Rams Preview Capsule
LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-6)
New faces: DT Ndamukong Suh, CB Marcus Peters, CB Aqib Talib, WR Brandin Cooks, CB Sam Shields.
Key losses: LB Robert Quinn, CB Trumaine Johnson, LB Alec Ogletree, WR Sammy Watkins, WR Tavon Austin, LB Connor Barwin, offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
Strengths: Offense returns with every important part from last season’s highest-scoring team in NFL, including entire line. Offensive Player of Year Todd Gurley will be healthy, hungry after getting no playing time in entire preseason. Rams likely upgraded receiving corps by replacing Watkins with Cooks, who fits coach Sean McVay’s plans. Defense’s addition of three veteran stars should boost overall performance, particularly with two elite cornerbacks creating time for Aaron Donald and Suh to wreak havoc. Special teams units with four Pro Bowlers also return intact.
Weaknesses: Defensive Player of Year Donald missed second straight training camp in holdout. Regular-season schedule is NFL’s fifth toughest, with opponents carrying combined .523 winning percentage from 2017. Like most teams with big stars, roster is top-heavy at some positions, including quarterback, receiver, defensive line. Rams must hope untested Cory Littleton is capable replacement for leading tackler Ogletree. Linebacker Mark Barron has barely practiced and hasn’t played in camp or preseason. Right guard Jamon Brown suspended for first two games of season. Opposition might have better ideas on slowing down McVay’s offense in second year.
Fantasy Players To Watch: Gurley. Dynamic running back poised to remain prime fantasy contributor and centerpiece of offense. Gurley racked up 1,305 yards rushing and 788 yards receiving last year despite sitting out season finale and will have ball in his hands constantly.
Vegas Says: Super Bowl 11-1. Over/under wins 10.
Expectations: Rams’ flashy offseason signings confirmed they expect to contend for first championship in 19 years. If McVay and Wade Phillips prove they weren’t one-season wonder combo, LA clearly has talent and experience to be among NFC’s top teams. Would be major step to defend NFC West title and win first back-to-back division crowns since 1979. Rams were solid road team last year, and contention will depend on surviving another midseason stretch with just two of nine games at Coliseum. Time to find out if McVay can do it again.
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