The Los Angeles Rams finished 9-7 in 2019 and missed the postseason. During the offseason, they lost Cory Littleton, Dante Fowler and Nickell Robey-Coleman to free agency, traded Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans, and released Todd Gurley. The Rams not only lacked money to spend, they were without a first round draft pick because of the move to acquire Jalen Ramsey at midseason.
Sean McVay fired Wade Phillips after finishing 10th in yards per drive allowed and 12th in points per drive allowed. He replaced him with Brandon Staley, who had only entered the NFL coaching ranks three years earlier.
The Rams knew they had Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey on defense, plus John Johnson returning from missing most of the previous campaign, but almost immediately lost Littleton’s expected replacement to a season-ending injury and Leonard Floyd was a one-year gamble from the moment he signed.
Offensively, many rejected the idea of drafting a running back with the 52nd overall pick when LA had clear “needs” at other positions, but who else in the draft would have been needed more in the last two months than Cam Akers?
The Rams also went into the season not knowing who could emerge as a third receiving option after dealing Cooks and that is a question the remains open-ended, even as Cooks put the finishing touches on a year in Houston that was as productive as his 2018 effort under McVay. That hasn’t kept the Texans from being 4-12 or the Rams from making it to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
Despite harsh criticisms regarding the performance of the offensive line last season, no changes were made to that unit and in fact Les Snead re-signed Austin Blythe with some of the precious few dollars he had to spend. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, arguably the best at doing what he does, turned Blythe, Austin Corbett, Joe Noteboom and David Edwards into the best versions of themselves that they’ve ever been and Andrew Whitworth returned back to his all-pro type of self.
The Rams only improved by one game in the win column in 2020 but they are also only one win away from playing in the NFC Championship game. That’s not an expectation I saw from any national voices in the offseason — and rarely still in the regular season — and that’s probably because most felt that LA would be “the same” at best. Except that the LA Rams in 2019 were not that many steps away from being in the playoffs and if Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey are getting opportunities then anything is possible.
The 2019 Rams were also “good enough” to make it to the divisional round — they just didn’t get enough of the bounces in their favor.
What is surprising is that Staley didn’t take the defense from above average to good, he took it from above average to fantastic. The positive regression for the offensive line, the improvement at running back with healthier, younger players, the full season with Johnson and Ramsey in the secondary, these were to be expected. A sixth rounder immediately owning a starting job at safety, Akers playing like the best rookie back, Noteboom holding left tackle for Whitworth, these were the surprises.
But has it been as surprising as you expected? Or do you expect even better? Does McVay need to win another playoff game or three before he can count 2020 as a “success”?
Have the Rams exceeded your expectations for 2020 already?
This poll is closed
No, this is what I expected
No, I expected better