2021 ushered in a new era for the Los Angeles Rams, and for the most part a lot of the change has been positive. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has replaced Jared Goff and brought the team to new heights. The Rams lost key cogs in Cam Akers and Robert Woods due to injury, and LA is now turning to newcomers in Odell Beckham, Jr., Von Miller, and Sony Michel. After a mid-season slump where the team dropped three consecutive games, Sean McVay’s squad has pivoted to win all four December contests. The Rams are 11-4, which highlights just how good of a year 2021 has been for them.
But the beginning of a new year is a time for introspection and to set out in pursuit of improvement - so what can Los Angeles hope to accomplish in 2022?
1 - Take the NFC West crown
The Rams have a slight advantage over the Arizona Cardinals with two games left on the schedule for both teams. LA could control its own destiny by defeating the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, but they could also get some help from Arizona should the Cards drop either game against the Dallas Cowboys or the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams have not won their division since their Super Bowl (appearance) season in 2018, so it’s time for them to take back the title.
2 - Win the Super Bowl
The intentions of McVay and general manager Les Snead were clear when they made a swap at quarterback this offseason - LA has its sights set on a Super Bowl victory. The defining measure of the trade for Stafford will be whether or not the blockbuster acquisition results in world championship for the team either this year or in the near future. This was the standard set by the team at the time of the move, and anything short of this accolade is a failure.
3 - Get improved play from the supporting cast in the secondary
Jalen Ramsey played the best football of his career in 2020 for the Rams, so it was fair to expect some level of regression this season; however, the star defensive back has once again raised the bar and has become an unavoidable defensive force.
But Los Angeles needs complementary pieces to emerge in the secondary, or teams will be able to pick on lesser players in order to mitigate the impact of Ramsey.
Darious Williams was a reliable contributor for LA a season ago, but he has not performed at the same level this year. Dont’e Deayon always seems to be in good position, but at 5’9, 159lbs he often finds himself physically outmatched. Promising rookie Robert Rochell has been on the injured reserve list since Week 15, but he may be able to return for the playoffs. Terrell Burgess is the primary backup to Ramsey in the “star” position, but he has been unable to carve out a significant role in his second season.
Can someone step up when the team needs them to the most?
4 - Keep the offensive line together
Center Brian Allen’s breakout year has been one of the more surprising outcomes for LA this season, but he is slated to be a free agent in 2022 along with Austin Corbett, Joseph Noteboom, and Coleman Shelton. It is also not yet known if Andrew Whitworth will stick around for another season, as he has now surpassed age 40.
The Rams learned in 2019 just how difficult it can be to replace proven starters along the offensive line, as they lost John Sullivan and Rodger Saffold who were key contributors during the 2018 hay days.
LA probably can’t keep everyone, but it hurts to lose premium homegrown talent.