Sitting at 3-7 heading into Week 12, the Rams have a lot more questions than answers at this point. This is looking like a lost season with just a one percent chance to make the playoffs. With that being said, that doesn’t mean that the Rams still can’t learn something in the back half of the season. If anything, they have a two-month head start on their offseason and can learn a lot about what their needs will be with seven games still to play.
Here are five questions that the Rams will need answered over the next seven weeks.
1. Who’s Worth Keeping on the Offensive Line?
The Los Angeles Rams are going to need to completely re-tool the offensive line this offseason. After Sunday, the Rams will have had 11 different offensive line combinations in 11 games. That can make the evaluation process difficult, but the offensive line didn’t look like a strong point in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
Sean McVay and Les Snead need to figure out who is worth keeping on the offensive line as starters, who needs to be replaced and moved to a depth role, and who needs to be outright replaced.
According to OverTheCap, if the Rams can find a trade partner for Joe Noteboom post-June 1 this offseason, they can save $13.2M. If the Rams want to move on from Brian Allen, trading him post-June 1 would save them $6M.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams keep Allen, but these are two players that have gone into the season as day-one starters twice since 2019 and ended up missing significant time due to injury. They can’t continue to put their eggs in that basket and hoping the bottom doesn’t fall out.
David Edwards is on an expiring contract and this his is the first year that he’s suffered an injury. Overall, he’s at least been a consistent presence when he’s been on the field. While he’s overall been a solid piece on the offensive line, is he someone that’s worth bringing back?
As far as depth goes, the Rams need to figure out whether they think Alaric Jackson can start at left tackle or if they want to keep him at depth. Is Tremayne Anchrum worth keeping as a depth piece as well as Chandler Brewer? The Rams can save $1.5M by cutting Coleman Shelton. Do they view him as a starter, want to keep him as a depth piece, or completely move on from him?
These are all questions that the Rams need to figure out heading into this season.
2. Should Allen Robinson Remain the WR2?
It’s not going to be easy for the Rams to move on from Allen Robinson. If they cut him pre-June 1, they would eat $26.4M. If they designate him as a post-June 1 cut, that number moves to $18M.
A trade partner would be more ideal. A post-June 1 trade would save the Rams close to $15.2M. The issue is finding a trade partner that’s willing to take on that contract. Because of this, if the Rams do move on from Robinson, a cut is the more likely scenario.
We’ve seen the Rams admit mistakes with wide receivers in the past. After trading for Sammy Watkins, they didn’t force themselves into a long-term contract the following offseason. In 2018, the Rams traded for Brandin Cooks and signed him to a five-year extension. He was traded after the 2019 season to the Houston Texans.
This is a multi-layered question. In one sense, the offensive line never held up which certainly affected how the Rams were able to use Robinson and how often they were able to get him looks. In another sense, it never has seemed like he’s been the primary read on routes outside of the corner fade in the red zone.
Open Score (x) by Catch Score (y), 2022 season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 16, 2022
-Tyler Lockett, permanently underrated (YAC score not shown, though)
-Chris Olave is amazing already, needs a quarterback
-Diontae Johnson is always open
-Donovan Peoples-Jones and George Pickens: not open, still making catches. pic.twitter.com/a61G2B4N2K
If the Rams do move on from Robinson, they would likely need to bring in a second wide receiver anyway as it doesn’t seem like they have a lot of confidence in second round picks Van Jefferson or TuTu Atwell taking that role.
3. What Changes on the Coaching Staff are Needed?
The Rams offense has not looked good this season. While the Rams have typically taken a step back after the first year with a new offensive coordinator under Sean McVay, the Rams current offense looks night and day from last year’s version. This version is worse than most of Jeff Fisher’s teams.
Even when it was mostly healthy, the Rams were completely shutout in the second half against the Bills in Week 1. The Rams offense has scored 30-points just once this season. Stafford has seemed to take a step back and the offense as a whole looks disjointed. We don’t necessarily know the extent of his full role, but if Liam Coen has a hand in game-plans and coaching the quarterbacks, that’s an issue. Is Coen worth bringing back for a second year?
Ra’Shaad Samples was brought in from SMU this season to coach the running backs. Running back has been the Rams’ worst position group on offense outside of the offensive line. It got to the point where McVay had Thomas Brown going back to running backs a few weeks ago to help there as well as continue coaching tight ends. Is Samples worth bringing back for a second season?
Rams fans can complain about Raheem Morris and the defense. While they haven’t been perfect, if the offense had done their job during games in the early part of the season, the Rams wouldn’t be sitting at 3-7.
Adjustments certainly need to be made though. Can the Rams add some help in the secondary opposite of Jalen Ramsey to give Morris more confidence in his defensive backs? This would help the frequency of the “cushion of death”. The Rams defense for the majority of this season has done its job. This isn’t a defense built to single-handedly win games. The defense needs evaluated, but it hasn’t been the primary issue.
4. What Needs to be Done at Edge Rusher?
There are two parts to this questions. The first is whether or not Leonard Floyd is worth keeping around. He’s not a dominant pass rusher and is he worth keeping around simply for his run defense and veteran leadership? These are the same questions that the Chicago Bears had to answer when they opted not to bring him back.
The Rams can save $15.5M with just a $6.5M cap-hit by designating Floyd as a post-June 1 cut. There won’t be a lot of options in free agency and it’s hard to find an elite edge rusher in the second round of the draft. Unless the Rams feel like they can trade for a Brian Burns with just one-year left on his deal, it might be worth keeping Floyd around. With how this season has gone, it would also be wise to keep that 2024 first-round pick.
Double team rate at Edge (x) by pass rush win rate at Edge (y), updated through 11/11.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 11, 2022
(ESPN Analytics / NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/3XkwyCctrv
Floyd ranks 37th in pass-rush win-rate this season according to Pro Football Focus. At the very least, the Rams would need to try to bring Floyd back in 2023 on a lower cap number than his projected $22M. If the Rams can bring back Floyd and then also draft someone who can step in on the other side, that might be the way to go.
In these final weeks, the Rams need to find out exactly what they have in Terrell Lewis as he takes on a larger role with Hollins gone. If Daniel Hardy returns from injured reserve, he’s someone with insane athletic traits. Can Hardy take on a bigger role?
These are questions that the Rams need answered as they enter the final years of Aaron Donald. They need to be able to give Donald as much help as possible to capitalize on their championship window.
5. What’s the Future of the Running Back Room?
After cutting Darrell Henderson, it’s pretty clear that the Rams weren’t going to try and bring him back this offseason. Outside of Henderson, Cam Akers missed two games earlier in the season because of philosophical differences between him and McVay. Additionally, Kyren Williams just got carries in his second career game last week against the New Orleans Saints.
This is a position group that lacks any sort of clarity at the moment.
In the second-half of the season, the Rams need to figure out if they can move forward with Akers. Is Akers someone that they can continue to build a running back room around? From what we’ve seen since he returned from his achilles tear, the answer would seemingly be no.
Williams is seen by most as a third-down, change of pace back. However, is that how the Rams view him? Is he someone that they view as taking over Henderson’s role or someone they see taking the lead role?
This is a very good running back draft class. With needs elsewhere, the Rams need to be able to prioritize those over running back in the early part of the draft. Additionally, it looks like a good free agent running back class. Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, and David Montgomery are all set to hit free agency. If Akers isn’t the guy, the Rams could invest some capital into one of those “every-down” running backs.
As it stands, the Rams have a lot more questions that answers. That starts at quarterback where the Rams need to figure out if Bryce Perkins is worth keeping around as a backup. If not, they need to invest more in the position next season instead of using a roster spot on a third quarterback.
In the secondary, they need to figure out if Quentin Lake and Russ Yeast are the future at safety. Taylor Rapp hasn’t been very good and it’s essential to find out what they have in players drafted just last April. The same can be said about Derion Kendrick, Cobie Durant, Robert Rochell at cornerback.