PFT preseason power rankings No. 27: Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have not made the postseason since 2004. We don’t expect that to change in 2017.
But that doesn’t mean the Rams are completely devoid of talent. Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Todd Gurley, Alec Ogletree and Trumaine Johnson are all legitimate pieces to build a team around. If Jared Goff can make a sizable jump in his second season - despite having to learn a completely new offense - the Rams could make some strides faster than expected.
A year removed from the move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the franchise is more settled in their routines and environments in Southern California. For a team that could never find consistency under Jeff Fisher, the change to Sean McVay gives the Rams a fresh start for the first time in five years.
Biggest positive change: Mr. 7-9 is no longer coaching the team. The St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams perennially fell short during the Jeff Fisher era. While he certainly inherited a long-term mess to clean up when he came to the team, the Rams were still an enigma under Fisher. They’d get up for games against division rivals like San Francisco and Seattle and then fall flat against teams they had no business losing to. They also always played with an aggressive style that bordered on cheap and dirty too often. And despite having several stars on defense, they never could put together an offense capable of leading the team into the postseason.
Biggest negative change: Kenny Britt was arguably the best player on offense for the Rams last season and now he’s in Cleveland. He was one of Jared Goff’s most reliable targets and was the first Rams’ receiver since 2007 to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark in a season. Britt finished the year with 68 catches for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. While Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Nelson Spruce might be able to fill the void, it again leaves Tavon Austin - who the Rams gave a ridiculously over-valued contract extension to last year - as a focal point of the offense despite being a somewhat awkward receiving/scat back hybrid.
Coaching thermometer: While Sean McVay should get some time to turn the Rams’ fortunes around, his hot seat clocks in at a tepid 55 degrees. This is Los Angeles after all. The pressure to build a winner quickly will be substantial as the franchise tries to build a new footing in L.A. And while Jeff Fisher was shown the door, Les Snead remains as general manager. If Stan Kroenke’s finds reason to oust Snead after (or during) this season, a new G.M. could be given authority to bring in his own head coach for the future.
We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Johnny Hekker. The Rams’ All-Pro punter has been the best in the league for several seasons and brings a great sense of humor along with him. We’d also like to ask exactly what the hell he was thinking when he decided it was a good idea to blindside *Cliff Avril in Seattle two seasons ago.
How they can prove us wrong: Sean McVay manages to tailor an offense to suit Jared Goff and Todd Gurley and get a significant spike in production. Wade Phillips manages to seamlessly convert a former 4-3 defense into a 3-4 front and not lose any productivity in the change. Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn continue to terrorize opposing offensive lines. Trumaine Johnson uses his franchise tag year to build an argument for the All-Pro team. If the Rams can find a way to be in the Wild Card discussion as the calendar hits December, they will have surpassed expectations.
*previous edition stated the player hit as Michael Bennett, not Cliff Avril.