2017 NFL Offseason: Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams (Last Year: 4-12)

2017 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
RB Lance Dunbar, WR Robert Woods, OT Andrew Whitworth, C John Sullivan, DT Tyrunn Walker, DE/OLB Connor Barwin, CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB Kayvon Webster.
Early Draft Picks:
TE Gerald Everett, WR Cooper Kupp, S John Johnson, WR Josh Reynolds, DE/OLB Samson Ebukam. Rams Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
QB Case Keenum, RB Benny Cunningham, WR Kenny Britt, WR Brian Quick, TE Lance Kendricks, OT Greg Robinson, C Tim Barnes, DE William Hayes, DE Eugene Sims, S T.J. McDonald.

2017 Los Angeles Rams Offense:
The Rams traded the farm for Jared Goff, so it was shocking that he didn’t even suit up in the season opener, as Jeff Fisher believed Sean Mannion should’ve been higher on the depth chart. Goff eventually got his chance, but was unbelievably atrocious. He completed just 54.6 percent of his passes on a 5.3 YPA, throwing seven interceptions compared to five touchdowns in the process. Goff looked perplexed in the pocket, appearing completely unprepared to play in the NFL. Making matters worse, Goff was seen partying at the Super Bowl even though he didn’t win (or cover) a single game as a rookie. At this rate, Goff could end up being the greatest draft bust in NFL history, as he would beat JaMarcus Russell because of all the Rams had to surrender to obtain him.

If Los Angeles wants to feel optimistic, it’s that it has quarterbacks coach Greg Olson to tutor Goff. Olson has done incredible work over the years, getting Josh Freeman to the Pro Bowl and developing Derek Carr. However, great coaching can only go so far, and there have been some signal-callers, like Blaine Gabbert, who were so utterly awful that they couldn’t even improve under Olson’s guidance. It’s appearing as though Goff is closer to Gabbert than the other two quarterbacks, as he doesn’t seem to have that all-important “it” factor.

Something else Goff doesn’t have is a quality offensive line. The Rams couldn’t block whatsoever last year, though the situation is better now because of two additions. Andrew Whitworth is an upgrade over Greg Robinson at left tackle, if only by default. Robinson was atrocious, so anything Whitworth can give the Rams will be a bonus. However, Whitworth turns 36 during the season, and it’s awfully suspicious that he took the money to leave a better team to a horribly run franchise that hasn’t been to the playoffs in more than a decade. It’s almost as if he went to California to retire early. That’s not to say that Whitworth will definitely slack off, but it’s fair to question his passion at this stage of his career.

The other addition the Rams made was signing John Sullivan. The former Viking and Redskin played well in the past, but was only mediocre in spot duty last year. Still, he’ll be an upgrade over Tim Barnes at center. Sullivan will be flanked by guards Rodger Saffold and Rob Havenstein. Saffold has been the Rams’ top blocker when healthy, but he’s had trouble staying on the field throughout his career. Havenstein, meanwhile, is transitioning inside from right tackle. Greg Robinson was slated to play that position instead, but he was traded to the Lions after he was beaten out by pedestrian talent Jamon Brown.

The Rams’ blocking will be better by default in 2017, but it still won’t be very good. That’s obviously bad news for Todd Gurley, who struggled last year. He saw his yards-per-carry average drop from 4.8 as a rookie to 3.2 this past season. Gurley could average something close to the median of those two figures.

Goff will need Gurley to rebound because he has no offensive weapons at his disposal. In fact, it could be argued that his receiving corps will be worse in 2017. Kenny Britt had slacked off for years, but he tried hard last year, and he’s now gone. Replacing him is the horribly overpaid Robert Woods, a pedestrian No. 2 receiver who will be asked to function like a top wideout. Tavon Austin and rookie Cooper Kupp round out the worst receiving corps in the entire NFL. Second-round rookie tight end Gerald Everett is likely too raw to help out this season, though the Rams should feel optimistic about his future.

2017 Los Angeles Rams Defense:
The Rams were the worst team in the NFL when Jared Goff took over as the starting quarterback. The only positive aspect happened to be the defensive front, which has star players like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn to put heavy pressure on opposing signal-callers. Of course, in typical Rams fashion, the team has decided to change things regarding the line.

A trademark of a good coach is adapting a scheme to fit the personnel. Coaches who have done the opposite have almost never panned out in the NFL, so it appears as though Sean McVay is destined to fail. McVay hired Wade Phillips to be the defensive coordinator, so the Rams will be moving to a 3-4. Phillips is a great assistant coach despite causing friction in the Denver locker room. However, it’s very fair to question if the Rams have the personnel to make the 3-4 work. Quinn and Donald are terrific players, but they almost seem like fish out of water in this new scheme. The same could be said of Dominique Easley. Michael Brockers, who will start next to Donald on the defensive line, seems like a better fit for the system, but that’s not even known.

Quinn’s adjustment to the 3-4 may not be as difficult as Donald’s. It’s more likely than not that he transitions well, but it’s far from a guarantee. Quinn will start across from the newly acquired Connor Barwin, who actually struggled in Philadelphia’s 4-3. Barwin should perform better in 2017, but he turns 31 in October, so he’s in decline. Fourth-round pick Samson Ebukam will provide depth.

Keeping with the theme of questionable players in the 3-4, the two starting inside linebackers will be Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree. The latter could be fine, but Barron will almost certainly be abused in run support. The Rams have very little else at inside linebacker, so they’re in pretty horrible shape at this position.

If there’s a silver lining for the Rams’ defense, it’s that cornerback E.J. Gaines will be healthy after an injury-ravaged 2016 campaign. Gaines was awful when he played, so he should improve in 2017. He’ll start across from the excellent Trumaine Johnson. Nickell Robey-Coleman and Kayvon Webster, meanwhile, were signed for depth. The former played well several seasons ago, so perhaps he can recapture the magic as the starting nickel corner in Los Angeles. Webster struggled last year, but is at least familiar with Phillips’ scheme, given that he’s a former Bronco.

Along with Johnson, the Rams have another fantastic player in their secondary in Maurice Alexander, a great cover safety who has developed well after being a fourth-round pick in 2014. The Rams, however, lost his partner in crime T.J. McDonald to an expired contract. Lamarcus Joyner will also have to make an adjustment, as he’ll have to transition from cornerback to safety in order to compensate for the loss. Third-round rookie John Johnson will compete for the job.

2017 Los Angeles Rams Schedule and Intangibles:
Los Angeles figures to be a horrible homefield advantage for the Rams. When the team played in Los Angeles previously, Steve Young would actually have to tell his teammates to be quiet in the huddle, since the stadium was so silent that the opposing team could hear what they were saying. It’s no surprise the Rams were 1-6 at home in their first year in the city of heavy traffic, high taxes and insufferable actors.

Greg Zuerlein’s nickname is “Greg the Leg” because of his massive kicking power. He disappointed in 2015, going just 20-of-30, including 3-of-9 from 50-plus. He managed to rebound in 2016 with a 19-of-22 effort, though he was only 2-of-4 from beyond 50.

Johnny Hekker maintained the highest net-punting average at 44.2 in 2013, 43.7 in 2015 and 46.0 in 2016.

No touchdowns were scored for or against the Rams on special teams, but they did manage to outgain the opposition on both kickoffs and punt returns.

The Rams have quite a few winnable games on their schedule: Redskins (home), 49ers (twice), Jaguars (road), and that’s pretty much it.

2017 Los Angeles Rams Rookies:
Go here for the Rams Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2017 Los Angeles Rams Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2017 Los Angeles Rams Analysis: The Rams are in complete transition. Not only are they in their second year in a new city, but most of their defensive players are moving around to new positions; the offensive line has been shuffled around; and Jared Goff is learning a completely new offense. It’s highly unlikely the Rams will be competitive in 2017, and it could be possible that they’ll obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The question then will be, do they take Sam Darnold?

Projection: 3-13 (4th in NFC West)

2016 Projection: 3-13. 2016 Actual Result: 4-12.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C- Grade

Goals Entering the 2017 NFL Draft: The Rams have to make some major changes on offense to give Jared Goff any sort of chance. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have a first-round pick, so they can’t grab a blue-chip prospect. They’ll need to obtain a No. 1 receiver and several offensive linemen in the second and third days, somehow. Meanwhile, personnel for their new 3-4 defense will have to be acquired as well.

2017 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Trading down is usually favorable, but sometimes it’s not, such as when a perfect prospect falls to a team, and they decide to pass on him. That’s exactly what happened to the Rams in the second round. They had Zay Jones fall into their lap. He was the best receiver available by far at that juncture, and the Rams would’ve done well to obtain him. Instead, they moved down, and all they had to show for it was a reach on a third-round tight end Gerald Everett.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Rams selected late-round prospect John Johnson in the third frame. The pick they made in between, Cooper Kupp, was a decent one, as was Josh Reynolds in the fourth round. So it’s not like it was all bad for the Rams. It was just sub-par drafting. As someone with NFL contacts told me during the draft, “I think Les Snead was kidnapped after taking Donald and Gurley, this imposter is blowing the Rams’ drafts.”

I liked some of the Rams’ late picks – especially fullback Sam Rogers – but they reached on the third day as well with Samson Ebukam. All in all, it was a bad draft for the Rams, and I think a C- is about right.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

44. Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama: C Grade
As a former NFL running back once said, “The more things change, the more they are different.” The Rams continue to draft poorly. I wouldn’t say this pick is horrible because Gerald Everett was going to generate interest from some teams at the end of the second round, but they thought they could obtain him in he third frame. This is a bit of a reach, but not an egregious one. It also fills a need, so at least the Rams have that going for them here. This selection just could’ve been so much better, so it’s disappointing.

69. Cooper Kupp, WR, Eastern Washington: B Grade
It doesn’t really matter whom the Rams add at receiver; they could have Jerry Rice and Cris Carter in their prime, and Jared Goff would still be terrible. Cooper Kupp is a smart receiver who is a big threat in the red zone, and he obviously fills a need. He also makes sense in this range. It’s a solid choice, but Kupp will need Goof to leave in order to post solid numbers.

91. John Johnson, S, Boston College: RAMS R-A-M-E MILLEN Grade
You know, I was just thinking that we haven’t had many bad picks. It feels like almost everything has ranged from A+ to “B.” I don’t know what happened, but Philadelphia has transformed most franchises into competent drafters. Unfortunately, that has not affected the Rams and Bears. Los Angeles selected a player I had in the 200s of my big board. He fills a need, but this is an egregious reach.

117. Josh Reynolds, WR, Texas A&M: A- Grade
Josh Reynolds was an underrated player coming out of Texas A&M, as he was a productive receiver who tested well. Reynolds needs to gain some weight to avoid injury, but it seems like he’ll be a quality wideout for the Rams.

125. Samson Ebukam, DE/OLB, Eastern Washington: D Grade
The Rams just moved up 16 spots to select a sixth-round prospect. That’s their drafting inteptitude in a nutshell. They and the Bears have really struggled this weekend. Samson Ebukam has great upside with his incredible athleticism, but he’s a big-time project.

189. Tanzel Smart, DT, Tulane: B- Grade
Tanzel Smart was a productive player for Tulane for several seasons, but tested extremely poorly at the combine. He should still be able to become a decent rotational player for the Rams, but doesn’t have much upside.

206. Sam Rogers, FB, Virginia Tech: A Grade
Wow, the Rams made a great pick! Sam Rogers was the best fullback in this draft, yet wasn’t the first player taken at his position somehow. Rogers will help Todd Gurley, and he’ll also serve as a Kyle Juszczyk-type pass-catching weapon coming out of the backfield.

234. Ejuan Price, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh: B+ Grade
Ejuan Price is a mildly athletic pass-rushing specialist who was very productive at Pittsburgh, when healthy. The problem? He’s had a myriad of injuries throughout his career, so he’s difficult to trust. However, the seventh round is a nice time to take a chance on someone like this.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
There was a ton of hype about a football team finally being back in Los Angeles, but even when the Rams began the year 3-1, there just wasn’t much excitement for them. The Rams bottomed out, looking worse as the season progressed. Jeff Fisher was fired, but that’s overshadowed by Jared Goff not appearing to have the stuff of a franchise quarterback.

Offseason Moves:
  • Rams sign CB Nickell Robey-Coleman
  • Rams sign C John Sullivan
  • Rams sign DT Tyrunn Walker
  • Rams sign DE/OLB Connor Barwin
  • Rams sign RB Lance Dunbar
  • Rams re-sign K Greg Zuerlein
  • Rams sign CB Kayvon Webster
  • Dolphins acquire DE William Hayes, 7th-rounder from Rams for 6th-round pick
  • Rams cut TE Lance Kendricks
  • Rams cut DE Eugene Sims
  • Rams cut C Tim Barnes
  • Rams sign WR Robert Woods
  • Rams sign OT Andrew Whitworth

    Team Needs:
    1. Left Tackle: This has to be the Rams’ No. 1 need by a long shot. Greg Robinson has been a colossal bust since being chosen at No. 2 overall in a recent NFL Draft. It’s time to move on if Jared Goff is to have any hope. It’s a shame for Los Angeles that it doesn’t have a first-round selection to address this need. Signed Andrew Whitworth

    2. Two Wide Receivers: Kenny Britt is not dependable at all, and yet he was the Rams’ No. 1 receiver in 2016. Brian Quick has yet to develop – and he’s a free agent anyway – so Los Angeles will need to spend an early pick on a wideout. A second receiver should be added as well unless Britt re-signs. Signed Robert Woods

    3. Guard: Here’s another offensive line spot the Rams have to upgrade. They have an excellent guard in Rodger Saffold, but they desperately need another.

    4. Center: A center is needed as well in the wake of Tim Barnes’ release. Signed John Sullivan

    5. Cornerback: The Rams lost Janoris Jenkins last offseason. They can’t afford to see another excellent cornerback hit free agency. If Trumaine Johnson leaves, Los Angeles will have to obtain another No. 1 cornerback. Franchised Trumaine Johnson; signed Nickell Robey-Coleman

    6. Safety: As with the cornerback group, the Rams have a talented starter (T.J. McDonald) hitting free agency.

    7. Quarterback: I’m listing quarterback as a need even though the Rams won’t address it this offseason. Jared Goff already looks like a sunk cost, which isn’t a surprise because every team we spoke to prior to the 2017 NFL Draft preferred Carson Wentz over Goff. This includes people in the Rams’ organization!

    8. Running Back Depth: Benny Cunningham is a free agent, so Los Angeles will need someone else to back up Todd Gurley. Rams sign Lance Dunbar

    9. Kicker: Greg Zuerlein is an impending free agent. Re-signed with Rams

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2017 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Bengals. Age: 35.
      Signed with Rams (3 years, $36 million)

      Andrew Whitworth would be rated at five stars if it weren’t for his age. He’s been one of the top left tackles in the NFL for a very long time. However, he just turned 35 and could begin to decline at some point in the near future.

    2. Connor Barwin, DE/OLB, Eagles. Age: 30.
      Signed with Rams (1 year)

      Connor Barwin collected 14.5 sacks in 2014, and he tallied seven sacks the year after. His production fell off a cliff this past season, however, as he was miscast as a 4-3 defensive end. That, and the near-$8 million cap savings are the two reasons Barwin was released. Barwin can still play though, and he would be wise to sign with a 3-4 team.

    3. John Sullivan, C, Redskins. Age: 32.
      Signed with Rams

      John Sullivan was once a very skilled center for the Vikings. I don’t know why he was a backup this past year, but Sullivan should be someone’s starting center. He turns 32 in August, but interior blockers can perform on a high level well into their mid-30s.

    4. Robert Woods, WR, Bills. Age: 25.
      Signed with Rams (5 years, $39 million)

      Robert Woods has yet to live up to his second-round billing. He caught 10 passes for 162 yards in a game versus Seattle this past season, but has done nothing otherwise. He’s still only 25 in April, so perhaps he’ll be able to improve in the near future.

    5. Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB, Bills. Age: 25.
      Signed with Rams

      Nickel Robey-Coleman was great as a rookie in 2013, but regressed every year afterward and was ultimately benched in 2016. Perhaps he can return back to form, but he hasn’t played well in a while.

    6. Kayvon Webster, CB, Broncos. Age: 26. — Signed with Rams
    7. Tyrunn Walker, DT, Lions. Age: 27. — Signed with Rams
    8. Lance Dunbar, RB, Cowboys. Age: 28. — Signed with Rams

    Los Angeles Rams Free Agents:

    Salary Cap Space: $39.1M.
    1. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams. Age: 27.
      Franchised by Rams

      Trumaine Johnson is an excellent cornerback who has about four more years remaining in his prime, given that he just turned 27. Johnson struggles to tackle, but he’s phenomenal as a cover cornerback.

    2. Dominique Easley (RFA), DT, Rams. Age: 25.
      Tendered by Rams

      Dominique Easley was inexplicably cut by the Patriots last offseason. The Rams scooped him up, and he has played well for them, particularly as an interior pass-rusher. Easley is just 25 in February and has immense upside. He’d be rated much higher than this if he didn’t come with character concerns.

    3. T.J. McDonald, S, Rams. Age: 26.
      Signed with Dolphins (1 year)

      T.J. McDonald had a rough offseason leading into 2016, coming off shoulder surgery and then being arrested for a DUI. However, none of this affected his play this season, as McDonald put together another decent campaign.

    4. Greg Zuerlein, K, Rams. Age: 29.
      Re-signed with Rams (3 years, $6.75 million)

      Greg Zuerlein struggled mightily in 2015, drilling just 20 of his 30 attempted field goals. He worked on his craft the following offseason and improved, as his conversion percentage was better than 80 degrees. Nicknamed “The Leg,” Zuerlein was uncharacteristially woeful from beyond 50 in 2015, hitting just 3-of-9 attempts.

    5. Kenny Britt, WR, Rams. Age: 28.
      Signed with Browns (4 years, $32.5 million)

      Kenny Britt eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career this past season despite playing with some terrible quarterbacks. Britt possesses very good physical talent, but has always battled horrible cases of lethargy. Perhaps he’s grown up, but it’s difficult to rely on him.

    6. Benny Cunningham, RB, Rams. Age: 27.
    7. Brian Quick, WR, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Redskins
    8. Tim Barnes, C, Rams. Age: 29. — Signed with 49ers
    9. Lance Kendricks, TE, Rams. Age: 29. — Signed with Packers
    10. Case Keenum, QB, Rams. Age: 29. — Signed with Vikings
    11. Ethan Westbrooks (RFA), DE, Rams. Age: 26.
    12. Troy Hill, CB, Rams. Age: 26.
    13. Eugene Sims, DE, Rams. Age: 31.
    14. Cam Thomas, DT, Rams. Age: 30.
    15. Chase Reynolds, RB, Rams. Age: 29.
    16. Steve Williams, CB, Rams. Age: 26.
    17. Trey Watts (RFA), RB, Rams. Age: 26.
    18. Stedman Bailey, WR, Rams. Age: 26.


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