The Los Angles Rams will begin the 2023 season on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. After months of predictions, hot takes, and analysis, the games will finally get played on the field. With that said, here’s one final preview for the Week 1 matchup against the Seahawks.
Biggest Question About the Rams Offense
Can the offensive line do enough to protect Stafford and lead a successful run game?
For the Rams offense, it all starts up front. There have been a lot of changes to the offensive line, but it’s yet to be determined if those changes end up having a positive impact. Alaric Jackson takes over at left tackle and the team drafted Steve Avila. Coleman Shelton will likely be the team’s starting center and either Joe Noteboom, Tremayne Anchrum, or Kevin Dotson will be the starting right guard. The only same piece that the Rams have from last year is Rob Havenstein at right tackle.
The offensive line remains the primary position group that fans are most anxious about heading into the season. If the Rams want to get the most out of Stafford for the next 2-3 years, they need to be able to protect him. Last year cannot happen again. A successful run game will also help with that. Again, this all start up-front on the offensive line.
Biggest Question About the Rams Defense
Will Rams be more aggressive on defense?
According to The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, the Rams have been practicing with more aggressive coverages than they did last season. Said Rodrigue,
“The Rams mixed more man concepts with a tighter zone in their practices over the last month than they demonstrated throughout 2022...Seeing more aggressive concepts from the defensive backs so early this summer is a clue that the Rams feel optimistic about their current offense. There has been an effort from the defensive coaches to prepare the defensive backs for coverages they didn’t feature very often in 2022, because of the potential they won’t have to compromise with the offense quite so dramatically in 2023.”
This isn’t to say that the Rams won’t play with some cushion in front of their defensive backs at times. However, with nothing to lose, playing tighter coverages and encouraging defensive backs to make a play on the ball is a philosophy that fits the current team-build.
Starter Who’s Flying Under the Radar
Why isn’t Ernest Jones being talked about more?
Ernest Jones had a very solid rookie year and looked to be ready to take a step forward in year two. Then, the Rams had the opportunity to sign Bobby Wagner and Jones played in the all-pro’s shadow all of last season.
With Jones remaining in a complementary role last season, it seemed he was forgotten about, especially in the media. The narrative around the Rams defense is that it’s Aaron Donald and a bunch of sidekicks. While that’s not necessarily wrong, Jones is a player who’s flying under the radar right now and could end up being a household name at linebacker following the 2023 season.
Backup Who Will Play a Key Role
Will Kyren Williams be used more in the passing game?
One player not nobody is talking about is Kyren Williams. However, it would not be a surprise if Williams ended up playing a large role in the passing game as the Rams’ primary receiving back. Pass-catching isn’t something that Cam Akers has been good at or comfortable with since being drafted. Meanwhile, this is an area where Williams flourishes.
Williams spent much of his rookie season injured, but I’m interested to see how much the Rams utilize him this season, especially in the passing game. There have been reports in camp that Williams has been lined up at wide receiver. The Rams see a lot of James White in Williams’ game. It will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition. If it does, the former fifth-round pick may be a player more people are talking about at the end of the year.
Rams X-Factor in 2023
Can Alaric Jackson be the left tackle of the future?
The Rams played five players at left tackle last season. Heading into 2024 and 2025, hitting on Jackson at left tackle would be like striking gold, especially considering Jackson was an undrafted free agent signing. It would allow the Rams to not have to address the position early in the draft next season and focus either on edge rusher or even a quarterback at the top of the draft.
Jackson has played well in spurts, but will be tested as a full-time player at the position in 2023. As mentioned earlier, much of the Rams success on offense will depend on the how the offensive line performs. That starts with how Jackson plays at left tackle.
Is this the year TuTu Atwell breaks out?
This might be me trying to will something into existence. However, there is a timeline this season in which Atwell breaks out and becomes the deep threat and well-rounded wide receiver that the Rams drafted him to be.
We started to see flashes last season. Stafford connected with Atwell on a 60-yard touchdown against the New Orleans Saints. There were also several missed opportunities with John Wolford and Baker Mayfield. Again, this might be wishful thinking, but Atwell has an opportunity as the third wide receiver in the offense.
Storyline We’re Not Talking About Yet
Most of the talk at this point when it comes to the 2024 NFL Draft is which quarterback will the Rams end up taking, especially if they end up selecting inside the top-5. There’s a case to be made that the Rams shouldn’t take a quarterback if they end up in that spot and instead target an elite left tackle or edge rusher prospect. There’s a case to be made that Penn State left tackle Olumuyiwa Fashanu or Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse should be the pick.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Les Snead trades back to pick up assets, much like he did in the RGIII trade back in 2012. The Rams maybe wouldn’t end up with Caleb Williams, but they could gather high-end draft capital that they need to rebuild. There’s a scenario in which the Rams trade back, take an elite left tackle prospect and then select a quarterback like Quinn Ewers later in the first round in the case that Matthew Stafford is traded. These conversations won’t happen until the Rams are potentially 2-7, but when the time comes, the options will certainly get discussed.
What Does a Successful Season Look like?
With postseason aspirations not being the main goal, the Rams need to start finding pieces that are worth keeping around for the next stage. Version one of the Rams was Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods, and Aaron Donald while version two consisted of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Jalen Ramsey, and Donald. Who is going to be around for the McVay Rams v3.0?
The Rams need to recognize those pieces as there is likely one final run left while Donald is still in his prime. If the Rams can recognize those pieces so that they can prepare for the 2025 push, it will be a successful year.
Final record prediction
There are two extremes when it comes to predictions on how the Los Angeles Rams season will go. There are the analysts that believe the Rams will finish 4-13 and a top-5 pick. On the other side, there are some optimistic fans that see 10-7 or 11-6. The answer meanwhile is likely somewhere in the middle.
A lot could obviously change depending on how many injuries that the Rams go through during the season. There are also a lot of question marks when it comes to how the defense will perform. At the end of the day, I see anywhere between 6-11 and 9-8 as realistic possibilities. With that said, I’m settling on 8-9 for the 2023 Rams.