The LA Rams don’t need to win the division next season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t win the NFC South in 2020 and while that is not the ideal playoffs road to travel — the top seed in either conference is still the goal for teams — it once again shows that the hottest team in January and February is the team with the greatest advantage in the postseason.
Do the Rams have what it takes to get to the playoffs in 2021 and then become the hottest team?
LA general manager Les Snead has never cared what outsiders think of his draft decisions and that will once again help him through an onslaught of questions and concerns about a nine-player class that doesn’t include an offensive lineman. For me, I think that you can improve your offensive line play by acquiring offensive linemen, but you can also improve it in a lot of other ways as well.
Including a change of coaching, which is what Sean McVay did after Aaron Kromer departed and was replaced by offensive line coach Kevin Carberry. There will be further changes to the offensive coaching staff by way of replacing offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and assistant Andy Dickerson, both now in Seattle.
You can also improve the run game not just by opening up bigger lanes, but by drafting a shifty running back who played behind the worst offensive line in college football. Such was the case for Cam Akers coming out of Florida State last year and now Akers will be getting RB1 touches from the first day of camp.
And offenses are obviously impacted dramatically by a changing of guard at quarterback, not just a changing of the guard at guard. Jared Goff excelled at a couple of things and one of those was avoiding sacks. Sometimes at the cost of interceptions. But the great quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, they were all followed around in their careers by offensive linemen who appeared to be doing well year after year? Why? Because sack totals are not just a product of what the line does, but what the quarterback does with the time he’s given by the line.
By trading Goff for Matthew Stafford, McVay and Snead did a lot more for the line than just drafting a center/guard prospect in round four. Stafford will take more sacks than Goff, I am fairly sure of that, but he should also throw more touchdowns, finish with fewer interceptions, and gain more yards per play. Though “the offensive line” might “give up” 5-10 more sacks next season, the gains per play and the points per play should be notably increased and that will increase the perceived value of the offensive line.
But it’s not only coaching, running, and quarterbacking. By getting faster at receiver with DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell, and Jacob Harris, the Rams hope to be as explosive on offense as teams like the Chiefs and Bills, knowing that those players are only meant to be hors d’oeuvre’s to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp.
So no, I’m not especially worried about an offensive line that still features a future Hall of Fame left tackle, one of the better right tackles in the NFC, and two perfectly good interior options. Overall the Rams might have entered the draft with a need at right guard, and they left the draft with that same need, but at least some insight into their confidence in Bobby Evans.
If the Rams offense can be as good as what McVay was able to produce in 2018, then a Rams defense with all-pros at two key positions will be happy to complement them on Sundays ... and straight into becoming the hottest team in January.
Just a thought.
How confident are you that the Rams are going in the right direction following the 2021 NFL Draft?
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4 (the most)