It seemed like yesterday when the Rams were the talk of the NFL, a Super Bowl favorite, a media darling in the hottest market in the nation and making the playoffs was a mere formality.
Well, folks those days are gone. When the Rams open the spectacular $6 billion SoFi Stadium on Sept. 13 on NBC Sunday Night Football against “Americas Team” the Dallas Cowboys all of the focus and pressure will be on Dak Prescott.
It’s Prescott and game busting running back Ezekiel Elliott who will be burning in the spotlight as the legitimate Super Bowl contenders, a role the Rams are all too familiar with and such lofty expectations can carry the weight of an elephant.
So, it will interesting to see how the revamped Rams come out of the gate with very limited reps, just 14 or so padded scrimmages in the new saucer they own.
Quarterback Jared Goff is coming off back-to-back seasons where he tossed 12 and 16 interceptions while accumulating a combing 9,326 yards and 54 touchdowns.
Goff who has quickly elevated his status among the stars of professional athletes in Southern California and particularly Inglewood has been a star off the field and is on the threshold of becoming one of the most popular players in franchise history.
However, he knows and so does his coach Sean McVay that in this town winning is not just everything, it’s the only thing.
Last season was a giant step in the wrong direction when they finished 9-7 and would have made the playoffs under the new, 14-team format.
McVay shook up his staff by hiring three new coordinators, shipping running back Todd Gurley and wide receiver Brandin Cooks for cap reasons, and trying to rebuild the front four on defense.
Aaron Donald is still a menacing presence on the defensive front, but he can’t do it all by himself. Can he?
The big problem is that they didn’t address the protection for Goff on the offensive line. They re-signed 38-year-old tackle Andrew Whitworth and seem confident Rob Havenstein can return to form after a disastrous 2019. The interior is full of young players who haven’t yet proved themselves to be NFL-caliber linemen; last year, the Rams lost Joe Noteboom and Brian Allen to injuries. If they can stay healthy and give quarterback Goff more time to throw, the Rams could look more like the offensive juggernaut of 2017 and 2018, but if they don’t well…
Prediction: 10-6; AFC West 2nd.