After going 11-5 and profitable the NFC West for the primary time in 14 years due to rookie coach Sean McVay getting the greatest out of the offense, the Rams went to work in upgrading their protection. Six new starters are projected to flank stud lineman Aaron Donald, because the workforce acquired sort out Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib to be key personnel in Wade Phillips’ Three-Four scheme.
McVay and normal supervisor Les Snead didn’t neglect to make a splash on the opposite aspect of the ball. They traded for former Saints and Patriots vast receiver Brandin Cooks late in free company.
That is quite a lot of change for a proficient, younger workforce nonetheless looking for its championship groove. When analyzing key elements of the Rams’ depth chart going into coaching camp and slicing by way of the hype, some new questions include these new options.
Cooks, nonetheless solely 24, was traded for the second time in lots of offseasons forward of the ultimate 12 months of his rookie deal. After going by way of a curler coaster in New Orleans and New England with Drew Brees and Tom Brady, respectively, Cooks hopes to final in LA as Jared Goff’s go-to man.
The Rams had Cooks on their radar in 2017, and he offers them each a big-play and a little-play improve over Sammy Watkins, who signed with the Chiefs. Cooks acquired a head begin working with Goff earlier than they formally turned teammates. There is a good Pac-12 vibe going with Goff, Cooks and final 12 months’s shock prime wideout, Robert Woods.
Cooks and Woods are extra interchangeable than Watkins and Woods have been on the subject of their fingers and abilities after the catch. With Josh Reynolds, who as soon as was tabbed as Watkins’ attainable substitute, coming off shoulder surgical procedure, Cooks is a luxurious born out of necessity. His quickness will give McVay new methods to stretch the passing recreation.
Cooper Kupp, who was excellent from the slot as a rookie final season, is just a few months older than Cooks. Their kinds cross nicely, particularly on pivot routes, that are staples of the Rams and Patriots’ offenses in which Kupp and Cooks excelled individually in 2017. This 12 months, when spreading the sphere in opposition to man protection, the Rams might be tougher to cease.
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Whereas Donald does no matter he needs whereas away from the workforce and ready to get a profitable contract extension worthy of the league’s most disruptive defensive participant, the Rams are determining one of the simplest ways to suit Suh subsequent to him on their base three-man entrance.
Suh arrives in LA with new motivation on a one-year “show it” deal for the primary time in his profession. Though he has gone by way of the wringer of defensive coordinators, Suh performed in a base Four-Three scheme all through his time with the Lions and Dolphins.
The trick for Phillips is getting probably the most out of Suh within the inside move rush and never placing him in a extra restricted (although extra snug) run-stopping position in an unfamiliar protection. The Rams’ third beginning lineman, Michael Brockers, is so good in opposition to the run that Suh can assume an attack-based (as a substitute of gap-clogging) nostril sort out position.
Suh, 31, noticed his sack whole trickle all the way down to Four.5 in Miami final season after registering eight.5 in his final 12 months with Detroit (2014). Phillips will put him in an ultimate place to be extra productive as Suh performs instantly off the eye Donald receives.
The Rams ranked No. Four within the NFL with 48 sacks final season, with Donald (11) and Brockers (Four.5) producing almost a 3rd of them. One other 15.5 sacks from linebackers Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin and Alec Ogletree are gone, so with LA now missing a dominant edge-rusher, Suh should rediscover a few of his pop with Phillips’ assist.
The Rams parted with Quinn, Barwin and Ogletree, and with Mark Barron at inside linebacker as the one returning starter, there are no surefire replacements on the roster.
Primarily based on situational snap counts final season, Samson Ebukam (fourth-rounder in 2017) and Matt Longacre (undrafted in 2015) are set to begin exterior now that rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is coming off foot surgical procedure. Ebukam is the higher run-stopper and Longacre is the higher pass-rusher, however neither has proved himself in protection. Third within the combine is Morgan Fox, who is a bit more well-rounded but in addition is changing from line of defense. In comparison with how sturdy they are elsewhere on protection, the Rams are weak, inexperienced and skinny at linebacker.
The Rams’ protection final 12 months ranked No. 28 in opposition to the run, giving up 122.Four yards per recreation and Four.7 yards per carry. Though Barron can enhance the protection as a transformed security, he struggles in opposition to the run. Ogletree was even worse, which led to his being traded to the Giants regardless of signing a contract extension in the course of the 2017 season.
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Barron could possibly be challenged in camp, too, however for now, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, former Chief Ramik Wilson and rookie Micah Kiser are battling for snaps on the different inside spot. Kiser is a pure inside pass-rusher however not a lot else. Littleton can also get to the QB and is equally good at run and move protection. Wilson goes in with probably the most seasoning, having began 11 video games for the Chiefs two seasons in the past. However Hager, who produced as a starter in the Rams’ 2017 regular-season finale in opposition to the 49ers, has an opportunity to emerge as the most effective of the bunch.
Phillips in LA does not have a DeMarcus Ware or a Von Miller at linebacker. Whereas steadiness is necessary for these positions, the strengths of the Rams’ back and front ends can enable the coordinator to take dangers with the gamers who present probably the most youthful vitality and upside vs. those that could be thought of secure.
There was a notion final season that the Rams had sturdy corners, however their protection was propped up by their two precedence re-signees, nickel nook Nickell Robey-Coleman and free security LaMarcus Joyner. They have been lively playmakers who mixed for 5 of the workforce’s 18 interceptions.
Trumaine Johnson and Kayvon Webster had their moments exterior however have been below-average starters. Enter Talib from the Broncos, the place he as soon as performed for Phillips, and Peters, the previous Chiefs nook who arrives because the Rams’ largest offseason prize.
Talib is a sturdy shutdown kind who appears to get higher into his 30s. Peters might be burned for giant performs, however he’s fearless in attempting to make them himself. It is arduous to discover a higher mixture of gamers who complement one another’s video games so nicely. Additionally they mix to match the Phillips mentality of blending constant reward with worthy dangers.
The important thing for Talib and Peters might be meshing their personalities, in addition to accepting the truth that they are going to be thought of co-No. 1 corners. Phillips has dealt with loads of aggressive defenders with perspective; his observe report is making them comfortable by placing them in positions that mutually profit the workforce and the person gamers.
Behind Peters, Talib and Robey-Coleman are few viable fill-in choices, however former Packer Sam Shields brings one other veteran presence to the depth chart. Throwing downfield in opposition to the Rams and their revamped secondary might be troublesome. The brand new defensive backs give Phillips infinite blitzing situations to generate an improved move rush by committee.
Phillips is pretty much as good at masking defensive weaknesses as he’s at magnifying strengths. With LA’s offense anticipated to attain loads of factors and put strain on opponents to move, the defensive coordinator now has the items to capitalize on the errors these opposing offenses make.