December 8, 2021

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Better, worse or the same? How the Rams’ offense has changed – NFL Nation

6 min read


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Better, worse or the same?

That’s the question facing the Los Angeles Rams as they attempt to improve on a 10-6 season that resulted in a divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Two weeks after the season, the Rams completed a blockbuster trade that sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick to the Detroit Lions in exchange for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

In free agency, the Rams signed DeSean Jackson to a one-year, $4.5 million deal, then selected Louisville receiver Tutu Atwell with a second-round pick in the NFL draft. Both playmakers are expected to provide speedy targets for Stafford.

On defense, re-signing Leonard Floyd was a top priority after the outside linebacker turned in a career-best season that included 10.5 sacks. The Rams got the deal done with a four-year, $64 million contract.

So now, with free agency mostly in the rearview, the NFL draft complete and the offseason program over, it’s time to look at the Rams’ roster to determine if, based on personnel changes, they improved this offseason.

Let’s start with the offense.

Quarterbacks

Additions: Matthew Stafford (trade), Devlin Hodges (one-year, $780,000 deal)

Losses: Jared Goff (Detroit Lions), Blake Bortles (Green Bay Packers)

These guys are back: John Wolford, Bryce Perkins

Better, worse or the same: Better

When Stafford requested a trade from Detroit after 12 seasons, Rams coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead thought it was too great an opportunity to pass up.

In four seasons under McVay, Goff helped the Rams to two division titles, an NFC championship and Super Bowl LIII appearance. The hope is that Stafford can lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory.

“I want to be playing in those big games and those big moments,” Stafford said when asked about Super Bowl expectations and pressure. “It’s an opportunity more than anything.”

Stafford, 33, owns every all-time passing record in Detroit but has not won a playoff game in three appearances.

“He’s a special guy,” McVay said about his new QB. “I think one of the best ways that I can describe him when you hear people that have been around him, there’s a known confidence where when he walks into a room, you feel his presence but he’s got a great humility about himself, everybody loves being around him and he’s one of those guys that’s a true igniter. He makes everybody around him better.”

Stafford will be backed up by Wolford, who proved himself as a capable NFL backup in a Week 17 win over the Arizona Cardinals last season that clinched a playoff berth.

Running backs

Additions: Jake Funk (seventh-round pick)

Losses: Malcolm Brown (Miami Dolphins)

These guys are back: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr., Xavier Jones, Raymond Calais

Better, worse or the same: Same

The loss of Brown could be felt early given the six-year veteran’s reliable availability, pass protection and goal-line play, but expect any growing pains for the running back group to be short-lived.

Akers is the feature back of the future. He burst out of the running back committee in the final two months of his rookie season to rush for 625 yards and two touchdowns on 145 carries. He’s proven to have great run instincts and is a talented pass catcher.

The biggest question is whether Akers improved his understanding of the playbook and pass protection. “Everything is a lot easier for me,” Akers said during the offseason program. “[I] understand the playbook a lot more, I understand blocking schemes.”

McVay also expressed confidence in Henderson, who was slowed during the offseason program with an undisclosed injury. “He’s feeling better and better,” McVay said. “We expect him to be full speed by the time training camp rolls around.”

Receivers

Additions: DeSean Jackson (one-year, $4.5 deal), Tutu Atwell (second-round pick), Ben Skowronek (seventh-round pick)

Losses: Josh Reynolds (Tennessee Titans)

These guys are back: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson

Better, worse or the same: Better

The Rams entered 2020 without a true deep-threat receiver and ultimately were unable to stretch defenses. They will not make the same mistake in 2021 after adding speed this offseason via the acquisitions of Jackson and Atwell.

Jackson is the frontrunner to earn the No. 3 receiver spot to start alongside Woods and Kupp. Entering his 14th season, there are concerns whether the 34-year-old can remain healthy after he spent the past two seasons slowed and sidelined with injuries. But there’s no doubt that he still has deep-play capabilities.

“He can still run,” Stafford said about Jackson. “I know that. He can still go.”

The Rams also have high expectations for second-year pro Jefferson, who caught 19 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown last season. “You can see he’s really put the work in,” McVay said. “He’s come back establishing himself as a legitimate dude, a guy that we’re counting on for big things and I think the future is so bright for this guy.”

Tight ends

Additions: Jacob Harris (fourth-round pick)

Losses: Gerald Everett (Seattle Seahawks)

These guys are back: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blanton

Better, worse or the same: Worse

Everett wasn’t a consistent contributor every week but was capable of big-time plays when needed. His absence will be felt, at least temporarily, as there’s no clear-cut answer who will play behind Higbee.

The Rams selected Hopkins with a fourth-round pick last year to eventually replace Everett, but Hopkins had a quiet offseason program as Harris earned repetitions with the starters during minicamp (Higbee attended but did not participate).

“His natural range, catch radius, body control for a player his size is pretty rare,” McVay said. “For NFL guys to stand out the way that he’s done in some of these limited settings in shorts and in helmets, he’s definitely made a positive impression.”

However, it remains to be seen how Harris and Hopkins perform in a live setting.

Offensive line

Additions: None

Losses: Austin Blythe (Kansas City Chiefs)

These guys are back: Andrew Whitworth, David Edwards, Austin Corbett, Bobby Evans, Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Jamil Demby, Coleman Shelton, Chandler Brewer, Tremayne Anchrum Jr.

Better, worse or the same: Worse

The Rams did not add linemen in free agency or the draft (with exception of signing several undrafted free agents), which was somewhat surprising given Blythe’s departure in free agency.

Throughout the offseason, McVay remained adamant that a replacement center was in house. Corbett, Allen and Shelton will compete for the job, which Blythe held down the past two seasons.

Corbett, who’s played left and right guard since the Rams sent a fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in 2019 to acquire him, appears to be the frontrunner. “He’s an extremely smart player,” McVay said about Corbett, a second-round pick in 2018. “He’s got a good feel for the game.”

If Corbett wins the job, watch for Evans to step in as his replacement at right guard.

https://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/316711/better-worse-or-the-same-how-the-los-angeles-rams-offense-has-changed-this-offseason

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