The Los Angeles Rams have gone through many changes this offseason and it appears many are for the good of the franchise. The Rams, of course, moved from St. Louis to L.A. in January.
The Rams won three of its last four games in 2015 to finish with a 7-9 record despite having the worst passing attack in the NFL, averaging just 175.3 yards a game. Los Angeles also ranked last in yards per attempt, passing touchdowns, and total QBR. The Rams were 29th in scoring with 17.5 points a contest.
Rookie Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, has been impressive during workouts according to the Los Angeles Times. He is working with the Rams’ first team offense this week, meaning that he may start the team’s Monday Night opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
Goff will be protected by one of the best offensive lines in football. They surrendered a league-low 18 sacks. He also has some weapons, including 2015 ROY Todd Gurley as well as wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt. Los Angeles selected two wide receivers and two tight ends in this year’s draft, picking up TE Tyler Higbee (second), Pharoh Cooper (fourth), Temarrick Hemingway (sixth), and Michael Thomas (sixth).
While the offense is still a work in progress, the team will rely on its defense to carry them once again.
Los Angeles’ defense finished 13th in scoring in 2015, surrendering 20.6 points a game, and was 23rd in yards, giving up 367.8 per game. The Rams had a difficult time against both the run and pass, ranking 20th in rushing yards (113.8) and 23rd in passing yards (254.1). Los Angeles registered 41 sacks (11th) but also only recorded 13 interceptions (tied 17th) and gave up the fourth most runs of 20 yards or longer (15).
Los Angeles lost a few key pieces to its defense with the departure of linebacker James Laurinaitis, safety Rodney McLeod, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Rams did re-sign safety Mark Barron and franchise designate cornerback Trumaine Johnson. They also have DT Aaron Donald (2014 DROY), DE Robert Quinn, DE William Hayes, and LB Alec Ogletree.
Barron heads a thin group of inexperienced safeties. The 26-year-old led the team with 116 tackles, was credited with five pass defensed, and forced four fumbles. Fourth-year pros T.J. McDonald and Cody Davis, third-year pro Maurice Alexander, and second-year Christian Bryant are other safeties on the roster.
McDonald missed five games last year due to injuries, including a shoulder issue that caused him to miss the last few weeks of the season. He was arrested in May on the suspicion of DUI and is subject to league discipline.
Los Angeles reportedly has been on the lookout for veteran safety to add to the group since losing McLeod to the Philadelphia Eagles and have had conversations with free agents Donte Whitner along with Dashon Goldson.
Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News tweeted that while Whitner and Goldshon are still in play, the Rams have been happy with the performances of Alexander, Davis, and Bryant in their workouts thus far.
Whitner is a 10-year veteran who appeared in 14 games for the Cleveland Browns last year. The 30-year-old registered 81 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and forced a fumble for the Browns. He is a hard-hitter and has only missed six games in his career. Whitner was a first-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2006 and is the top defensive free agent still available according to Pro Football Rumors.
The Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers are also possible landing spots for Whitner.
J.J. Wilcox and Barry Church are slated to start for the Cowboys at strong safety and free safety, respectively. Church registered 117 tackles but only forced one fumble and had four pass defensed. Jeff Heath and 2016 sixth-round pick Kavon Frazier are the only two other safeties on the squad.
San Diego, in the meanwhile, has Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery currently at the free and strong safety positions. Lowery signed this offseason after spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts and Addae recorded just 65 tackles. Youngsters Matt Daniels, Adrian Phillips, and rookie Adrian McDonald are other safeties on the roster.
Goldson is a nine-year veteran, who recorded 110 tackles, forced a fumble, recovered two other fumbles, and intercepted a pass. The 31-year-old has also played for San Francisco and Tampa Bay, recording 609 tackles and 16 interceptions.
Los Angeles has not made the playoffs since 2004. The Rams’ best record since their last playoff appearance is when they went 8-8 in 2006. Las Vegas has the Rams at under 7.5 wins this season per ESPN. If Los Angeles finishes with seven victories in 2016, it will mark the fourth time in the past five years they reached that mark.
[Photo by Ron Schwane/Associated Press]