The 2016 NFL season begins now, with 32 teams scheming to knock off the reigning champion Denver Broncos. The NFL Draft is just around the corner, but the first step in any offseason plan is to assess a team’s needs. Here we look at what the Los Angeles Rams team needs are.
The Rams finished third in the NFC West last season with a 7-9 record. The team began the season on a high note defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the opening week of the season, but the rest of the year didn’t go as well as Week 1. After a Week 8 win against the San Francisco 49ers, the Rams sat a game above .500, but went onto lose their next five games. The Rams started Nick Foles through Week 10, but Jeff Fisher decided to make Case Keenum the starter for the rest of season. Keenum fared better than Foles (3-2 and 4-7 respectively), but it was not enough to turn around St. Louis’s season.
The major news for the Rams this offseason was the announcement of their relocation back to Los Angeles. Before moving to St. Louis, the Rams played in Los Angeles for 48 years. Stan Kroenke’s proposal was too lucrative for the NFL owners to turn away. The Inglewood project should be complete by 2019.
Fisher and general manager Les Snead have announced that Keenum is their starter for 2016. With Foles and Sean Mannion as the only other options on their roster they may want to draft a QB with the 15th overall pick in the draft. It’s likely that Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are off the board by the time Los Angeles is on the clock, but Paxton Lynch or Connor Cook could be viable options at that spot in the draft. The decision makers might feel that is a bit early for one of them and might rather wait until later in the draft to invest in a quarterback.
Tavon Austin is the swiss army knife of the Rams offense. He amassed 907 rushing and receiving yards combined in 2015. The only other productive wide receiver last season was Kenny Britt, who racked up 681 yards. The depth at wide receiver includes Bradley Marquez, Isiah Ferguson and Stedman Bailey. Bailey suffered a serious off-field accident after being shot in the head twice last season and it’s difficult to assess if he’ll be able to play again despite his best intentions. The Rams could use their pick on a receiver with the frame of a true number one threat like Laquon Treadwell from Ole Miss.
Parting ways with Jared Cook leaves Lance Kendricks as the de facto starter. The Rams will want to upgrade this position or at least add depth to it. The draft lacks a strong crop of tight ends, but it does have Arkansas’ Hunter Henry and a bunch of solid prospects like Stanford’s Austin Hooper and Ohio State’s Nick Vannett. These players could be exactly what Los Angeles needs to fill Cook’s role as an athletic pass catcher.
The Rams cut James Laurinaitis loose and are now in need of adding a younger ILB to the mix to pair with Bryce Hager. The Rams are set at OLB having Alec Ogletree and Akeem Ayers manning the WLB and SLB positions. However, they really need a MLB for their 4-3 defense. Mark Barron was retained this off-season and a large reason for his return was how he thrived in the role as a hybrid S/LB.
Greg Zuerlein is currently a free agent. The Rams would be okay to re-sign him, but could potentially upgrade their kicker.
The most promising part of the Rams season was Todd Gurley. He healed from a torn ACL and went on to rush for 1,106 yards and 10 TD in 13 games. His production was good enough for a Pro Bowl appearance and the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Tre Mason is a solid second back, however, his off the field problems could make running back a position where more depth is needed. Perhaps taking a running back with a late pick or signing an undrafted free agent could fill the need.
The Rams used their 2014 1st round draft choice from the Redskins to select tackle Greg Robinson. However, the former Auburn Tiger is beginning to look like a bust and the Rams may want to upgrade at OT. Isaiah Battle, who was taken in the supplemental draft, backed up Robinson at LT along with backing up RT Rob Havenstein. At guard they have experienced veterans in Garrett Reynolds and Rodger Saffold. After Saffold’s season ended with a shoulder injury he was replaced by rookie Cody Wichmann. The Rams are young at the guard position with Wichmann and Jamon Brown, but could stand to add some depth. At center the Rams re-signed Tim Barnes for a two year deal, with Demetrius Rhaney and Eric Kush serving as depth options in the middle.
Los Angeles lost cornerback Janoris Jenkins to the New York Giants and safety Rodney McLeod to the Philadelphia Eagles. They added Coty Sensabaugh to the group of Trumaine Johnson, Lamarcus Joyner, Eric Patterson and E.J. Gaines. It’s a position filled with depth players for the Rams, but a lack of a true number one corner. As for safety the loss of McLeod leaves the Rams with T.J. McDonald and Maurice Alexander. They’ll definitely need depth at the safety position despite Barron’s ability to play there, and given the needs at cornerback expect the Rams to use a couple of picks on their secondary.
Set, For Better or Worse
Losing Nick Fairley to New Orleans and letting go of Chris Long doesn’t hurt the Rams too much, if at all. They boast one of the league’s best defensive lines including stars like Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. On the edge they re-signed William Hayes and Eugene Sims for three years and $21 million and $10 million, respectively. In addition to Donald the Rams also have Michael Brockers to clog the middle of rush lanes. Los Angeles signed Quinton Coples in free agency hoping he can add to their pass rush depth. Coples might fit in better in the Rams’ defense, given his ability to slide in and play in a 4-3 now instead of the 3-4 scheme in New York.
The Rams are set at punter with Pro Bowler Johnny Hekker who pinned 41 punts inside the 20 in 2015.