3 areas Rams must improve this offseason to return to the Super Bowl
A star-studded 2018 Los Angeles Rams roster wasn’t enough to overcome a more experienced New England Patriots team in Super Bowl LIII. With a final score of 13-3, The Patriots did just enough to beat the Rams, who simply looked lost and unprepared for the biggest battle of them all.
Judging from that final score, one would assume that it’s Los Angeles’ offense that needs the most help. But in reality, the team is still well-equipped on offense that its embarrassing lack of firepower from the Super Bowl was merely a case of a young L.A. squad unable to outplay nor contain New England’s dominance when it comes to title-winning situations.
With that in mind, here are the three more crucial and specific areas that the Rams should look to improve upon during the 2019 offseason.
3. Offensive Line
For all the talent and explosive potential that Los Angeles’ offense has, it can only be as good as its supporting cast: the offensive line.
In 2017, the Rams signed left tackle Andrew Whitworth from the Cincinnati Bengals as one of their biggest offseason moves. In that year’s regular season, Todd Gurley immediately became the NFL’s best running back en route to winning the Offensive Player of the Year Award. That one little upgrade in the offensive line proved to be a key factor to Los Angeles’ success on offense.
Fast-forward to present day, the Rams’ O-line isn’t as dependable as it was a couple of years ago. Whitworth missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in since 2014 last season, and he’s entering his 13th year in the NFL at the age of 37. The same could be said of center John Sullivan, who’s also neat the tail-end of his career at 33.
Meanwhile, left guard Rodger Saffold is a free agent this year and could very well find a new home after serving the Los Angeles/St. Louis organization ever since he was drafted in 2010. Losing one key constant on the offensive line could cause a domino effect of the entire unit crumbling down.
That being said, The Rams must find a way to find fresh and able bodies able to hold down the trenches for the rest of the offense to keep clicking as they’ve done so this past couple of seasons under the Sean McVay era.
2. The Secondary
On paper, having the likes of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Lamarcus Joyner usually means that there shouldn’t be any issues for Los Angeles’ defensive back situation. However, the team’s secondary produced a mixed bag of results in 2018.
The Rams finished last season with 18 interceptions, which is the third-most in the NFL. Despite their ability to create turnovers, they still finished 20th in passing yards allowed per contest (236.3).
Talib missed half of the 2017 regular season and is starting to show his age as well. In addition, Peters has yet to get accustomed to playing under the brighter lights of L.A., whereas he was a total shutdown corner during his time in Kansas City.
On the bright side, the Rams’ first and only significant move this offseason thus far is signing six-time Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle. But there are more possible upgrades for their secondary out there, especially if Talib and Peters will only deliver results with their respective names and not actual on-field production.
Stud defensive tackle Aaron Donald can only do so much for the Los Angeles front seven. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year tallied 20.5 sacks last season, but he alone accounted for over half of his team’s total output in that category.
The Rams’ 33 sacks in 2018 were tied for the eighth-fewest in the NFL. Their first season under McVay in 2017 also had this same problem — if not worse — with just 28 sacks.
Acquiring Dante Fowler Jr. from the Jaguars mid-season last year and re-signing him to a one-year deal were smart moves, but having another edge rusher to pressure opposing QBs on the opposite end of Fowler might be the one missing piece to Los Angeles’ defensive puzzle.
The team will have to pull off some shrewd maneuvering with their salary cap and negotiating skills if they’re to pursue some of the notable pass-rushers in free agency.
Jadeveon Clowney and DeMarcus Lawrence had recently been franchise-tagged by the Texans and Cowboys, respectively, earlier this month. This will make it harder for other teams like the Rams to try and pry them off of their current team’s hands.