The NFC West is arguably the most competitive division in the NFL. The Los Angeles Rams were the preeminent team in the division in 2018. With franchise QB Jared Goff, hotshot young head coach Sean McVay, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, the Rams’ star could not have been any brighter in the big city of Los Angeles. The Rams represented the NFC in the Super Bowl that season.
Call it a year-long Super Bowl hangover, but the results of the 2019 season were not what the Rams had hoped for after their 2018 ascent.
Offensively, they regressed. Although Goff threw for more than 4,500 yards, he was rather inconsistent, with some questioning if the Rams made the right move paying him like a franchise QB before the season. There were notable lows, like throwing for 78 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. However, in Goff’s defense, a quarterback’s best friends are tight ends and a reliable running game. The latter did him no favors last season.
Todd Gurley and his degenerative knee mimicked the inconsistency of the team in 2019. The Rams simply weren’t able to run the ball as effectively as they had in the past, ultimately putting more pressure on Goff. The result wasn’t pretty and Goff’s 16 interceptions (86.5 QBR) were more than McVay would have liked for his offense.
Most of the latest trends take the NFL by storm, forcing opposing coaches to burn the candle at both ends to try to figure out a way to neutralize it. However, NFL coaches are too good and once there’s enough film available they often come up with solutions to neutralize the opposition. Think of the infusion of the zone read-option in the NFL. Could McVay have suffered the same fate?
Sure, his offense finished 2019 ranked in the top 10 and were top five in red zone offense. However, the results in the win-loss column just weren’t what they expected. Los Angeles ultimately missed the playoffs and the offense regressed from its peak.
Defensively, the Rams were never great under McVay. They continued to be just average even though Donald is still the most dominant interior presence in the NFL. They lacked turnovers so they traded for top-flight cornerback Jalen Ramsey and the inconsistent, polarizing ball hawk Marcus Peters. They still gave up at least 40 points in three of their losses and their red zone defense ranked 29th out of 32 NFL teams. They eventually traded Peters, which some suggested was addition by subtraction.
By way of the 2020 NFL Draft, Los Angeles added running back Cam Akers and wide receiver Van Jefferson, who should be immediate contributors to the offense. Terrell Lewis should bring some pass rush if he remains healthy and safety Terrell Burgess will bring some versatility and coverage upside to the back end. Ultimately, the Rams will need to run the football better and defend more consistently if they want to return to the pinnacle of the NFC in 2020 and beyond.