to bail early (The Athletic)