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3 bold predictions for the Rams season: Two breakout players and one pressing issue

L.A. can run it back but also prepare for the future with a strong 2022 season

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

What will the Los Angeles Rams learn about themselves this season? If Sean McVay is able to lead L.A. back to the Super Bowl, the real question will be “What did the Rams teach us?”

They are as well positioned to do it as any other team in the last 20 years.

A few thoughts occurred to me on Sunday of what could happen in 2022 if all goes according to plan.

The Rams will earn the 1 seed if the top-four players are healthy

One of L.A.’s strongest attributes in 2021 was the health of their top players. Though the offense lost Cam Akers before training camp even started, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Jalen Ramsey combining to appear in all 21 games, minus one. Ramsey was held out of Week 14’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. Those were the top four players in my list of most-important Rams and safe to say it is the popular opinion.

Should the Rams repeat that healthy streak, it will be McVay’s strongest weapon towards repeating as a Super Bowl champion.

The big story at L.A.’s camp this year is not one of perfect health, however. It’s Stafford’s elbow pain, followed by Van Jefferson’s knee surgery. Ramsey also underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason and the team has yet to re-sign Odell Beckham, Jr., recovering from ACL repair surgery.

NFL: AUG 01 Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The continued availability of Stafford, Donald, Kupp, and Ramsey will be paramount towards the Rams’ question to run it back, but so too are Allen Robinson, Joe Noteboom, and Leonard Floyd without adequate replacements behind them on the depth chart.

If L.A. has another good year in the trainer’s room, the Rams will earn the one seed and a bye week in the NFC.

Tutu Atwell will have more targets than Van Jefferson

Last season, Stafford targeted Jefferson 89 times and Tutu Atwell zero times. This season, I’m leaning towards 2021’s second round pick earning higher priority of 2020’s second round pick.

It’s not just that Jefferson is on the mend right now and Atwell has been one of L.A.’s biggest standouts at training camp that makes me lean this way. It’s that I’ve always felt that Tutu Atwell was a better wide receiver prospect than Jefferson and that’s why the Rams were compelled to draft him despite being well stocked at receiver at the time.

Many fans wanted center Creed Humphrey, but L.A. won a Super Bowl with Brian Allen and they will not need a huge upgrade at the position to be able to repeat.

But Atwell was drafted as a deep threat and a gadget player near the line of scrimmage with a specific plan in mind for him to be non-existent during his rookie season, as the team expected that veteran DeSean Jackson would be around for the whole year. If Atwell didn’t tear his ACL need shoulder surgery then there’s a good chance he would have been involved in the offense when Jackson was released.

Super Bowl Champion Rams begin 2022 Season Photo by David Crane/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

As Jefferson’s share of the snaps and targets increased with a growing number of receiver injuries, his production per play went down, not up. Jefferson played almost every snap in L.A.’s final three playoff games, but only caught eight of 16 targets for 61 yards.

The consistent mentions of Atwell’s development this offseason may not only be because he deserves them, but also because McVay, Stafford, and Liam Coen are extremely hopeful that they can will his value into existence. I think the team wants Tutu Atwell to happen and I know that if it does, Rams fans won’t question the pick anymore.

Atwell will be more productive on the offense than Jefferson.

Robert Rochell will become the heir apparent to Jalen Ramsey

Though the team brought back Troy Hill for a probable starting role on the defense, then drafted two cornerbacks having impressive first camps in Derion Kendrick and Decobie Durant, no player has higher odds of unseating Ramsey as L.A.’s CB1 than Robert Rochell.

There were a number of issues that halted his development after being a fourth round pick out of Central Arkansas, including a broken rib and missing the final nine games of the season, including playoffs. But even the fact that he was ready to take on the chance at a starting role mid-way through his rookie season speaks so highly to the talent of Rochell after many wondered how he would handle the transition from FCS to the NFL.

He’s handled it amazingly.

The Rams have an interesting decision to make with Ramsey in the next year. He is owed a $25.2 million cap hit in 2023 and the team could cut that number down considerably if they restructure his contract. However, restructuring means he’s virtually guaranteed to count against the cap in 2024, when he has a $26.7 million cap hit at 30-years-old.

If the Rams can hold off on restructuring Ramsey, they might find out that Rochell, Kendrick, and Durant can serve as the core to the next generation of the secondary.

Rochell looks to be in the lead to start alongside Ramsey and Hill, but he could be taking Ramsey’s place as the top cornerback on the team within the next two years.