After struggling mightily last season, the stars have aligned in Tinseltown as at least five Los Angeles Rams will make their way to the 2018 Pro Bowl this January.
RB Todd Gurley, DT Aaron Donald, K Greg Zuerlein, RS Pharoh Cooper and P Johnny Hekker have all had outstanding seasons, helping steer the Rams to an 11-4 record. In addition, the NFL named QB Jared Goff, LT Andrew Whitworth and CB Trumaine Johnson as Pro Bowl alternates.
The selections serve as a testament as to how well Los Angeles has played this season. Head Coach Sean McVay has completely flipped the Rams’ culture for the better, leading them to their first NFC West championship since 2003.
Following a dismal second-year campaign, the 23-year-old has reclaimed his spot as one of the NFL’s premier running backs. This will be his second Pro Bowl selection since he burst onto the scene during his rookie season.
Gurley is currently averaging 4.7 yards per carry, which is good for ninth best in the league. However, he leads the NFL in both total yards rushed and touchdowns with 1,305 and 13, respectively.
It’s safe to say that the Georgia product has greatly benefited from the reinvigorated offense McVay and Goff have established. In the month of December, Gurley has thrust his name in the MVP conversation with the help of monster performances against Seattle and Tennessee.
And with frontrunner Tom Brady stumbling the past couple of weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising for the running back to come away with the award at the end of the season.
On defense, Donald has been a nightmare for opposing offenses as he’s recorded a career-high 11 sacks and five forced fumbles on the season. The four-time Pro Bowler also leads all interior defensive linemen with a 14.3 percent pressure rate.
Donald’s performance this year has even drawn high praise from QB Russell Wilson, saying he’s the league’s best defender in a Dec. 14 interview with The Seattle Times. Of course, Wilson was treated with a firsthand experience of Donald’s dominance during the Rams’ 42-7 win over the Seahawks in Week 15.
Not only is the Pittsburgh native in the running for The Defensive Player of the Year, but his suburb play will also set him up for a hefty contract extension at the end of the season.
Despite a back injury that will likely keep him sidelined for the playoffs, Zuerlein was as reliable as they come for the Rams, converting 38 of his 40 field-goal attempts. The kicker also put up an NFL-leading 158 points, which was on pace to surpass David Akers‘ 2011 record of 166.
Zuerlein’s feats are even more impressive considering he was playing through lingering back issues all season. Unfortunately for the Rams, the show must go on and they will have to find a true replacement (their current replacement struggled mightily in his first game) soon for their Pro Bowl kicker.
The young receiver out of South Carolina has cemented his role this season as the Rams’ stalwart returner. Cooper’s sophomore year has seen him rank No. 1 in the league in yards per kickoff return (27.4) and No. 2 in yards per punt return (13.1).
This marks the first time the 22-year-old will be making a Pro Bowl appearance and his elite running on returns will serve the Rams well come playoff time.
Hekker’s limited playing time this season certainly has not diminished his effectiveness. The six-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler is averaging 47.6 yards per punt with 27 of those punts having been downed inside the 20-yard line.
Although being named an alternate, Jared Goff will most likely be the one to replace the injured Carson Wentz. Goff has been nothing short of sensational this season and deserves to make the trip down to Orlando for the way he’s led the Rams’ offense.
Now that Los Angeles has officially clinched a playoff berth, it will be interesting to see how these players justify their Pro Bowl recognition when the pressure is on.
The Rams will close out their season Sunday as they lock horns with the San Francisco 49ers (5-10) at the Coliseum, as we watch this once great rivalry restored.