FY is back with another 2016 NFL team preview! Are you seeing enough of the Rams on Hard Knocks? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City.
Where They’re Coming From
St. Louis, Missouri.
Literally. They moved, remember?
On a more serious note, they’ve finished last in the NFC West in six of the last nine seasons, but they were third last year. (Hooray?)
Their defense was a little better than average last season, while their offense was horrendous, even with Todd Gurley’s impressive rookie season.
Where They’re Going
Towards mediocrity in a bigger city.
As much as I wanted to say, “Los Angeles,” I would have been beating a dead horse. (Or should I say Ram?)
The Rams believe they have finally found their franchise quarterback in Jared Goff, but he’s at least a year away from being more productive than Case Keenum. The offense will continue to hold them back for at least one more season.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: QB Jared Goff (drafted), OLB Akeem Ayers, CB Coty Sensabaugh
Losses: CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Nick Fairley, FS Rodney McLeod, MLB James Laurinaitis
What to Watch For
The running game.
What’s the record for fewest passes attempted in a season? Nick Foles was absolutely terrible under center last season, so bad that fans called for (and got) Case Keenum.
The only positive for the Rams offense last year was Gurley. The rookie back rushed for 1,106 yards on 229 carries (4.8 yards per carry); he also caught 21 balls for another 188 yards and scored ten TDs.
Unfortunately, defensive coordinators now have almost a full season of tape on him, and will be scheming to stop him every week, knowing that the team still has no passing game. The Rams will have to get very creative in their rushing attack and screen game to divert attention away from their star back.
Who to Watch For
Tavon Austin, WR
Tavon Austin will have to be an effective complement to Gurley, whether he’s carrying the ball or catching it in space.
Austin is one of the most explosive players in the league, but had not shown much until last season, when he racked up 907 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns.
He’ll become even more dangerous if/when the Rams get a legitimate quarterback to throw him the ball, but his versatility will allow him and Gurley to form an exciting one-two punch.
I also have to mention Aaron Donald, who is already one of the best interior pass-rushers in the league (and you can probably omit “one of”). The third-year stud will help make up for all the team’s losses defensively.
What Could Go Wrong
Take your pick.
The Rams lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball, so there’s a good chance the unit may fall off.
Their offensive line ranked 28th in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and the two new starters in 2016 aren’t highly touted.
And then there’s the most obvious answer: the quarterback position. I won’t spill a bunch more words here, just reiterate that Keenum is the likely starter. An injury to Todd Gurley or Tavon Austin would cripple the offense.
Where They’ll End Up
Committing more 7-9 bulls**t.
Fisher may have his players believing that they’re too good to be 7-9, but the rest of us aren’t buying into it yet.
Having to deal with NFC powerhouses Seattle and Arizona four times per season certainly doesn’t help his cause. Fisher’s fate lies in the hands of his defense remaining in the upper-half of the league, and how quickly Jared Goff can develop into a good NFL quarterback.
At this point, Fisher is just hoping he can convince the Rams’ top brass that he can win more than seven games, something he hasn’t accomplished in his four years at the helm, and something the organization hasn’t accomplished since 2006.