Let’s just be clear from the start, this a fluent situation. Last week, the LA Rams team needs would have looked much different, especially at the top. Head coach Sean Mcvay and GM Les Snead had made it increasingly clear that Jared Goff would not be the Rams’ starting QB in 2021. By default, as quarterback is arguably the most important position in all of sports, that immediately shot the need at QB to the top of the LA Rams team needs list.
Fast forward to last Saturday night, when the Snead pulled off one of the NFL’s most complicated trades in decades. Now, with Matthew Stafford under center, that need immediately vanishes and the team will be allowed to focus their efforts elsewhere. If they want, the Rams can add another year or two onto Stafford’s contract, in order to gain a little cap space for 2021, but early indications are that they won’t necessarily be doing that. Here are the other six LA Rams team needs and some ideas for how to remedy them.
LA Rams Team Needs: Offense
Adjust the Offensive Line for Matthew Stafford
First up on the list of LA Rams team needs is the offensive line adjustment that will. be needed. The Rams offensive line, and offense in general, is built around the play-action pass game. Stafford, on the other hand, has typically had much more typical drop-backs than the Rams are used to. According to football outsiders, the Rams are first in the NFL (33%) over the past two seasons in terms of the percentage of their plays being play-action passes. The Lions, under Stafford during the same span, were just 17th (15%).
So, if Sean McVay wants to get the most out of his new QB, the best thing to do is a mix of what has worked for the Rams in the past, and what Stafford has done best in the past. This equals out to around a 24 percent play-action pass rate, still higher than most of the NFL. That number, however, will require over 100 more pass sets per season from the interior lineman. That would not be that bad, however, the Rams’ offensive line has shown that pass blocking is the weaker part of their game.
According to Pro Football Focus (Pff), Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein will do perfectly fine if asked to pass protect more. The interior of the offensive line, however, needs some work. All four of the Rams’ current options on the inside (David Edwards, Joseph Noteboom, Bobby Evans, and Austin Corbett, have graded neutrally or negatively as a pass blocker over the past two years. They are fine run blockers, but when asked to hold the line in “pass pro”, they have struggled.
Having a quarterback like Stafford, who is able to move in the pocket to manipulate the pass-rush, will be invaluable for a team that is so inexperienced along the offensive line.
Prediction: The Rams use their third-round picks on Alabama OC Landon Dickerson and Georgia IOL Ben Cleveland.
Get A Deep Threat
Next up on the LA Rams team needs list is a weakness that was glaring to anyone who watched Rams football in 2020. After the loss of Brandin Cooks, the Rams did not have someone to “Take the top” off of a defense. This makes it much easier to play zone defense, as your defense doesn’t have to cover as much of the field. It also makes it much harder for your underneath receivers to get open as it gets extremely crowded.
The Rams’ top three options at wide receiver (Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson) are all possession receivers that are not going to scare defenses into bringing a safety over the top. Bringing in a speedster to run deep routes would do just the trick and could have the same impact for the Rams’ offense that Scotty Miller has had for Tampa Bay.
Prediction: LA signs John Ross to a one-year $3 million deal.
LA Rams Team Needs: Defense
Bring Back John Johnson lll
This one is absolutely paramount. Johnson is one of the best-graded players on the team, according to Pff, and is a team leader. The Rams were not the same team without Johnson in 2019 and would surely revert back to being just ONE OF, and not THE, best defense in the league.
In order to keep Johnson, the Rams will surely need to use the franchise tag on him and/or get a restructure of Aaron Donald or Jalen Ramsey‘s contracts. Johnson is looking at a contract that is north of $15 million per year.
Prediction: The Rams use the Franchise Tag on Johnson and work out a long-term deal before training camp.
Tender Darious Williams
Tendering Darious Williams at the first round level will allow the Rams to retain his rights for at least one more year at an affordable price. There is always the chance that some other team signs Williams anyways, and forfeits their first-round pick to the Rams, but that would be just as good in LA. The Rams could draft a corner with that pick and have four more years of team control than they would have with Williams.
The best bet for the Rams, though, is to keep Williams this year on the tender, and then have a decision to make in 2022. They could then decide to tag him, resign him or let him walk and get a third-round comp pick in return. This is the most likely outcome for Williams, one more year as a Ram.
Prediction: LA tenders Williams at the first-round level. No team signs him off of the tender and Williams is allowed to walk in 2022 free agency.
LA Rams Team Needs: NFL Draft
Draft Outside Pass Rushers
With Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam likely to move on, the Rams outside pass-rushing unit will become extremely thin. Out of default of being the only players from that position on the roster, the current starting OLB’s are second-year Alabama product Terrell Lewis and third-year LB out of Oklahoma, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. That is not a unit that is inspiring confidence in Rams fans.
Lewis flashed in his first season that he has what it takes to be a consistent force off of the edge. There are still plenty of reps to go around after that, however, and the Rams surely know that. Getting after the passer is one of the most important parts of football. The Rams have the best in the league at doing just that…from the interior…if they get ANYTHING off of the edge, it’s scary for the rest of the league.
Prediction: The Rams use their second-round pick on Washington EDGE Joe Tryon and their sixth-round selection on Virginia OLB Charles Snowden.
Last on the LA Rams team needs list, but surely not the least important…hopefully… is the inside linebacker position. Ever since the Alec Ogletree selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Rams have not used a top-100 selection on ANY off-ball linebackers. Les Snead has gotten Rams fans hopes up every year, only to come out of the last seven drafts with no answers at the position.
While I still am not projecting the team to use a high-pick on the position, it has to be addressed earlier in this draft than it has in the recent past. The Rams combination of Micah Kiser, Troy Reeder, and Kenny Young all added up to a bottom-ten inside linebacker group, according to pff. Even though the Rams spend a huge portion of their time in sub-package defenses, thus limiting the number of snaps that this position plays in a given game, this still has to be an issue to fix on the LA Rams team needs list before training camp starts.
Prediction: The Rams use their fourth-round comp pick on West Virginia ILB Tony Fields ll and seventh-round draft choice on Auburn LB KJ Britt.
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