The Los Angeles Rams are about a third of the way through their 2017 season. How have the units looked so far and where is the room for growth?
The Los Angeles Rams are 4-2 for the first time since 2006, and they have already equaled their win total from last season. (Incidentally, that 2006 team, who would lose seven of eight in the middle point of the season, finished 8-8). Let’s take a look at how the different units have fared so far this year.
Quarterbacks: QB Jared Goff is a different player in 2017. Sean McVay has allowed him to be confident, play his game, and make NFL level plays in only his second season (eight touchdowns to three interceptions through six games). Goff has looked like a rookie at times and has made some bad decisions, which is to be expected. But let’s be honest, Rams fans, did you really expect Goff to be this good this season? Not many did. Luckily we have not seen backup QB Sean Mannion yet, though he seems like a quality backup who could fill in in a bind. The season has been positive so far for a lot of reasons, but perhaps none is bigger than McVay turning Goff into a quality NFL starting QB.
Running backs: After not totaling 100 yards rushing in any game last season, Todd Gurley has three 100 yard rushing games in the six outings this year. What is more impressive, though, is his role as a receiver, which adds another 245 yards and three Touchdowns (his career high for receiving yards is 327 yards in 2016). Malcolm Brown has been a reliable backup to Gurley and even Tavon Austin has helped as a change of pace player in the backfield. Suffice it to say, the Running backs are much better this year.
Wide Receivers: The Wide Receivers group is one of the units that has improved the most in the last year. WR Sammy Watkins is not getting the ball enough, but that is largely because there are a lot of weapons and only one ball. This is the secret to McVay’s offense and why the team is able to attack the defense in so many ways. There are some things this group can clean up as they mature and grow together, but the results so far have been great.
Tight Ends: TE Tyler Higbee and TE Gerald Everett have had their moments, combining for 320 yards and a score. They are similar to the receiver group in that you never know how much they will be featured in the game plan week to week, but it is good to see some reliable weapons that can catch the ball and make plays. compare this production so far to Lance Kendricks and Higbee last year who combined for less than 600 yards and had three touchdowns.
Offensive Line: The offensive line is also a candidate for most upgraded unit. While not necessarily a top ten unit, they typically give Goff enough time to through and have consistently opened top holed for the back to run through. What more do you ask for from there “hog-mollies” up front?
Defensive Line/Edge: A unit often times regarded as one of the best in football, the Defensive front has been quietly stout. You may have seen the stat where Aaron Donald had as many quarterback pressures on Sunday as six teams. They have come up big several times at the ends of games (San Francisco and Dallas) and regularly sack the opposing QB and make tackles for loss.
Linebackers: This group has been a mixed bag. Middle Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron are athletic and can hit, but they are both largely to blame for the success teams have had running against the Rams. Wade Phillips seems to be using them a bit different recently, which has helped.
Defensive Backs: This unit has dealt with more injuries and lack of depth than any other unit, but they have held their own for the most part, leading to interceptions and forced fumbles. The Rams will likely be in the market for a corner back in the offseason as they will likely lose CB Trumaine Johnson, but this group has played well. Getting S Lamarcus Joyner back off an injured hamstring will help as well.
Special teams: The Los Angeles Rams continue to have one of the elite special teams units in the NFL, again on display Sunday with two Special Teams touchdowns. The Dallas win was largely due to game ball earner, Mr. Automatic Greg Zeurlein. However, his miss against Seattle certainly hurt Los Angeles’ chances of winning against a tough team. P Johnny Hekker continues to be the best punter in the league, and the fact that I cannot remember Jake McQuaide ever with a bad snap is a great sign (knock on wood).