I scoured the internet searching for Los Angeles Rams writer for our series of West Coast NFL Roundtables. I reached out to bloggers on the largest networks but didn’t hear anything back. I did get back some responses but a few writers missed my deadline.
This really isn’t surprising given that true Rams fans are hard to find. Living in Los Angeles, half the Rams fans I know became fans because they missed the NFL in L.A. Otherwise, there is a large group of diehard Rams fans from their hay day in the city. I only know a few of those people so I’m not sure where they get their news.
Either way, Jake Ellenbogen of Downtown Rams made himself readily available for our pre training camp questions. Camp is underway but these questions are all relevant. Ellenbogan answered these questions via email. Check him and his site out.
What are the Rams’ biggest weaknesses heading into the season
Well, up until this season the Rams have always lacked a starting caliber left tackle. That has now changed with the acquisition of Pro Bowl talent Andrew Whitworth coming into the fray. Since that solidifies left tackle, it also helps out second-year QB Jared Goff mentally and physically knowing that he won’t be taking consistent hits in his blind spot.
The biggest weaknesses though have to lie with uncertainty in the running game. We could all argue that Todd Gurley is going to be fine and his second-year struggles were directly from bad play calling and a bad offensive line. However, we cannot just forget about placing Gurley’s blame on well, Gurley. There were instances on film that I caught him missing holes or failing to burst through one quick enough, once he found one. Unlike his rookie year, Gurley looked rattled a bit, so until we see Gurley come into his own again it’s hard to say a running back group of a struggling Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar, Lenard Tillery and Justin Davis is not a weakness.
Even taking that a step further another weakness has to be the secondary. As much as I love the pieces, they are just that, pieces. We have no idea how well these men will play around each other. The Rams have a combined zero starts between any combinations of two safeties and two corners. Zero. You literally can’t make a combination out of what is on the roster in which the four secondary players have played all together. Trumaine Johnson has played with Maurice Alexander and LaMarcus Joyner, but not with Joyner at safety. With the new projected starter Kayvon Webster there is uncertainty. I expect him to break out under his coach he had in Denver, but you truly never know what happens in the NFL.
What are the Rams‘ biggest strengths?
Their biggest strength as a whole has to be the defensive front seven by a country mile. If you are an NFL team running a 3-4 base defense with coaches like Wade Phillips and Joe Barry coaching that is already in to be a good group. However, when you look at the starting lineup only to find it’s a front seven made up of six first-round picks and one second-round pick that have all produced at a high level in the NFL now it’s something scary. When you identify those seven players to be Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Dominique Easley, Robert Quinn, Mark Barron, Alec Ogletree and Connor Barwin, now it’s really a sight to behold. Make no mistake this is one if not the best front seven on paper in the NFL right now. We have yet to see the Rams in a regular season run a 3-4 base defense, but on paper, this group certainly looks nasty.
Another huge strength for the Rams is special teams. USA Today actually ranked the Rams as the number one team in the league for special teams and it’s not hard to see why. The Rams have quite possibly the best kicker/punter duo in the NFL made up of elite punter Johnny Hekker and a man they have dubbed as “Legatron” Greg Zuerlein. That’s not all, however, the special teams unit has a pro bowl long snapper in Jake McQuaide, outstanding special teamers in Cody Davis, Bradley Marquez, Mike Thomas, Cory Harkey and Bryce Hager and the best special teams coach in football John Fassel. Even with some turnover possibly on the way, coach Bones Fassel will have this special teams unit prepared for a fun season.
What are you most excited for in the coming season?
First off, I, myself, will be going to my first Ram home game in September flying from New York to Los Angeles so that would probably be my most exciting thing for the Rams personally. However, with the Rams team in general? I am really excited to see the new comers. I am really excited to watch Goff in year two with an actual system and coaching staff that are teachers of the game. I am excited to see if Todd Gurley can go back to being a top-flight running back. I am really excited for the trio of wide receivers Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin, but also really looking forward to seeing players like Nelson Spruce, Shakeir Ryan and Paul McRoberts to see if they can not only make the roster but find an extended role within it.
Overall, as a Rams fan coming off a 4-12 season with a new coaching staff, new faces, scheme plan and new outlook. It’s all really exciting, you can’t fit into one thing what is most exciting because there is just so much exciting. The Rams defense could end up being seriously dangerous under Wade Phillips and I think that’s another thing that is just exciting. The bottom line is this. Many have predicted the Rams to barely win eight games, but on paper, if the uncertainty pans out the Rams could seriously be looking at a playoff berth.
Jake Ellenbogen is a writer for Downtown Rams. Follow them on Twitter.