It is now that time of year when the sports world is focused entirely on Indianapolis as the best prospects from all of college football descend upon Lucas Oil Stadium to show the NFL just what they can bring to the professional level.
For fans of struggling teams, this time of year is often one of the most exciting as debates about the additions or changes a team can make that can quickly turn their favorite team from pretender to contender create hope for the coming year. In the case of the Rams, this discussion is typically focused on what the Rams need to do to improve an underperforming offense.
Many will make the case that the Rams continue to struggle on offense due to the fact they employ a head coach that doesn’t recognize the importance of that side of the ball. Even the biggest Jeff Fisher fans will concede he is certainly a defensive-minded, ball-control coach. But it is difficult to argue that he has not at least made attempts to improve the offense.
Under the leadership of Jeff Fisher and Les Snead, the Rams have used their top draft picks on the likes of Greg Robinson, Tavon Austin, and Todd Gurley. They have used numerous early round picks to target players such as Brian Quick, Isaiah Pead, Jamon Brown and Sean Mannion. We also can’t forget, given recent news, the questionable foray into free agency to solve the tight end problem by grabbing Jared Cook.
So it may not be fair to say Jeff Fisher has made no attempt to improve the offense. The better statement may be that the decisions he has made simply haven’t proven themselves to be the right moves. Of course, it is always easy to praise or ridicule a pick after the fact. Even to this day, it is still commonplace to see players drafted way too high or way too low. How often does a big-name free agent fail to live up to expectations in a new home? In other words, the evaluation process is not always an exact science and even the best moves on paper can fail to pan out.
Once again, the Rams face a wide range of questions on the offensive side of the ball and there are many opinions on what the Rams can or should do to change their offensive outlook for the coming year. Most would agree changes are necessary. But is it still realistic to expect more than just a minor improvement going into 2016? Just how optimistic should Rams fans be about the offense going into next year?
The Rams offense was abysmal in 2015. They ranked 29th overall and this is with a running game that rode a mid-season hot streak by Todd Gurley to a 14th ranked rushing attack. Going into 2016, there may not be a single aspect of the team on the offensive side of the ball that doesn’t carry some serious question marks or concerns.
Who will be the quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams? Most would argue the long-term solution is not currently on the roster. Do the Rams look to options in free agency, potentially overpaying in the process? Or do they look to the draft, knowing that anyone they bring in may need several years to grow into the position?
If the Rams do bring in a new QB, will it matter if the receivers fail to get separation or continue to drop key 3rd down conversions? Lack of a franchise QB has been compliant #1 with fans, but the lack of a true go-to receiver may be complaint 1A. Tavon Austin is not that number one threat. Brian Quick, despite having the physical tools of a number one receiver, has yet to show signs he can fill that role and may likely be taking his talents to another city. The Rams don’t have a number one receiver. It can be argued that they don’t even have a number two or three receiver (depending on where Austin is categorized). Is acquiring a key receiving threat a move the Rams should set as a priority above even the QB?
How about the tight end position? The Jared Cook experiment was a failure. He was an inconsistent receiving option that was often a liability as a blocker. Despite his inconsistency, he was still one of the leading receivers in his time with the team. Losing him means the team loses an offensive threat, even if the threat he posed never matched his talent. Does the organization even care to find a more dynamic receiving threat at this position? Or do they simply want tight ends that can support the run game and occasionally provide a passing option?
For all of the discussions around the passing game, the Rams are a run-first team. Fortunately, the starting running back position is currently in the hands of the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Todd Gurley. Gurley’s very successful rookie season means less questions or concerns. But, even despite his impressive rookie campaign, there are key questions here a well. Should the Rams be concerned that Gurley is more likely to experience another serious knee injury, leaving Tre Mason as the feature back. Is Mason capable of carrying the offensive load on a team heavily emphasizing the run? Given the direction the league is going in terms of emphasizing the passing game, will individual success from Todd Gurley even result in more wins unless personnel in the passing game also improves?
Next: The Offensive Line