It’s been a long season for me as a football fan and as a new writer responsible for dissecting this Los Angeles Rams team week after week. I can now confidently say it’s been the most disappointing season I’ve seen yet, surpassing all the Jeff Fisher years where there really weren’t any high expectations. This team dropped its twelfth game of the season on Sunday to a rival Seahawks team, allowing them to squeak into the playoffs undeservingly. For the last time this season, here are my observations from the game.
Offense: More of the same predictable, ineffective passing game
Baker Mayfield played more bad football. His Rams tenure is much like the entirety of his career: a complete mixed bag of ups and downs to both extremes. Sunday was a bad Baker game and he missed some relatively easy throws that probably could have won the game, most notably the last throw to a wide open Van Jefferson that was far too short. Mayfield is a backup caliber player and I can say that confidently now. I’d still love for him to stay on this team and play second fiddle to Matthew Stafford next year because he would be the best Rams backup QB since I’ve been a fan.
I placed Cam Akers as the image for this article and I owe him somewhat of an apology here. As many covering the Rams have done, I bagged on Akers quite heavily early on in the season. While it was deserved then, I shouldn’t have lost sight of the potential I knew he had. I’m sure many teams are kicking themselves they didn’t trade a late round pick for him when he was on the block and I’m sure the Rams are glad they smoothed things over. Cam Akers was a top three running back in the entire league the last few games running behind a Swiss cheese offensive line. He’s rediscovered his power, decisiveness, and burst and I couldn’t be more excited about that. It’s one less hole to fill this offseason and a big win for the Rams moving forward.
The preseason receiving lineup was largely forgettable for another week, again highlighted by Van Jefferson who should’ve had a much bigger day if his quarterback could have delivered more accurate balls. Tutu Atwell continues to impress with deep separation and maturation in his game and is deserving of a starting spot next year. Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins didn’t do much on a day where there simply weren’t many opportunities behind shoddy passing.
Another week, another key injury. This time it was LT Ty Nsekhe. Even before he checked out, the line was terrible in pass protection as it has been all season long. Mayfield was hurried, battered, and harassed all day long. The surprise has been the holes created by this unit in the run game in recent weeks and again on Sunday. Credit them for giving Akers some room to feast. It’s been a long time since that’s happened at his level, all the way back to 2018 with CJ Anderson.
Defense: Despite more soft coverage, they played more than well enough to win
I really miss Aaron Donald on this defensive line. Geno Smith had a lot of time to throw most of the afternoon which is unsurprising considering the pass rush on this team is moribund. Leonard Floyd has come on a bit at the tail end of the season and should return next year. Other than that, I haven’t seen anything that would prevent me from drafting EDGE early or allocating some spare cap space to the position next year.
Bobby Wagner once again played out of his mind and he was once again let down by his teammates in a revenge game. I really hope he is back next season to once again lead the defense. Sure, he’s lost a step in coverage and sideline to sideline speed but he’s still fantastic at positioning himself in holes and throwing RBs to the ground like children. Ernest Jones is still a very forgettable, middling player to me. I’ve never been very impressed.
Jalen Ramsey reminded everyone why he’s a top tier corner in the NFL and can change the complexion of a game at a moment’s notice. He had two INTs and some clutch tackles in this game. He should remain a core component of the 2023 Rams and is one of the reasons to restock rather than rebuild. Outside of him, it’s an average to below average group. Troy Hill was abused. Quentin Lake dropped an easy pick six that would’ve likely led to a Rams win. Taylor Rapp had his best game in a long time but he’s surely gone come next year.
I entered this season with a sense of finality as a fan of this football team. The Rams had reached the highest peak in football and became champions, something I’d been longing for so badly for so long. I entered this season feeling less attached to the team than I expected to. It proved to be a nightmare season for the Rams and at times, writing about them was something I had no interest in doing. This week as one of those weeks as the referees (worst officiating I’ve seen all season) and a terrible passing attack led to another loss, this time against the hated Seahawks. It was yet another game the Rams could’ve and should’ve won.
As the season has closed, the Sean McVay retirement rumors have once again swirled. This time it feels certain as if our coach has finally chosen to step away. If that’s the case, I will have lost a certain amount of respect for him for leaving when things got tough. In 2017 when McVay led the Rams to the playoffs, I got a sense of relief knowing that for the next 10+ years the Rams would have a coach who would keep them competitive. I never expected that things would be so abrupt. I find myself torn on the subject as a part of me will always hold Sean McVay in the highest regard for bringing my favorite sports team a championship and providing me with one of the happiest moments of my young life. But part of me will also resent him for leaving this way when I still believe the core of this team is talented enough to make another push. No matter what happens, this team has gone from the highest of highs to a murky, grim future within one season. This offseason will see many changes, many new faces, and some painful splits. But one thing is for certain: I’ll be there next fall on my couch wearing a Cooper Kupp jersey, dissecting every play, and cheering for the Los Angeles Rams.