Training camps are opening around the league and that means FOOTBALL IS BACK BABY! After one of the most active off-seasons in a long time, the Rams come to camp with a loaded roster. GM Les Snead addressed the vast majority of the team’s issues in the secondary, the defensive line, and at receiver. He also locked in Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks for the long haul. He did all of this without completely mortgaging the team’s future. Still after a busy off-season there are still non Aaron Donald questions that remain as the team convenes for training camp.
Where Will The Pass Rush Come From?
The Rams defense boasts a defensive line featuring Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald. The secondary contains Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Lamarcus Joyner. The middle of the defense isn’t as robust. Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Robert Quinn were traded for picks and cap relief, leaving huge holes on that part of the roster. Mark Barron is the veteran holdover and given his injury history that’s not great. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips needs to lean on the younger guys if that unit is to be productive.
Phillips will most likely lean on second year Samson Ebukam. Ebukam made a minor impact as as rookie but now looks to be one of the key cogs of the defense. Fourth year linebackers Matt Longacre and Ramik Wilson have a chance to thrive under Phillips, along with second year Ejuan Price, and third year Cory Littleton. The big question is how much will 5th round rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo make. He avoided starting the season on the PUP list but is dealing with a lingering foot injury.
If Okoronkwo can get reps throughout training camp he could potentially jump start the pass rush. For now Phillips has to cobble together a pass rush out of this motley crew of young talent.
After a busy off-season there are still non Aaron Donald questions that remain as the team convenes for training camp.
Can The Young Offensive Linemen Develop?
The Rams offensive line will not look the same a year from now. Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan could be cap casualties, given their age. Guard Jamon Brown is suspended for the first three games, leaving rookie Aaron Neary the starter. Offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has his work cut out for him. He needs to get the young guys groomed for the future. The Rams drafted Joe Noteboom to succeed Whitworth, and Brian Allen to succeed Sullivan. It’s possible they see the field sooner if someone gets hurt.
Offensive lineman typically take longer to make the leap between college and the pros these days so every rep in training camp matters. Kromer is one of the best offensive line coaches around and this is his biggest challenge to date. Fortunately, the incumbent starters are experienced enough to aid the process along. If the rookies pan out the Rams could have one of the best lines for years to come.
Does McVay Unleash the Tight Ends?
During his time as Washington’s offensive coordinator, Sean McVay liked to use multiple tight end sets. That was easy to do when he had Jordan Reed. During his first year in LA he had second years Tyler Higbee and Temmarick Hemmingway (who missed time last year due to injury), as well as rookie Gerald Everett. Now that the tight ends have had a year to learn the system do they get more to do? Everett in particular has the potential to be a game changer. His size and speed can open up the field for Goff.
Higbee can open things up as well, and he is also a skilled blocker. That can help alleviate some of the pressure on the offensive line. Hemmingway could also be brought in for certain sub packages. McVay’s offense can be even more diverse than it was last year. If the tight ends are more prominent in 2018, that could be the difference in the NFC battle royale.
How Much Impact Does Josh Reynolds Have In Year Two?
Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Brandin Cooks will get the lion’s share of catches. Gurley and the tight ends will also get a fair amount of touches. So where does that leave Josh Reynolds? He had a slow start to his rookie year, but became a starter once Woods went down with an injury. He managed to compile 104 yards and a touchdown. In year two he should factor in more especially in the red zone. At 6’3, he is the tallest receiver on the roster and can be a reliable red zone target.
For Reynolds, this is a big training camp as he could end up having a bigger role in the years to come. Depending on what happens with Woods next season (there were rumors he could be a cap casualty after the year) Reynolds might be called upon to be a starter full time. He has the potential to be an impact player. Now he needs to make a leap.
Is Jared Goff An Elite Passer?
Sean McVay completed the herculean task of salvaging Jared Goff in his sophomore season following a rookie year in the Fisher anti-offense. Goff threw for 3,804 yards and had 28 TDs. To fans, this was a miracle. Now that he’s had a year to re-learn how to play quarterback, how much better can he get? That’s the big question on the offense as he has two years left on a team friendly rookie contract. This is a huge training camp for Goff, given all the weapons he has at his disposal, he has the potential to light it up.
He struggled last year when teams crashed the interior of the line. He needs to get better at finding receivers when the play breaks down. McVay didn’t ask him to throw deep all that often and it was clear Goff wasn’t comfortable until the middle of the season. Now that he’s shaken off his rookie struggles and established himself as a starter, McVay can turn him loose. If Jared Goff can have the kind of season Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had last year, there is no telling how great this offense can be.
It will be an exciting training camp as the team comes in with sky high expectations. Speculation will run about whether or not all these combustible personalities can co-exist or the super team is an exercise in futility. Fortunately, over the next few weeks they’ll be able to provide some much needed answers.