The Los Angeles Rams will have a new offensive coordinator (again) in 2022, changing out Kevin O’Connell, now with the Minnesota Vikings, for Liam Coen. All things run through Sean McVay, of course, but we can always expect little adjustments every season, as well as some major ones.
That will happen when you trade your starting quarterback for an upgrade.
Did the Rams get any upgrades with their new starting members of the offense for 2022?
RG - Austin Corbett to ???
Corbett signed a three-year, $26.25 million contract with the Carolina Panthers, putting him well outside of LA’s price range for a right guard. The Panthers only have to pay a $3.1 million cap hit on Corbett in 2022, but then Carolina must pay him a $7.8 million base salary and $10.9 million cap hit in 2023. That is set to make Corbett the ninth-highest paid right guard in 2023, which seems fair.
The Rams go back to bargain hunting at the right guard position, opening up a competition between rookie third round pick Logan Bruss, fourth-year offensive lineman Bobby Evans, and whoever else stands up during LA’s offseason assessment period. Could that mean a shuffling that leaves Coleman Shelton or Brian Allen competing for snaps at right guard instead of center?
I thought Corbett did a really good job as the right guard, but the Rams had no choice but to let him walk for that kind of money. LA’s allocated too much cap space towards great players at premium positions, which is why teams like the Panthers are able to go out and spend money on a right guard. Bruss is a rookie. Evans has struggled with any opportunity to become a starter during his first three seasons.
Upgrade or Downgrade: Slight downgrade
RB1 - Sony Michel/Darrell Henderson to Cam Akers
This was originally slated to be Akers a year ago, but a torn Achilles forced a six-month vacation, at which point Akers returned to his position as LA’s starting running back.
Akers had 67 carries for 172 yards and eight catches for 76 yards in four playoff games. He did, however, fumble the ball twice in that limited amount of playing time.
Fumbles have been an issue for Akers since college and there’s no reason to expect anything different until he puts proof out there on the field. We know that Sean McVay won’t play Akers during the preseason and he probably will hold back Henderson just the same. Expect to see Kyren Williams, Jake Funk, Xavier Jones, and Raymond Calais instead, though the latter three of those are also coming off of injuries from a year ago.
Henderson played better than Michel for the most part, but Akers has proven to be the most talented running back that the Rams have had over the last two seasons. That shouldn’t change this year, so long as he stays healthy.
Upgrade or Downgrade: Upgrade if Akers is healthy, Downgrade if he is not
TE2 - Johnny Mundt to Kendall Blanton or Brycen Hopkins
Though Mundt spend most of the season on injured reserve, he was slated to replace Gerald Everett in 2021 and was getting some play time. When Mundt was lost, McVay didn’t turn to Blanton and Hopkins so much as he used two tight ends less often.
Then, as we all know by now from it being repeated throughout the offseason, Blanton and Hopkins kind of showed up in the playoffs at different points.
Blanton had seven catches for 75 yards and a touchdown. Hopkins had four catches for 47 yards in the Super Bowl, with three first downs.
The fact that there are two of them, plus an even more intriguing (but much more raw) prospect in Jacob Harris, suggests to me that the Rams are better off at tight end this year than they were a year ago. For the time being, Tyler Higbee’s job does not appear to be in any danger. If Blanton or Hopkins has a breakout season though, Higbee could be on the chopping block in 2023.
Upgrade or Downgrade: Upgrade
LT - Andrew Whitworth to Joseph Noteboom
I would not be at all surprised if Whitworth was LA’s starting left tackle in Week 1.
Look at all of the strange, unprecedented things that have happened in the NFL over the last two to three years alone. Whitworth’s age may not be a factor. He was just the starting left tackle for a Super Bowl-winning team. If he wants to return, who is McVay to say no? I don’t expect money to be a sticking point.
It would be more surprising, but not unbelievably shocking, if Whitworth decided to try and help his old team in Cincinnati get back to the Super Bowl. I just don’t think that Whitworth is necessarily ready to call it quits.
If he returns to the Rams, Whitworth could either push Noteboom back inside or move to guard himself. It creates a bit of havoc and risk, but it’s not unaffordable. Noteboom has a $3.5 million cap hit in 2022, followed by a $15.5 million cap hit in 2023. It would definitely look bad to have a $15.5 million backup, but Noteboom has already excelled in a versatile reserve role before.
If no changes are made from here on out and Whitworth does not return, I think Noteboom has proven to be an adequate replacement that would go relatively unnoticed.
Upgrade or Downgrade: Even
WR2 - Robert Woods/Odell Beckham Jr to Allen Robinson
Even with Cooper Kupp producing at such a high level in 2021, Woods was no less impactful or productive himself. Woods had 45 catches on 69 targets for 556 yards, four touchdowns, 8.1 yards per target, with 46 rushing yards and a touchdown over nine games.
When OBJ showed up at just the right time to replace Woods, I thought that he did a lot of things well and was overall a valuable number two receiver. However, it wasn’t until the NFC Championship game against the 49ers that Beckham resembled the dominant receiver that he once was with the New York Giants (Beckham’s 113 yards that day marked his first game with 90+ yards since October, 2019) and I wouldn’t say he was a parallel value to Woods.
This may have just been because OBJ was only starting to get comfortable with Matthew Stafford by the time of his Super Bowl ACL tear.
This isn’t to say that OBJ would be a bad signing for the Rams this season, when he’s ready to return. But the Allen Robinson signing would appear to be an upgrade to OBJ and he might even represent one to a healthy Robert Woods, which we don’t know how close to 100-percent Woods will be this year, or ever again.
Robinson hasn’t been a picture of health throughout his career either, but Stafford will be the best quarterback he’s ever worked with by far. That helped Kupp reach new heights in 2021. It could mean a breakout (or return to dominance like his 1,400-yard season in 2014) for Robinson.
Upgrade or Downgrade: Slight upgrade to Woods
Disagree that Robinson is an upgrade? Let me know in the comments!