What’s the biggest story with the LA Rams right now that media members like myself aren’t highlighting? Let’s start with the 2021 stories that we’ve been over-highlighting:
- Matthew Stafford is on the Rams now.
- Raheem Morris has replaced Brandon Staley at defensive coordinator.
- John Johnson and Troy Hill are Browns now.
- Les Snead and Sean McVay decided to pay Leonard Floyd.
- Aaron Donald is a hero, not a bully.
- DeSean Jackson’s age and injury history didn’t do anything to deter Snead and McVay from making him their number three wideout.
- Michael Brockers was sent to live with Jared Goff in Detroit.
- The Rams focused on athleticism, speed, and greater competition on special teams in the draft, but ignored depth for the offensive line.
I’m not sure if all of those would definitely fall into the category of drawing “too much” attention, but I’m sure we can dig deeper for some underrated storylines surrounding the 2021 LA Rams. Here are a few possibilities:
Morgan Fox, Michael Brockers weren’t replaced
Fox didn’t exactly emerge out of nowhere when he went on a tear in the second half of 2020 — he played in 32% of the snaps from 2018 to 2019 — but I think even McVay was surprised to see him become so productive last year. The 26-year-old Fox posted five sacks from Week 12 to the wild card win over Seattle, a period of seven games, and he seemed to be a better complement to Donald than most defensive ends before him. However, the Rams didn’t have a lot of cash to spend once they decided that their priorities were Floyd, Jackson, and Darious Williams.
It could be that day three picks Earnest Brown and Bobby Brown will provide value to the defensive line, but it is more likely that as rookies they won’t be ready to contribute at a consistent and high level. By also trading Brockers, the quality of veterans around Donald has taken a substantial hit and given that A’Shawn Robinson hasn’t proved reliable, that issue could be exacerbated by Week 1.
Shane Waldron and Andy Dickerson are running the Seahawks offense
When McVay was building his first staff in 2017, he chose Waldron, an offensive quality control coach under him in Washington, to be his tight ends coach. When Matt LaFleur left for the Titans the following year, McVay chose Waldron as his pass game coordinator.
Waldron, who previously worked under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and Bill Belichick in New England, helped Jared Goff post career-bests in yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, and passer rating in 2018. With fewer weapons at his disposal and a weaker offensive line in the last two years, we’ve seen that the Rams and Goff and Waldron couldn’t be as effective in the passing game anymore.
But to what degree does Waldron get credit or blame for LA’s passing offense? I have no idea. The fact that McVay chose him over so many other options when he was building out his staff and then looking for somebody to promote could indicate that Waldron has more value than we’ve been willing to admit. Now add Pete Carroll to Waldron’s list of NFL bosses who saw something in him, and Carroll even let his new offensive coordinator bring run game coach Andy Dickerson with him too.
What will he do on a division rival with Russell Wilson as his quarterback?
Maybe it will be a disaster for Seattle. Maybe not. But the fact that a coach of that level has departed from one team and joined another should have a significant impact on the future of the division.
Are the issues on special teams actually fixed?
The offensive line is probably over-analyzed by fans of all 32 NFL teams. The quarterback position is talked to death many times over and is inarguably overrated at this point. And the Rams specifically have media stars on defense like Donald and Jalen Ramsey, players regularly talked about on ESPN and the NFL Network and for good reason.
But every year we see that there is an incredibly thin margin between a Super Bowl team and a club that finishes just outside of the postseason. The Seahawks went 12-4 and won the NFC West. The Rams went 10-6 and had to go to Seattle to get a win before having to then head to Lambeau Field in the divisional round. The Seahawks ranked third in DVOA on special teams.
McVay has been attempting to close that gap, but will the changes work? He moved John Bonamego from special teams coordinator to a coaching assistant, then replaced him with Joe DeCamillis, a person whose first NFL special teams job came in 1988. Next, longsnapper Jake McQuaide left for the Cowboys, ending a relationship that had been ongoing since 2012.
The Rams also signed punter Corey Bojorquez, then insisted there was no “competition” coming for Johnny Hekker. Which I don’t quite understand because shouldn’t everybody — with only a few exceptions — be expecting competition at their position? That would seem to be the nature of the sport, especially when there are millions of cap space dollars involved if Hekker were to lose such a competition.
In the draft, LA focused day three efforts on special teams “stars” in the draft like Jacob Harris in round four and Jake Funk in round seven, two players who could immediately challenge to be leaders on coverage. It’s an area where the speed of those players really comes into play immediately, because it can be a lot less “controlled” than if they were asked to play on offense as rookies.
And nobody is really talking about Matt Gay, instead scratching his name into the final 53-man roster with a bowie knife. While Gay was fantastic for the Rams last season, he is still a kicker who got cut by a Buccaneers team that for years has been desperate to solidify the position. In 2019, Gay had games like missing three extra points against the Falcons, and going 0-for-3 on field goal attempts in Week 17, also against Atlanta. Are those yips completely in his past already?
Overall, we know that McVay wants to see his special teams unit go from the bottom to the top. Whether or not that will actually happens remains up in the air but the results of those efforts next season could be the difference that pushes the Rams over their opponents in an ultra-competitive conference and division.
Of those 3 options, which is the most underrated Rams storyline?
This poll is closed
Morgan Fox, Michael Brockers are gone
Shane Waldron in Seattle