Casual observers of the LA Rams missed what contributed to the team’s 9-7 record, so they cannot recognize the importance of special teams
The LA Rams were a very good 9-7 team. Unfortunately, they were not good enough, as the team only recorded wins against two of six playoff teams faced last season. At times, the offense was simply not good enough. At other times, the defense was not up to the challenge. But casual observers of the Rams fail to take into account the play of the special team’s play in 2019.
The Rams lost two games in 2019 to division rivals in part due to poor special teams play. Two losses that if the dominoes fell correctly would have been two wins. A 9-7 team suddenly is 11-5. The Rams would have landed the Seattle Seahawks playoff berth, and the Seahawks would have bumped the Minnesota Vikings. What if’s, huh?
Tweaks, not overhauls, needed for 2020
While it’s all water under the bridge, that exercise is quite valuable in setting the stage for the Rams 2020 season. Despite a flawed offensive line, running game, and special teams, the Rams were that close to a solid playoff berth. That close-to-playoffs-then translates into 2020 minor corrections, a bit healthier, and a more prepared Rams team earning a playoff berth this season. can make a huge difference.
To do that, the Rams need to pony-up on coverage, returns, and field goals. We can only guess at the Rams kick and punt coverage teams. For what it’s worth, the young players added this year were ideal prospects for coverage teams. Most are fast and are solid tacklers. So the talent pool for players is solid.
Special teams competition
The Rams return game seems to be in very good hands right now with Nsimba Webster showcasing a solid return game for the team. The Rams appear to have the other return role as either Earnest Edwards IV or Trishton Jackson. However the Rams go, the other will likely land on the team’s practice squad.
Finally, the Rams have a strong kicker competition between Alec MacGinnis and Lirim Hahrullahu. So they decided to go with drafted rookie Sam Sloman.
More on the kicker news to follow.
While some may long for the days of counting on the dependable Greg Zuerlein, his 5-11 from 40+ yards in 2019 left the Rams in difficult situations. While some will long for Zuerlein anytime he succeeds kicking a field goal for the Dallas Cowboys, the Rams will do better than 2019 in special teams.
Many little improvements
While the Rams are working on special teams, they have many other initiatives to improve the offense and defense as well. It comes down to coaching. This year, the Rams have invested a great deal of time and energy to be better. LA Rams head coach Sean McVay has never had a losing season with the Rams. This year, with so much more pressure on the head coach, he will be the advantage the Rams need to reclaim their playoff berth.
It need not be one big improvement. Or even a handful of significant improvements. The Rams simply need to improve in many little ways. Can the team do that? I think that they can, and are. Throughout this training camp, the team has been making progress little by little all over the roster.