The 2018-2019 season didn’t end as expected for the Los Angeles Rams, as they fell to the New England Patriots 13-3 in Super Bowl 53. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic season for Sean McVay and the Rams. It was just McVay’s second season as head coach, turning the Rams from a 4-12 team to Super Bowl bound in two years. Two years.
It’s remarkable what McVay has been able to do within those two years. Don’t let a loss in the Super Bowl to the greatest dynasty in NFL history alter your opinion on one of the brightest minds in football.
Jared Goff was also a key contributor to the Rams being in the Super Bowl. Without Goff making two clutch throws against the New Orleans Saints, the Rams aren’t in Atlanta facing the Patriots.
Goff is only 24 and took a huge leap in his third season in 2018. It will be exciting to see how he improves for next season and beyond.
The future is bright in Los Angeles but you can never get complacent, especially in a league with tons of parity. It’s not going to be easy for the Rams to get back to the Super Bowl but here are three things they should focus on to try to get back in the big game next year.
3. Finding Someone to Replace Lamarcus Joyner at Free Safety
Everyone knows it is unlikely that the Rams retain Lamarcus Joyner this offseason. In 2018, he played under the franchise tag at a price point of $11.2 million.
Joyner was phenomenal for the Rams in 2017, where he had a career year in interceptions with three. I don’t know what changed in one season but Joyner didn’t look like the same player that he was in 2017.
He looked out of sorts in coverages, constantly making mental mistakes. Look at the NFC Championship game for example. Joyner was playing over the top of Ted Ginn so they wouldn’t allow the big play.
It baffles me still the angle that Joyner took to try and make a play. Just watch for yourself.
That play nearly cost the Rams the game and a chance to reach the Super Bowl. Needless to say, Joyner is likely on his way out. Who will replace him?
I expect the Rams to look in free agency and the draft for their replacement. Someone like Earl Thomas makes a ton of sense in free agency. If the Rams look to draft someone, Nasir Adderley comes to mind.
Either way, improving at the free safety position is key to them making a run to Super Bowl 54.
2. Re-Sign Rodger Saffold, Make Decisions On Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler
This offseason is a very important one for the Rams going forward. It will be McVay’s third year trying to continue building the roster to his liking.
One of the priorities this offseason is definitely re-signing Rodger Saffold. Saffold has been vital in the Rams offensive line for plenty of years. He has already hinted at possibly taking a “hometown discount” to stay put with the Rams.
Saffold is the longest tenured Ram and deserves a chance at winning a Super Bowl. He can do just that by staying in Los Angeles.
The Rams will also need to make a decision on guys like Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler. Suh was signed to a one-year deal this past offseason.
During the regular season, Suh didn’t make much noise alongside Aaron Donald. He had just 4.5 sacks, leaving people to believe that he wouldn’t be back. Then the playoffs happened.
Suh was one of the key contributors to the Rams being able to hold the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and the Patriots to a combined 58 points in the post-season.
Teams started double-teaming Donald basically every play so guys needed to step up. Both Suh and Fowler answered the call.
Fowler was acquired via trade before the NFL trade deadline. It was a bold move to obtain a young pass-rusher as talented—yet as raw as Fowler. In the NFC Championship game, Fowler made the biggest play of his career by hitting Drew Brees in overtime to cause an interception.
That interception set the Rams up to win the game on a game-winning field goal by Greg Zuerlein. It will be very important for the Rams to make decisions on all three of these guys this offseason.
I believe the Rams retain all three guys for next season. It will be an interesting offseason, to say the least.
1. Getting Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp Back Healthy
The biggest priority for the Rams to focus on to be Super Bowl bound in 2020 is to get guys like Todd Gurley and Cooper Kupp back to 100%.
It’s likely we will never get the full story on whether or not Gurley was at full health in the Super Bowl—or playoffs for that matter. In the Super Bowl, Gurley rushed for just 35 yards on 10 carries—right after McVay said he’d be heavily involved.
It’s hard to believe a coach as smart as McVay would hold out his best offensive weapon in the biggest game of the season—unless he was hurt to some extent.
We saw Gurley on the sidelines and on the bike for the majority of the game. It was troubling to see that but the result is what it is.
Another missing piece for about half the year was Cooper Kupp. Kupp was lighting it up in his second season in the NFL.
Before tearing his ACL in Week 10. Kupp totaled 566 yards on 40 receptions and six touchdowns in eight games started. The Rams offense was nearly unstoppable with him in the offense.
The Rams were 9-1 through Week 10 with Kupp. After he went down with injury, the Rams went 4-2 to end the year. They did win two games in the playoffs without him but there’s no doubt he would’ve been a huge help in the long run.
It will be important for both Gurley and Kupp to be healthy in 2019 for the Rams.