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Eye on the enemy: Should the Dallas Cowboys be worried about the Los Angeles Rams?

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  • Eye on the enemy: Should the Dallas Cowboys be worried about the Los Angeles Rams?

    By Dan Rodgers

    If the Dallas Cowboys are going to improve upon their playoff performance last year, they’re going to have to come up big against some tough opponents. In this final installment of our Eye on the Enemy series, we take a look at one of the opponents standing in their way, who just so happens to be the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year - the Los Angeles Rams.

    With one of the game’s brightest offensive minds currently in the league, the effervescent Sean McVay has rescued this Rams team from the pit of misery and turned them into one of the best teams in the league. McVay’s presence immediately propelled his team into postseason action after a 12-year playoff drought. A drought that included 10-straight losing seasons, resulting in the selection of five players that were either first- or second-overall picks in the entire draft. It was bad. Really bad.

    One of the benefits of being terrible for so long is that McVay inherited some blue-chip talent. Players like Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, and Jared Goff were already on the team when he showed up. McVay is a guy that knows how to get the most out of his tools, and let’s face it - the Rams have compiled some nice tools over the years.

    Why they can be dangerous
    The Rams offense is loaded with talent and after leading the entire league in scoring in 2017, they put together another 30+ average points scored season just to remind people they’re the real deal. Considering the previous 10 seasons their offensive finished outside the top 20, including dead last three different times, that’s quite the improvement. You have to go all the way back to 2006 when Scott Linehan was their head coach to find a Rams offense that finished in the top 10.

    The Rams rack up the yards both on the ground and through the air. The team has completely remodeled their wide receiver corps over the last couple years by trading for a former first-rounder (Brandin Cooks), signing a veteran free agent (Robert Woods), and finding a gem of a receiver in the third round (Cooper Kupp). Their organization did a great job using all facets of players acquisition to bolster this group, and if something like that sounds should.

    The Woods signing was such an under the radar move, At the time, it seemed like they overpaid for him after giving him a five-year, $34 million deal a couple years ago. After all, he never reached 700 yards in any of his four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. But in just two seasons with the Ram’s he’s put together 2,000 yards receiving, including a nice 1,200+ effort last year.

    And if the duo of Cooks and Woods isn’t enough, the team has another dangerous weapon in Cooper Kupp. He was on pace for a 1,000 yard, 12 touchdown season before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the year.

    Despite a great corps of receivers, the bread and butter of the Rams offense last year was on the ground. Led by two-time All-Pro Todd Gurley, the Rams featured the third-best ground attack in the league last season. Gurley is just shy of 4,000 total scrimmage yards over the last two seasons and has 40 total touchdowns in that span. Unfortunately, a knee injury has put his status in jeopardy forcing the team to spend a premium draft resource in April to select a running back (Darrell Henderson).

    With one of the games best running backs and an electric receiving group this offense should be primed for another big year. Of course, a lot also depends on the play of their quarterback. Through the first 11 games of the season last year, Jared Goff showed why he was the no. 1 overall pick back in 2016. During that span, he threw 26 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He did struggle a bit down the stretch, including just one touchdown in three games in the playoffs, but the team still found ways to win games. If Goff continues to improve like he did last season, this Rams offense is going to be very dangerous.

    What’s holding this team back?
    The Rams are a little strapped for cash and free agent losses like Ndamekong Suh and Lamarcus Joyner aren’t going to go unnoticed. And the uncertainty of Gurley definitely brings about some concern for Rams fans.

    But one of the biggest reasons this team could falter may be in the changes along their offensive line. The Rams lost two good players in the interior, including Rodger Saffold who signed a four-year, $44 million deal with the Tennessee Titans in March. The team will now rely on two youngsters in Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen to fill in, neither of which have any NFL starts under their belt. They also have a left tackle who’s 37 years old. The Rams had one of the healthiest offensive lines last year, but if they don’t repeat that same good fortune, things could get messy for them. And with a young quarterback who lacks mobility and is still working on his pocket poise, that’s not going to be the best of news for the Rams’ offense.

    And despite having the best defensive player in the league in Aaron Donald, the Rams defense can’t seem to gain any real traction. They have some decent pieces on defense, but they also have a whole lot of mediocrity. Opponents should be able to put points up on this defense.Hmmnn .. Really?

    Should we be worried about them in 2019?
    They’re the reigning NFC Champs with a great core of players and a great head coach, so it goes without saying that we should be worried about them this season. With a middling defense and an offense that lives and dies by the strength of their offensive line, there are certainly some cracks that have the potential of crumbling a bit. But while last year’s dominance in the trenches might be in question due to Gurley’s knee and attrition along the offensive line, the Rams have too many good players to not be one of the perennial threats in the league.

    Should we be worried about them for the future?
    The Rams are an interesting case. You’d think with a brilliant young coach and all the abracadabra the front office has done recently, that they’d be set for years to come. On one hand, they’ve done a pretty good job exchanging cheap draft capital for some high upside players. Yet on the other hand, all these transactions have an expiration date.

    Players like Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Dante Fowler have all been acquired for Day 3 draft picks. This has been an effective way to fill holes for their defense, but these are short-term solutions. All three of these players will be free agents next offseason. And last year with the $14 million rental of Suh, the Rams front office positioned themselves for a deep playoff run and it worked. This year, they’ve bought themselves two-years worth of former All-Pro veterans Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle. Both players are solid adds to the Rams defense, but they are nearing their mid-30’s.

    The plug and play method works for present, but how sustainable is this? None of the Rams draft picks from a year ago earned their way into a starting role last season. That’s not encouraging.

    Of course, the biggest thing Rams fans are worried about is the condition of their All-Pro running back. If Gurley’s knee continues to be a problem, that one will be hard to come out of because the team has made quite the financial commitment to him. If their young offensive linemen who will be thrown to the wolves this season don’t pan out, the Rams will feel the effects. And if those structures start to show weakness, everything will fall on the arm of their young quarterback.

  • #2
    Interesting article I agree with your comment Maui that the Rams on defense may be vulnerable. In fact, I believe the Rams defense will be a surprisingly good unit. We added some very talented FA's plus younger players will probably make their mark too. Wade Phillips probably realizes that stopping other teams run game will ease the pressure on our offense to put up lots of points to win games. I also expect Marcus Peters to excel above his 2018 performance and Dante Fowler as well. Both are playing for contact extensions. Having Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews who are both high IQ players will make the defense smarter which will make a difference. Plus no one needs to talk about the damage that Aaron Donald will inflict on QB's.

    I like how we're going into training camp and expect we'll have a strong season. Sean McVay will know exactly how to motivate players coming off a SB loss IMO.

    Go Rams!


    • #3
      Originally posted by MDE8352gorams View Post
      Interesting article I agree with your comment Maui that the Rams on defense may be vulnerable. In fact, I believe the Rams defense will be a surprisingly good unit. We added some very talented FA's plus younger players will probably make their mark too. Wade Phillips probably realizes that stopping other teams run game will ease the pressure on our offense to put up lots of points to win games. I also expect Marcus Peters to excel above his 2018 performance and Dante Fowler as well. Both are playing for contact [sic] extensions. Having Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews who are both high IQ players will make the defense smarter which will make a difference. Plus no one needs to talk about the damage that Aaron Donald will inflict on QB's.

      I like how we're going into training camp and expect we'll have a strong season. Sean McVay will know exactly how to motivate players coming off a SB loss IMO.

      Go Rams!

      Nothing really new or exciting from Rodgers. It is after all that time of the year when 'breaking news' are to come by.

      Nice closing though by MDE above.


      • #4
        I like what we did on defense in the offseason. I believe we will be much better against the run which should help our offense, as MDE pointed out.


        • #5
          I'd love it if Dallas wasn't worried about the Rams, but of course they are, and should be.


          • #6
            Cowboys should worry about getting out of their division before worrying about their chances in the playoffs against other NFC opponents


            • #7
              Every team should be worried every week about the other team.
              “Oh, 100 percent,” Donald said. “I feel like the words, ‘Thank you,’ ain’t enough. You’ve got to show it... Instead of saying thank you — show it.”


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              • r8rh8rmike
                3 moves the Rams should make to boost their chances of getting back to the SB in 2019
                by r8rh8rmike
                Three moves the Rams should make to boost their chances of getting back to the Super Bowl in 2019

                L.A. is up against the cap but could use some depth on the edge and at guard

                by Jared Dubin
                3 hrs ago • 4 min read

                The Los Angeles Rams went all in for the 2018 season, and their boldness paid off. The Rams were one of the best teams in the NFL from wire to wire, and eventually represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. They came up short in that game and did not exactly shower themselves in glory with their performance, but they'll return much of the same core in 2019 and they should be expected to once again find themselves among the inner-circle contenders for the Lombardi Trophy.

                Given that they have one of the best and deepest rosters in the league, and the majority of the players on it played significant roles on last year's squad, the prescription for the Rams to get back to the Super Bowl is largely about improving on the margins. Anything they can do to put guys like Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle, and John Johnson in position to succeed is a good idea.

                Here are three ideas we've got.

                1. Sign Nick Perry to add depth on the edge

                The Rams have the best interior pass rusher in the league in Aaron Donald, and a strong secondary rush man on the interior in Michael Brockets. They brought back Dante Fowler Jr. on a one-year, $12 million deal, and also brought Clay Matthewsover from the Packers on a one-year deal.

                But Matthews will be 33 years old this season, Fowler sandwiched his eight-sack 2017 with four sacks in 2016 and 2018, and recorded only two sacks in eight games with the Rams last season, and there is not much in the way of depth behind those guys. Matthews seems likely to spend at least some of his time playing inside linebacker, with Samson Ebukam acting as the rush man off the edge opposite Fowler.

                Can 2018 draft picks Trevon Young, Justin Lawler, and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo really provide the edge depth this team needs? Probably not. That's where Perry, another former Packer, comes in.

                He missed much of last season due to injury, but recorded 18 sacks, 30 quarterback hits, and 18 tackles for loss in 2016 and 2017. With the Rams having only $6.6 million in cap room, according to Spotrac, they cannot afford to go big-game hunting, even now that signings don't affect the compensatory pick calculations. So taking fliers on low-money, moderate-upside guys is the fix here, and Perry fits the bill.

                2. Sign Shawn Lauvao to provide interior OL insurance

                Apart from the game-wrecking abilities of Donald, the real strength of the Rams over the past two seasons has been their offensive line. They got a boost for 2019 when star left tackle Andrew Whitworth decided to forego retirement...
                -05-23-2019, 09:07 AM
              • MauiRam
                Are the Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay 1-Year Wonders?
                by MauiRam
                BRENT SOBLESKIJULY 20, 2019

                The Los Angeles Rams remain one of the NFL's best teams, but they're not as good today as they were before Super Bowl LIII and may no longer be the class of the NFC West. Every team, except the Arizona Cardinals, received at least one vote from Bleacher Report's experts to win the division.

                The Rams don't inspire the same amount of confidence as they did before their Super Bowl loss and an unimpressive offseason.

                A team being exposed has become cliche for why it lost in a big moment. But head coach Sean McVay admitted as much after a 13-3 stifling by the New England Patriots.

                "I'm still kind of numb right now," McVay said after the game, per USA Today's Jori Epstein. "I got outcoached. I didn't do nearly good enough for our football team."

                The Rams' offensive juggernaut stalled. After months of other teams' attempts to emulate Los Angeles' approach or hire a McVay disciple, the Rams looked lost, incompetent and beaten.

                One should expect the team to bounce back after such a horrific performance, and the Rams will to a degree. But the same expectations heaped upon them last season shouldn't reflect their roster's current construction. The added concern of Todd Gurley's lingering knee issue can't be overlooked, either.

                First, changes needed to be made to the Rams' approach, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The Patriots attacked the middle of the Rams' interior, preventing Los Angeles from establishing the inside zone run, and forced McVay's squad to beat them out wide and in space. The Rams failed miserably in the endeavor.

                The middle of the Rams offense is where scheme and roster changes meet on a Venn diagram.

                C.J. Anderson took over for an ailing Gurley during the final two games of the regular season and into the playoffs. Anderson amassed 488 rushing yards in the Rams' final five games (including the postseason). The veteran excelled as a downhill runner because of the team's reliance on the inside zone. However, teams began to adjust late in the playoff run. The Patriots, in particular, crowded the A-gaps and didn't let the Rams interior run anyone off the line of scrimmage.

                Rodger Saffold, John Sullivan and Austin Blythe served as the Rams' starting offensive interior. Two of the three are no longer with the team. Saffold signed with the Tennessee Titans, while Sullivan remains a free agent after the Rams declined his 2019 contract option.

                Los Angeles drafted Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen with third- and fourth-round picks in the 2018 draft. They're expected to start at left guard and center, respectively.

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              • MauiRam
                Allen And Noteboom Could Make Or Break Rams In 2019 ..
                by MauiRam
                Allen And Noteboom Could Make Or Break Rams In 2019
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                Offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of football. They don’t get flashy stats like touchdowns, yards, or interceptions but, nevertheless, teams depend on them to protect their quarterbacks and open lanes for runners. Without linemen, there is no offense. With that in mind, the Los Angeles Rams are placing high expectations on newbie starters, Center Brian Allen and Left Guard Joseph Noteboom, this year.

                The Rams will need them to establish themselves as competent players very early in the season if the Rams are to repeat the dominance of 2018. This is because the offense will be leaned on more to win games, the emergence of depth issues on the offensive line, and finally how much Sean McVay’s scheme leans on the offensive line. Put simply, Allen and Noteboom could make or break this team in 2019.

                Offensive Supremacy
                Los Angeles’ offense will be more important in 2019 than ever before in the McVay era due to the expectation that the defense will continue to erode in 2019. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ history and issues with the roster point to this outcome.

                Phillips’ modern history shows a yearly decline in effectiveness once he starts with a team. Since 2011, Phillips has been the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos, and now Los Angeles Rams. In each stint, the first year has been his best with every other year being worse than the previous. In other words, Phillips has not been able to bring his defenses to be better than they were the previous year in each of his most recent three teams, including the Rams.

                In 2017, the Rams defense was ranked 19th in yards and 12th in points allowed. Last year, the Rams slipped to 19th in yards and 20th in points allowed. If the trend continues as the evidence suggests, the Rams defense will be in for a tough 2019 season.

                Putting analytics aside, the defensive roster is arguably worse in 2019 than in 2018. For instance, leading cornerback Aqib Talib will be one year older, playing at 33 years old. Of course, Talib hasn’t shown many signs of slowing down in his old age when on the field but his body is starting to break down. Last year, he missed eight games. Once injuries start appearing for older players in the NFL, they tend to snowball so there is a solid chance that Talib could miss more time in 2019, leaving the Rams without a number-one cornerback and sliding everyone else up a spot.

                Additionally, the Rams have lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Suh’s replacement will likely be rookie Greg Gaines, who is probably going to be a downgrade this year as he gets his initial bearings.

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              • MauiRam
                Rams still figuring out things on defense, with Dallas coming up, they better hurry
                by MauiRam
                Rams still figuring out things on defense, but with Dallas coming up, they better hurry

                The Rams defense has not played up to expectations so far under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and it will face a significant challenge Sunday against the Cowboys. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan, Orange County Register/SCNG)

                By RICH HAMMOND

                THOUSAND OAKS — It’s not time to worry about the Rams’ defense. Give that another couple days.

                Thus far, the scheme of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has underwhelmed. The Rams rank 26th in the NFL in points allowed per game (25.0) and 22nd in yards allowed (343.7), and last week the Rams ended up in a shootout against a San Francisco team that previously hadn’t scored a touchdown.

                The challenge doesn’t get easier this Sunday, as the Rams travel to face a balanced Dallas offense that includes quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Jason Witten.

                “We look at it as a big challenge,” Phillips said after Thursday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “I think we’ll see a lot about our team this week, as far as where we are, to match up against that premier offense.”

                The Rams clearly are having some issues. After their dominating season-opening game against an Indianapolis team that lacked its quarterback and center, the Rams allowed 27 points and 385 yards in a loss to Washington, then 39 points and 421 yards in a way-too-close victory over the 49ers.

                Run defense remains an issue, cornerbacks have been beat on big plays and, last week, the 49ers converted on nine of their 18 third-down attempts.

                On the other hand, Phillips pointed out that special-teams miscues sent the Rams’ defense onto the field in unusual circumstances multiple times, and Phillips said the unit would get a boost from the expected return of starting cornerback Kayvon Webster, who missed two games with a shoulder injury.

                Phillips also hinted that the Rams might move Michael Brockers, who has been one of the most productive players up front, away from nose tackle and to a defensive tackle role.

                “A premier challenge,” Phillips said of Dallas. “When you’re playing a really good offensive team, that’s when you have to step up and be a good defensive team. I think we’ll get better in some of the areas we need to, but we’ll find out. That’s why we play the games, to see what happens. But I like our group.”

                Phillips’ recent history shows that early-season struggles, when he takes over and transitions a team from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 front, are not uncommon.

                In 2011, Phillips took over an awful Houston defense. In the third game of that season, the Texans allowed 40 points and 454 yards in a loss to New Orleans. Houston finished that season ranked fourth in points allowed (17.4 per game) and second in yards (285.7).

                In 2004, Phillips’ San Diego defense...
                -09-29-2017, 10:27 AM
              • general counsel
                What worries you the most about the upcoming season?
                by general counsel
                We are coming off a sensational year, far beyond any reasonable expectations. We appear to have had a strong offseason and seem well positioned to repeat in the nfc west. Arizona and Seattle do not appear to be improving and while the whiners are obviously an improved and improving team, we appear to be ahead of them. So, what worries you the most for the upcoming season?

                Many will say pass rush, especially from the outside linebacker spots in the 3-4. Others point out the linebackers run defense issue. Both are totally valid and legit and worry me.

                However, here is what worries me the most. I read in a recent thread that last year's Rams had the least games lost to injury of any NFL team in the last 7 years. We lost ZERO games from the starters on the offensive line all year. We were the only team in the NFL that lost no games to injury on the offensive line (through 15 games).

                Injuries are generally speaking just a question of luck. I am always amused when fans think that the trainers have anything material to do with how often players get injured. These teams all have front line fitness guys and medical facilities and resources. If you turn your knee the wrong way, you are going to get hurt no matter what kind of training you have. Can the Rams remain as lucky injury wise this year as they were last year? WIll it even out over two years (ie do we get clobbered injury wise this year since we were so lucky last year?)

                My primary concern is risk of injuries to the offensive line. Whitworth and Sullivan are both older guys. Sullivan had a great year and it was a huge signing to retain him. We all know the history with Saffold. However, what kind of depth do we really have on the Oline? Blythe looked ok in really limited play last year, but we are incredibly dependent on the starting oline. If we get hit with injuries on the oline, all our shiny toys at the skill positions arent going to look so great. Was Goff miles ahead last year of his rookie season? Of course. But a big part of that was pass protection and room to run for gurley, giving goff a real ability to use play action and putting him in solid down and distance situations. If injuries on the oline put the rams back into the "drop back to pass and run for your life....and watch todd gurley run into a brick wall in the backfield again" mode, we could and likely will materially regress in terms of our record.

                I would love to see us try for some solid depth oline wise in the draft. Those players will be unproven rookies and maybe if we get lucky we can pick up a decent vet or two on the cheap at the end of free agency. But for now, what keeps me up at night is less about pass rush (which generally stresses me out during the day rather than at 3am) and more about whether we can keep the offensive line healthy for another full season.

                Ramming speed to all

                general counsel...
                -04-05-2018, 04:55 PM