By: Ryan Ehrmantrout
2018 Finish: 13-3, 1st in NFC West;
2018 Success: Representing the NFC in the Super Bowl
2018 Failure: Rush defense
Offensive MVP: Cooper Kupp
Defensive MVP: Aaron Donald
How will the Rams adjust to losing 2 key members of an offensive line that had otherwise stayed intact the past several years?
2018 was a magical season for the Los Angeles Rams. They went 13-3, won the NFC West for the second season in a row, and represented their conference in the Super Bowl in February. Pretty much everything went the Rams way in 2018, even to the point where they were the beneficiaries of one of the most egregiously missed pass interference calls imaginable, which allowed the NFC Championship game to continue until they were able to come back and win in overtime. As with so many teams before them however, their luck ran dry when they fell short to the greatest dynasty ever assembled, the New England Patriots, in Super Bowl 52. In 2019, the Rams will seek to become one of the rare teams that are able to climb back to the highest mountaintop after falling from it just the year prior.
If there’s any team that can accomplish this most challenging of feats, it’s the Rams. Most of the players who brought them within a game of the sports’ ultimate goal are returning in 2019. Quarterback Jarred Goff appears poised for a big season as he enters his 4th year in the league and 3rd under Head Coach Sean McVay. He will also be getting back his favorite target in Wide Receiver Cooper Kupp, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury. Kupp’s presence should not only benefit Goff, it should also relieve some of the pressure off of other potent offensive weapons such as Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods. When considering these things, it’s obvious that the Rams are by far and away the team in the NFC West with the least amount of questions concerning them.
Even though this may be the case, questions still exist concerning this team, particularly as it relates to the losses of Center John Sullivan and tackle Rodger Saffold. The Rams had the benefit of having continuity on the offensive line for the past several years. This allowed All-Pro Running Back Todd Gurley to flourish, and ultimately led to the team finishing last season 3rd in the league in rushing. This success also took pressure off the young Jarred Goff, allowing him to come of age in his 2nd and 3rd seasons respectively. The question now becomes how will the Rams respond now that 2 out of the 5 key members of an established offensive line are no longer there?
The next question I have concerning this team is similar in nature to the first, and involves whether or not All-Pro Running Back Todd Gurley will be able to return to form after being rendered useless at the end of last season due to knee issues. Gurley was having an MVP caliber season for much of last year before a mysterious knee issue sidelined him heading into the playoffs. Gurley would return in the post-season, but would clearly not be the same player and would eventually be benched in favor of veteran C.J. Anderson. Gurley’s status entering 2019 is anyone’s guess. There have been reports of an arthritic knee, and if that’s the case, the Rams have to be highly concerned about both the short and long term status of their star Running Back. Having said that, If Gurley is able to return to the MVP type player that the Rams came to know the past few seasons, there’s no doubt that the sky is the limit for this franchise.
The Rams don’t face many questions coming into the 2019 season, but the ones that are there have the potential to severely impact what the team hopes to accomplish. In year 3 of the Jarred Goff and Sean McVay regime, the Rams are no longer content to just join the party. They’ve already done that, and anything other than a Super Bowl title feels like a massive disappointment when considering the talent this organization has amassed. Todd Gurley’s knee is concerning and will be something to watch as the season progresses, but in today’s NFL Running Backs are easily replaced, just as Gurley was last season with Anderson. The Rams seemed poised to win their 3rd straight NFC West title and make a deep run in the playoffs, so I’ll take the over on their wins at 11.