2018 Season Recap: Los Angeles Rams

2018 SEASON RECAP: LOS ANGELES RAMS

Division: NFC West

Record: 13 - 3 (Swept the West) (NFC Champions) (Super Bowl participation award)

Introduction

Hello NFL Redditors - welcome to the LA Rams season spectacular; I'm your host u/Caddellzor. I'll be leading you on the great odyssey that can be called the Los Angeles Rams' 2018 season. It's a tale full of highs, lows, spooks, spicy meme's, and VERY VERY VVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYYY salty soup. It's without a doubt the most incredible season I've had as a Ram's fan and even though it could've ended better, it was still a remarkable ride that I felt (and still feel) incredibly privileged to have experienced - So let's get to it!

Statistics

Overall Stats

LAR Offense Value (Rank) LAR Defense Value (Rank)
Points/Game 32.9 (2nd) Opp Points/ Game 24 (20th)
Yards/Game 421.1 (2nd) Opp Yards/ Game 358.6 (19th)
Points/Play 0.497 (3rd) Opp Points/ Play 0.385 (20th)
Yards/Play 6.4 (2nd) Opp Yards/ Play 5.9 (25th)
3rd Down Conversion % 45.03% (5th) Opp 3D Conv % 37.26% (12th)
TDs/Game 3.4 (3rd) Opp TDs/ Game 2.6 (16th)

Rushing

LAR Offense Value (Rank) LAR Defense Value (Rank)
Rush Play % 43.3% (9th) Opp Rush Play % 40.19% (11th)
Yards/Rush 4.9 (3rd) Opp Yards/ Rush 5.1 (32nd)
Rushes/Game 28.7 (8th) Opp Rushes/ Game 24.1 (10th)
Rush Yards/ Game 139.4 (3rd) Opp Rush Yards/ Game 122.3 (23rd)
Rush TDs/ Game 1.6 (2nd) Opp Rushing TDs/ Game 0.8 (12th)

Passing

LAR Offense Value (Rank) LAR Defense Value (Rank)
Pass Play % 56.70% (24th) Opp Pass Play % 21.7% (12th)
Completion % 64.79% (20th) Opp Completion % 65.10% (20th)
Yards/ Pass 7.9 (4th) Opp Yards/ Pass 7.1 (21st)
Passes/ Game 35.5 (14th) Opp Passes/ Game 33.3 (T - 10th)
Pass Yards/ Game 281.7 (5th) Opp Pass Yards/ Game 236.2 (14th)
QB Sacked % 5.49% (9th) Sack % 7.14% (12th)

Draft Picks

Round/ Pick Player
3 - 89 Joseph Noteboom, OT, TCU
4 - 111 Brian Allen, C, Michigan State
4 - 135 John Franklin - Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin
5 - 148 Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
5 - 160 Obo Okoronkwo, OLB/EDGE, Oklahoma
6 - 176 John Kelly, RB, Tennessee
6 - 192 Jamil Demby, OT, Maine
6 - 195 Sebastian Joseph, DT, Rutgers
6 - 205 Trevon Young, DE, Louisville
7 - 231 Travin Howard, LB, TCU
7 - 244 Justin Lawler, DE, SMU

Review: None actually started consistently, this was more of a draft to acquire guys who could develop & start in years 2/3. Notable names that might see more time in 2019 include Joseph Noteboom, who likely will start at LG, John Franklin - Myers, & Obo Okoronkwo.

Free Agency

Asterisk identifies a player as "Notable"

Player Position Type Signed?
Ndamukong Suh* DT/NT UFA Not yet
Rodger Saffold* G UFA Titans - 4yr/$44M
LaMarcus Joyner* FS UFA Raiders - 4yr/$42M
Mark Barron* LB UFA Steelers - 2yr/$12M
John Sullivan* C UFA Not yet
Dominique Easley DT UFA Not yet
Matt Longacre OLB UFA Not yet
Ethan Westbrooks DT UFA Not yet
Sam Shields CB UFA Not yet
Sean Mannion QB UFA Not yet
CJ Anderson* RB UFA He's upset
Ramik Wilson LB UFA Not yet
Bryce Hager LB UFA Not yet
J.J. Dielman C UFA Not yet
Henry Krieger - Coble TE UFA Not yet
Garret Sickels OLB UFA Not yet
Troy Hill CB RFA Tendered
Malcolm Brown* RB RFA Signed 2yr/$3.25M (Go away Lions)
Dominique Hatfield CB RFA Tendered
JoJo Natson WR/Returner RFA Tendered
Blake Countess S RFA Tendered
Morgan Fox DE RFA Tendered
Cory Littleton* LB RFA Tendered
Kevin Peterson CB RFA Tendered
KhaDarel Hodge WR RFA Tendered

General

Going into the offseason

2017 was a landmark year for the franchise, after abysmal performance for years under the coaching staff of this man right here, Sean McVay's new look Rams offense catapulted the #32 scoring offense in 2016 to #1 in 2017. Included was the first playoff berth in 13 years, and a new outlook on life for Rams' Nation. Consequently, the Rams were expected to meet high expectations in 2018, though it seemed that might be difficult given the impending losses of many key free agents, and a growing belief that the offensive renaissance would fall back down to earth in 2018. Towards the beginning of the offseason, I honestly had pretty tame expectations for 2018, figuring we were more likely to go 8-8 than 11-5. But that was before...

LA Rams 2018 Offseason: Electric Boogaloo

FUCK THAT WE'RE COMIN INTO 2018 HOT!

Instead of sitting on their laurels, the Rams front office decided to be VERY active in the offseason, moving under-performing members of the defense (Robert Quinn & Alec Ogletree) to bring in upgraded talent at CB & DT (Marcus Peters/ Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh respectively). Les & McVay also traded their 1st rounder for Brandin Cooks, and signed him. Oh yeah & Todd Gurley broke the RB market.

Overall, the offseason was a whirlwind - it felt like every month the Rams acquired some new high profile player, whether through trades or FA, and going into 2018, my mood on how far we'd go in the season totally changed; we finally felt like a true SB contender! Still, around the time Brandin Cooks was acquired the narrative of "uncontrollable locker room" & "Dream Team lol" started to become pretty common...

For a full list of singings & who left, click here.

OTAs & Training Camp: Aaron Donald's Day Off

This would be the part where I talk about training camp, but honestly not much happened outside of Aaron Donald's holdout, so I'll talk about that instead.

In 2018, Aaron Donald held out from OTAs & training camp, in hopes of getting a new contract extension. What isn't talked about so much is the fact that he ALSO held out during the 2017 off season, so there was a pretty good deal of pressure to come to an agreement this time around. Luckily the holdout ended earlier than the last time, after an extension was agreed to; the contract made Aaron Donald the highest paid defensive player ever, for a few days, and would come out to $135M over 6 years.

Preseason

McVay made a daring decision to not play most of the starters in the preseason, and instead let them rest and make their starts first on Week 1. Standout performers included John Franklin - Myers (DE), John Kelly (RB), & Joseph Noteboom (LT). Specifically John Kelly got a good deal of hype as a backup for Gurley; against the Texans he took 15 carries for 64 yards & 2 TDs. A promising performance also came from rookie LT Joseph Noteboom, who held his own well against the Texans' pass rush. However, as always it's preseason & so it doesn't mean much.

Weekly Game Recaps

Incidentally, I also did the offseason review series for the Rams last year, which included game predictions. If you'd like to compare my predictions & tell me how wrong I was, Click Here!

This game started out pretty tame - the Rams & Raiders both opted to lean on their run games, and both had pretty moderate success. Much had been made of the Ram's improvements over the offseason, so I think many expected this game to be a bit more exciting. All that changed after the half, the Rams' passing game started to open up a bit more, and an end of game Pick Six by Marcus Peters would seal the deal for the Rams W at the Black Hole.

Decisive Factor?: The difference in how much pressure each QB was under throughout the game was pretty noticeably not in Carr's favor. He looked like he was playing a bit scared in this one, which led to a few too many throw away's & mistakes.

Contrary to what you might think, this one actually started out somewhat competitive. The Rams pulled ahead to a quick lead of 10 in the first half, but the Cardinals made some stops & a key pick by Pat Pete made it seem like the Card's might get a score in to get within striking distance of the lead.

Nope, no, not at all

By the end of the game, the Cardinals only crossed the 50 yard line once on offense, during their last drive of the game. The Rams defense played lights out, Marcus Peters was dancin, and Sam Bradford's horrid showing would eventually lose him his job.

The Decisive Factor?: Everything; the Rams were literally better at every position except for EDGE (Chandler is a beast).

The beginning of the #BattleForLA, the Los Angeles Chargers of Carson weren't able to come away with a the W in this one. Overall a pretty exciting game, though after the first few scores the Rams were never in much danger of falling behind. It was a somewhat quiet defensively, due to a few key factors...

  • Bosa was out
  • Aqib & Peters left part way through the game
  • Donald was still a little rusty from no training camp

Still, there were plenty of fun offensive plays; Rivers played like the HOFer he is, Goff extended plays better than many expected he could, and Keenan Allen tried to join in on the fun but didn't quite cut it; did you know Allen's brother was a quarterback?

Decisive Factor?: The Rams defense played better, primarily in coverage, and though Phillip is undoubtedly the better QB, Goff was playing at a very high level at this point in the season which basically nullified that advantage.

A great Thursday night game full of high flying offense & lots of sacks on defense. The Rams offense had it's best showing so far, and it's defense had it's WORSE showing by far without Aqib & a healthy Peters. It was a really exciting back & forth for most of the game until Donald & Suh combined for three sacks on the Viking's last drive, and Kurt Cousins couldn't pull it off.

The Decisive Factor?: Everyone Vs. Anthony Barr - for some reason Barr was getting match'd up alot on Cooper Kupp & Todd Gurley in this game, and considering both are pretty great receivers in their own right, this did not end well for the Vikings defense. Of the 5 TDs thrown by Goff, 3 were in Barr's coverage.

This one started out pretty crazily; a fumble, then picked up for a throw, then a blocked punt to give the Rams the ball on the goal line, then a pick in the red zone! All that happens within the span of like 10 mins, and no points were gained.

After that it was basically a tat - for - tat battle between the two division opponents. Things got pretty gritty in the red zone specifically, and throughout the entire game neither team really took a convincing lead. Things ended with the Rams attempting to run out the clock with a two point lead, and in the end the game get's finished in a pretty unexpected way; a Goff run up the middle on 4th down. It was really ballsy, but it worked out and made for a fun finish.

I also want to say, around this time the Seahawks were getting some doubt given their less than sterling record at the time, but anyone that doubts that team's ability year - to - year is an idiot. The Carroll - Russell duo is arguably the second most deadly over the past few years, and everyone in the West knows it's always going to be a tough battle over the course of the year with them.

The Decisive Factor?: The Rams offensive line (you'll see this alot). Honestly Russell still did a damn good job even without a superior O - Line, but this game was so close, it was a little bit of many things. If the Seahawks had won I'd be saying the Ram's really poor run defense.

The 2nd Keenum revenge game everyone was clearly waiting for. This one was a modest game in terms of offensive production, won on the ground instead of through the air. Also the first of many games in which Goff seemed a bit thrown off, so it turned to Todd Gurley to take over the game to the tune of 208 rushing yards & 2 TD's.

By the 3rd quarter, the Rams had established a 17 point lead, but the Bronco's tightened up in the 4th and nearly took the game towards the end. Although the Rams got away with the W, this game (to me) further established Mile High as a tough as heck arena to win in.

The Decisive Factor?: Todd Gurley is guud - the Bronco's defense tried to win this one by throwing Goff off his spot, but at this point in the season Todd Gurley was still capable of playing, so McVay just took what was given to him & ran it down the Bronco's throats.

This game turned out to be another installment in what I like to call "The Rams murder the 49ers & Cardinals in 2018" (Spoiler Alert - it's a four episode series). Whether it was the offensive line's ineptitude, CJ Beathard's poor play, or the lackluster pass rush, it was clear this just was not the 49ers' day. The Rams WR's were wide open all game, Aaron Donald ended the game with what was perhaps the most dominant defensive performance of 2018 - even special teams got in on the fun. From here, the Rams rolled on into Week 8 as the last undefeated team in the NFL.

The Decisive Factor?: The 49ers O - Line did absolutely no favors for Beathard or Brieda. Though not indicative of their overall performance in 2018, there just wasn't much chance for the offense to gain rhythm, & the Rams D - Line (Donald) hit them all game.

Back in the Coliseum for a Green Bay home game, the Packers gave the Rams about all they could handle in this one. Green Bay grabbed a lead early, and things stayed pretty modest offensively until the 3rd quarter. This was also one of the first games Jaire Alexander really stood out for the Packers.

I'd actually say both sides played well in this game, but in the end it came down to less mistakes made by the Rams in all three phases. Though many will want to push the blame onto Montgomery's baffling run out & return fumble, there were other points that the Packers could've taken the lead, and contrary to the belief of Packers fans, Rodgers wasn't guaranteed a field goal. It was about as close at it gets, but the Rams got some luck, and defended home turf and their streak with the win.

The Decisive Factor?: Ty Montgomery

The first loss, and the beginning of a saga in 2018.

By all accounts the Saints should've had the Rams dead - to - rights after the first half; they were completely dominating after a controversial failed Fake FG by Johnny Hekker, with the lone bright spot for LA on their final drive. This point proved to be more impactful than many thought, as going into the locker room with some points spurred the Rams onto a second half comeback that tied things up halfway through the 4th quarter. In an exhilerating final 9 minutes, the Saints proved to be the more all around competent roster in Week 9, after MThomas delivered a dagger (and a cleverly timed "call back") with the final TD of the game.

The Decisive Factor?: Marcus Peters' is ass now. Without Talib, "Can'tGuardMike" was allowed to run wild against the Rams' secondary to the tune of 12 receptions for 211 yds & a TD. No play summed up this mismatch better than that final TD.

How about them Hawks? Another game that ended up being a grinder, this one featured a balanced offensive attack for both teams. The Seahawks were able to get Rashaad Penny going (+100 rushing yards), while the Rams hit all their WR's pretty consistently (Cooks & Woods both had +80 yds; 7 different receivers caught passes). Of course Justin Britt & Aaron Donald also got pretty chippy.

Like last time, it came down to the final minutes. Oh yeah, & Cooper Kupp was put out for the season in the 4th quarter (dangit Seahawks).

The Decisive Factor?: The Rams defense let the Seahawks run on them, but the Seahawks got as much as they could give, and all things considered Goff was able to find open targets more consistently than Russ. Like always with Pete, it came down to a few little things throughout the game.

A game I'm sure many here are already familiar with, Week 11's MNF game ended up being not only an unprecedented shoot out, but also a historic game on Monday Night.

  • First time in NFL history both teams scored +50 points
  • Third highest combined score (105) in NFL history.
  • 2nd highest number of combined TDs (14) ever.
  • Most points scored on MNF ever.

​The whole game was an offensive back & forth; at times it felt like neither defense could do anything to stop either offense. Even so, there were enough defensive turnovers & scores to sate many who consider themselves fans of defense, and regardless of the preference, it was a game with plenty of surprises & lead changes. Both QBs had fantastic performances, even if neither run game passed 100 total rushing yards.

Mahomes: 33/46 - 478 yds passing - 6TD/3INT - QBR 117.6

Goff: 31/49 - 413 yds passing - 4TD/0INT - QBR 117.1

DOES WITTEN SAY ANYTHING THIS ENTIRE GAME OTHER THAN "WOW"?

The Decisive Factor: In a game full of offense, the fact that the Rams got 2 more turnovers on defense would be what won them the game. More specifically, Mahomes' two picks at the very end of the game did not help their chances of winning, and either drive could've been the dagger in the hearts of Rams fans.

EXTRA SECTION: I have to take a moment to explain the mindset & feelings of many LA residents (myself included) at the time of this game. The wild fires north of LA were becoming increasingly out of control, displacing thousands of residents & literally scorching towns to the ground, and the recent shooting in Thousand Oaks (where the Rams' practice facility is) loomed heavy over the city around this time. With that said - what a fucking game oh my goodness! This to me was a special experience. The two strip sacks from AD, both Mahomes & Goff's showstopping performances on Prime time, 3 DEFENSIVE TOUCHDOWNS. It was a game that had so much to love, but one that I'd only want to see once or twice a year. The Rams & the Chiefs brought fun & excitement to our Monday with this game, and I want to thank them both for making the fans of LA feel a little better on that week.

Do yourself a favor and watch the highlights, it's a good time.

At this point the Rams & Saints were still fighting for the #1 Seed, but aside from that it was a pretty uneventful game. The Rams won about the way many expected, though after his fantastic performance in Week 11 I think many were surprised to see Goff fumble so much in this one (17/33 - 207 passing, 1TD/1INT, 68.6 QBR). To mitigate his slump, Gurley decided to go off for 132 rushing yds & 2 TDs. The defense made the assist, pulled through, and the Rams walked away 10 - 1.

This was a game that was far more impactful towards the Rams' season than I think many could've ever expected...

The Decisive Factor?: As previously mentioned, Gurley helped consistently move the ball on the ground when Goff couldn't through the air, and Aaron Donald - 2 sacks (one a strip fumble) , and 4 TFL.

A defensive showdown to the end, the Bears built off the plan the Lions laid down to completely phase Goff & shut down McVay's offense. With all star performances from Mack, Jackson, & the Bear's O-l ine, the Rams offense & D-line found it very difficult to turn the game in their favor. And if you know ANYTHING about the Ram's in the regular season, you know that's where their strengths lied. Though the Bear's offense didn't prove too impressive itself (Bearsky threw 3 picks), in the end Matt Nagy's creative play calling got them the only TD of the game and the win.

Though this game didn't mean a whole lot, given the Bears had almost no chance of playing the Rams at home in the postseason, it would signal the beginning of Goff's decent into questionable play for the rest of the season.

The Decisive Factor?: Eddie Jackson. This was the game that made me realize how special this guy was in 2018. Hot Take? Eddie Jackson was more important to the Bears D in AT LEAST that game than Khalil Mack was.

And in rode BDN...

Essentially in an offensive free fall since Week 13, the Rams continued to see struggles against the Eagle's formidable D-line. The Big Dick played well against the Ram's still recovering secondary & the Eagles O-line began handled Donald & Co well, able to run a very balanced offensive game plan to steadily score points on the Rams D throughout the game. Down 17 in the 4th - Goff was able to mount a comeback of sorts, but it proved unsuccessful on the last play and the Eagles were able to take the Rams first & only home loss of the season.

The Decisive Factor?: Fletcher Cox is the best human DT in the NFL. Since Aaron Donald is essentially a superhuman he doesn't really count in this conversation, but Fletcher is a Brinks Truck in his own right. Dude is killer on the interior, and the way he really made Goff uncomfortable throughout the entire game kept the Rams from gaining enough ground.

Remember when I said this was gonna be a four episode series? Though not quite the bloodbath that Week 2 was, it was still a pretty convincing victory. At this point each team's ability has essentially been established, and it doesn't take a well read witch doctor to tell you the team that would go on to be the first overall pick was gonna lose to the eventual SB participants.

The Cardinals secondary played admirably , and Rosen tried his dangedest, but they weren't ready for the emergence of the Big Chungus himself. CJ ran for 167 rushing yards**,** beautifully complementing an encouraging performance from Goff (19/24, 216 passing yds, 1TD/0INT, 118.1 QBR). Aaron Donald also played in this game, accounting for three sacks.

That Larry Fitzgerald play was pretty epic - glad the man can still add to his legend.

The Decisive Factor?: Holy shit this Cards offensive line is mega ass. Aaron Donald was double teamed on 90% of his snaps (40/44 pass rushing snaps) and still walked away with three sacks & four TFL. Nobody could survive behind that thing, which is the main reason y'all need to lay off Rosen; kid's still got alot of potential.

A game that technically had playoff implications (only if the Rams lost), this one was more of the same. I know this probably isn't 32/32 protocol, but I'm not going to say much about this specific game given the Rams won it by the 3rd quarter (38 - 10 halfway through the 3rd) and had pulled their starters by the end of the game.

The Decisive Factor?: The Rams were an all around better team & played at home.

In a game that fans seemed to think would end with a Dallas win; the Rams flipped the script in a very unexpected way. The Rams defense all season had been terrible against the run, with the worst YPC allowed up to that point (5.1 ypc). Dallas on the other hand sported an excellent franchise RB, and a very stout defense. On paper, the match up should've been in Dallas' favor, but they forgot one key detail.

The Rams were a better coached football team than Dallas.

The Rams defense locked down Zeke, handing him his worst single game performance ever (47 rushing yds, 2.35 ypc, 1TD), while the normally stout Dallas defense couldn't contain the Gurley/Chungus combo (238 total rushing yards, 6.1 ypc, 3 TDs).

What some don't realize about this game was that Dallas actually did exactly what they should've, they ran the game plan that the Bears & Eagles had used to beat the Rams. HOWEVER, with a healthier Gurley & Chungus, the Rams were able to actually run the football - remember the Lions & Denver games?

I know media "analysts" (dumbasses) were saying beating the Rams started by stopping the run, but that's actually not the case - the key to beating McVay's offense was confusing Goff with complex coverage's, & playing to stop the deep ball. This leaves the run game open to thrive, and is why the Rams were able to beat the Cowboys.

Even Goff got in on the fun a bit.

The Decisive Factor?: Dallas couldn't play the deep ball & stop the stout running game at the same time, and when their initial game plan didn't work, they couldn't adjust enough. The Rams coaching staff anticipated what the Cowboys would try to do to beat them, so they got their players ready to counter those exact tactics (run against the D, sell out your own Run D to play the deep play action) by playing excellent run defense & running it themselves.

Like the first meeting, this game started with seemingly everything going wrong for the Rams. Aside from the Saints strong performance, the crowd noise was truly at an insane level in the Dome that first half, and Rams allowed 13 unanswered points by the Saints in the first quarter. But once the Rams started to score, and the crowd quieted down, the game evened out, ending nearly a tie at 10 - 13 by the half. The rest of the game was a back & forth between both teams, until a certain call close to the end of regulation...

THE BIG NO CALL: We've all seen it at this point, and honestly, by now I think everyone has drawn their line in the sand. It was a terrible miss, and it's clearly a play that should've been called, but by halfway through the 4th quarter, the ref's had basically stopped calling penalties all together. The most egregious miss was on the Saints, & while both sides were affected and lost points because of it, we should've gotten a better officiated game. Continuing on...

Overtime: The Saints settled for a field goal, which the Rams matched at the very end, and so the game went into overtime. The Saints won the toss & got the ball, getting off to a rocky start on their first drive. But it would turn from rocky, to disassterous, as pressure home caused Brees' to throw an errant INT to Safety John Johnson III. Starting off around their own 40, Goff didn't fare much better, but the difference came in a few key plays to move them just within striking distance of a FG.

So in the final seconds of the game, the Rams would move onto the Super Bowl on the longest FG completion in NFC Championship history

The Decisive Factor: The Rams secondary really had their work cut out for them in this match up, but with Aqib Talib back & fully healthy, Michael Thomas & Co. were facing a whole different beast. Kamara proved to be a match up nightmare early in the game (11 receptions/ 96 yds), but by the second half the Saints couldn't get much going through the air (Mike Thomas finished the game with 4 receptions for 36 yds) or ground (21 carries for 48 yds).

A game with only 1 TD all game was not what ANYBODY expected with two of the Top 4 scoring offenses playing in the Super Bowl. Yet it was Belichick & Wade Phillips who set the tone for the game, with masterful defensive play from both sides. Rewatching this game, I couldn't even count how many times both QBs almost got picked off - which really defines how this game played out.

Both defenses sought to confuse the opposing QB through a careful use of pre - snap disguise & constant defensive audibles. Both defenses sought to shut down the run & create havoc from the interior. And both defenses played truly excellent coverage. But when all is said, the Patriots won on the back of their superior QB more than anything else. Brady is better than Goff (no shit), and much more experienced (double no shit), and was able to make the key play when Goff couldn't.

The Rams hopes were finally dashed for good on a final INT thrown by Goff in the 4th quarter. The Patriots ran the clock down to 1:16, completed a field goal, and put another feather in Brady's cap of greatness by winning Super Bowl LIII.

The Decisive Factor?: It was many things; I've already outlined the very obvious difference in experience & ability between Goff & Brady, but there was also Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman coming through with 141 yds receiving (more than half of the Patriots total receiving production), and the superior play of CB Stephon Gilmore, who honestly should've been the SB MVP in this one.

There was also the sheer difference in coaching experience & excellence between this man, and this one.

I also wanted to take a moment to point out it was the Lion's game plan that the Patriots built off of, meaning Matt Patricia's defensive game planning helped the Pats win the SB this year...

New Additions, or Why Marcus Peters was kind of an ok pickup

CB | Marcus Peters - Traded from the Chiefs

The first acquisition by Les "Comp Picks are better than sex" Snead, Marcus Peters in the regular season was... inconsistent. Peters is an instinctive "clue" corner who thrives in Zone coverage; unfortunately he ain't so good as a pure man corner. Theoretically, this wasn't a big issue, given Talib was brought in to run as the #1 match up corner; however, Aqib Talib was injured & off the field mid - season.

This forced Peters to play a ton of man - to - man, which made him literally shit. For a large part of the season, Peters was getting BURNED; add to that the fact that bigger WR's could beat up on him a bit too much when manned up, and Peters basically was a flop when in #1 coverage.

All that being said, I'm still happy we grabbed him. When allowed to play off & handle #2 duties, Peters was a good, meaning any time Aqib is in, the Rams secondary becomes a very good one. Additionally, there are plenty of plays to choose from that show MP's issues in coverage, were often actually Lamarcus Joyner's folly instead.

GRADE: B -

CB | Aqib Talib - Traded from the Broncos

A much better acquisition - Aqib Talib formed the backbone of the secondary when he was in, and proved to be one of the BEST man corners in the league (feel free to @ me) when starting. He's a physical corner, and unfortunately, that lead to him being out for a majority of the regular season. Though his loss was certainly felt, in the end it didn't matter given he made it back in time for the playoffs, just so he could transform the Ram's back end into a top tier unit.

GRADE: A -

DT | Ndamukong Suh - Signed 1 YR/ $14M

After a prolonged courting match towards the end of the off season, McVay's beautiful face was able to convince Suh to take a lesser contract to sign with the Rams and form what many thought would be a legendary interior 1 - 2 punch. Unfortunately, Suh didn't quite give the effort needed during the regular season; though he still amounted to an above average NT & run stopper, Suh never really took the attention away from Donald many fans had hoped.

That changed when the playoffs came around; apparently feeling the pressure to give a shit given a looming off season with no contract in place, Suh kicked it up in the post season to help solidify what had been a porous run defense. Look no further than the Divisional round to see the type of impact Suh was finally having on the Ram's run D. Even then, I would be lying if Suh's performance in 2018 wasn't a bit disappointing.

GRADE: B

WR | Brandin Cooks - Traded from the Patriots & extended 5 YR/$81M

After losing Sammy Watkins in FA, the Rams found a new deep threat, trading their 2018 1st Rounder for NFL nomad Brandin Cooks. Cooks had been the apple of McVay's eye for a few years, which is why it wasn't surprising he was signed to a phat extension before the season even began. But was it worth it? A first rounder & a shiny new contract without even a snap???

Yeah, it was; Brandin Cooks acted as an excellent deep threat for Goff to drop dimes to. Aside from running Go or Post routes super good, The Archer also proved to be adept outside of his traditional route tree, contributing all over the field, and in jet sweeps & trick plays. Given his incredible consistency all over the league, there's no reason to believe he won't be a valuable weapon in McVay's offense for years to come.

GRADE B+

OLB | Dante Fowler Jr. - Traded from the Jaguars

On the day of the trade deadline, the Rams decided they didn't have enough help along the D-Line for Donald, so they went shopping for a new edge rusher. After they weren't able to get underrated Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes, they called the Jags to grab their next best option. Fowler was a definite upgrade over Sammy Ebukam & Matt Longacre, but even still he wasn't enough to upgrade the line in the way I believe Wade, Sean, & Les had hoped.

Fowler made a few key plays in the playoffs, and showed enough promise in a short time to earn a nice prove it deal this off season, but I wouldn't say that he really excelled as much as he could've, given all the attention Donald was getting.

GRADE: C+

Coaching Staff Review

Since I'm sure everyone on this subreddit is pretty sick of hearing about how great Sean McVay is, and everyone already knows Wade to death, I'm going to instead talk about how fucking great Aaron Kromer is, and why you should all think he's great too (also I'll talk a bit about Shane Waldron as well).

For clarity, after 2017 OC Matt LeFleur left LA to become the OC for the Titans (also the guy the Packers hired as their HC because he touched McVay once). Instead of hiring a proper OC, McVay opted to split coordination of the Pass & Run games, giving those roles to then Rams TE coach Shane Waldron & offensive line coach Aaron Kromer respectively.

Aaron Kromer - the most important LA Rams Cog you've never heard of (2018 Run Game Coordinator)

Backstory: A veteran of more than 17 years as an offensive line coach, Kromer came to LA prior to the 2017 season after serving the past two seasons in the same capacity with the Buffalo Bills. In his 18 years as an NFL offensive line coach or coordinator, Kromer has helped 16 players earn a total of 23 Pro Bowl appearances.

The Bills offensive line helped to pave the way for the club to have the top-ranked rush offense in both of Kromer’s years in Buffalo. In 2016, the Bills rushed for 164.4 yards per game the season after having an offense that averaged 152.0 yards per game in 2015. Also for the second consecutive year in 2016, the Bills had three players rush for 500 or more yards – LeSean McCoy (1,267), Tyrod Taylor (580) and Mike Gillislee (577). When the Bills accomplished the feat in 2015, it had not happened since 1962.

Why he's so important: In 2016 (the year before McVay & Kromer arrived) the Ram's offensive line was the worst in the NFL. In fact, it could be argued to be a HISTORICALLY atrocious line; the Rams' offensive line allowed Goff to get sacked 25 times over the last six games, the most in the NFL during that stretch. That averages out to more than four sacks a game, which if extrapolated to a full 16 games, comes in at about 67 sacks, which would have been the fourth-highest total in history (for reference, in David Carr's worst sacked season, he was sacked 76 times over the season).

Enter Aaron Kromer - who turned the unit into a top 10 unit by the end of the season, per PFF. Under Kromer’s guidance, the offensive line blocked for RB Todd Gurley, who was named Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league in scrimmage yards (2,093) and total touchdowns (19). In 2018, after Kromer was promoted, the Rams line continued to improve, becoming once again a top unit in the league.

Though you can tell from his past the man is pretty dang good at bringing out the best in a run game & O - Line at large, it's how he's elevated a once lackluster cast that is most compelling. Out of all the Rams' 2018 starting lineman, only Whitworth & Saffold could've been counted on to be quality starters. However, RG Austin Blythe (a former 7th round pick waived by the O - Line needy Colts) & RT Rob Havenstein, out of nowhere, performed as some of the best at their positions in the NFL.

The day this man is taken away from the Rams and given the well deserved chance to be an offensive coordinator somewhere else (pls be with the Rams) is the day I weep. Credit for the line's improvement can be associated with McVay himself, Whitworth's presence as a leader as well, but there is no denying Kromer's hands have shaped this O - Line clay into what should be a top performing unit for at least as long as he's there.

Shane Waldron is also pretty great (2018 Pass Game Coordinator/ QB Coach)

Backstory: Previously, Waldron served as the Washington Redskins offensive quality control coach for the 2016 season; he followed McVay in 2017 to begin his Ram's tenure as the TE coach. Under Waldron’s guidance in 2017, the tight end duo of Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett combined for 539 yards, three touchdowns and averaged 13.1 yards per reception. Though pretty good considering their usage, it was never a group that stood out given the offensive excellence all around. This led me to give his hiring as the Pass Game Coordinator a C+ in last years offseason review.

But boy howdy was I wrong! In 2018, the Rams passing game improved in nearly every aspect, and Shane continued to assist in developing Goff in year 3. Really I'm not sure why the Bengals didn't grab him instead of Zac Taylor, but I'm glad he's sticking around until he get's his crack at HC, after everyone realizes he too has touched McVay at least once.

Positional Group Review

See below my positional grades for the Ram's roster in 2018.

QB

Jared Goff, Sean Mannion

Grade: B

Reasoning: What most people forget is that Goff was lighting it UP for most of the season, before the Lions game hit. By all accounts he was a better QB in 2018 than 2017, and though he had hiccups towards the end of the season & postseason especially, it was on him to lead & command the offense in 2018, and for a QB who's still 23, I feel very good about his future.

RB

Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, CJ Anderson, John Kelley

Grade: B+

Reasoning: A great gaggle of RB's who were able to make up one of the preempt run games in the NFL in 2018 somehow came to dissapoint, largely because the offensive line did so much of the work. Gurley benefited tremendously from arguably the best run-blocking group in the league, evidenced by

  • Very lackluster efficiency #'s (yards created per carry, which measures how many yards a RB get's per carry after the first contact, only ranked #35 in the NFL)
  • The effectiveness of both CJ Anderson & Malcolm Brown after they'd stepped in for Gurley.

It also shouldn't go unsaid that the Rams ran 3 WR sets on +90% of their plays in the regular season, which made it even easier for the RB's to get going (eliminated stacked boxes more often, leading to Gurley facing on average 6.7 defenders in the box). Given the depth they had in 2018, it was a very good, dependable unit, but not quite as impressive as some other lead backs around the league.

WR

Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds

Grade: A

A unit that really galvanized the offensive's overall improvement in 2018, the trio of Cooks, Woods, & Kupp were a special one when all healthy. Before Kupp's injury in Week 10, all three were on pace for +1,000 yards receiving (Woods & Cooks both finished with +1,200); they formed a deadly trio who's effectiveness was best exemplified in Week 4. In this example, Kupp is the receiver left to match up on the LB, Anthony Barr, for what was far too much of the game for the Vike's liking I'm sure. Whether it's a LB, CB, or Safety, not many teams (if any) in the NFL can consistently lock down three different pass catchers who are elite in their respective craft. Each is excellent in their roles, but also have the versatility to play all over the field (deep routes, the slot, gadget plays, etc.).

Wherever McVay see's the opening, they can fit a play maker into. After Kupp went down, Reynolds filled in admirably (29 rec, 402 yards), but Woods would have to play in the slot more often than ideal, and inevitably the group took a step back.

When healthy, this is one of the best units in the league.

TE

Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee

Grade: B

A mid - grade for a very talented group that didn't see as much attention as they probably could've handled. Given the strength of the WRs, the TE's didn't get so involved for the second year running, though after Kupp went down they definitely got more work. Higbee is a decent player in his own right, but the star of the show here is really Gerald Everett, my 2019 breakout candidate for the Rams offense. In limited usage, he showed very encouraging play, and his comps to Jordan Reed could be seen throughout the back half of the regular season; this late season resurgence led him to be graded as PFF's 5th highest graded TE on the season.

LT

Andrew Whitworth, Joseph Noteboom

Grade: A +

For yet another season, Big Whit slaps death in the face with his floppy weiner & proved to Mike Brown that he was in fact worth the money. A year removed from his 2017 All Pro season, Whitworth continued to be both a pillar of the locker room & the offensive line, turning in arguably an even better season that saw him land at #29 of PFF's Top 101 list (highest rank on the list among NFL offensive lineman). Whitworth's elite play at this point should be common knowledge, but the extremely promising play of rookie OT Joseph Noteboom shouldn't go unheralded either. In limited reps against elite pass rushers such as JJ Watt & Chandler Jones, Noteboom held is own very admirably, and given he's the Ram's planned starter at LG in 2019, it's clear the coaching staff trusts his development to continue into the upcoming season.

LG

Rodger Saffold III

Grade: A -

Not quite as strong as the LT position but still very good, the Rams depended on the longest tenured Ram in the building, Rodger Saffold. As was the case for most of the offense, Saffold saw his best play early on in the season (1st Team All Pro on PFF's mid season honors), keeping Goff upright for most every snap. However, once the postseason hit (and superior competition stepped up to bat), Rodger faltered a bit. He still played well but I couldn't help but feel the interior of the line in particular had trouble against what the Saints & Patriots threw their way. Even so, Saffold still ended the season as one of the league's best guards, and will be a valuable asset for his new team.

C

John Sullivan

Grade: D +

Long story short, John Sullivan was pretty bad in 2018 but still served a purpose. On one hand, he wasn't too bad as a run blocker in the regular season. On the other hand, he was just downright crap in pass protection, allowing a league high 37 pressures (most of any center in the league). This became especially detrimental in the Super Bowl, where he essentially became the exploitable weak point on the Rams O-Line. They say an offensive line is only as strong as it's weakest member, and that was no more evident than in SBLII; he get's the + because he was still able to provide help to Goff when discerning coverages pre - snap.

RG

Austin Blythe

Grade: B+

Blythe's trajectory this season can be similarly compared to Saffold's; fantastic in the first half but a little streaky down the stretch. What's different is his tenure with the organization & the initial expectations. Blythe is a 7th rounder waived by the Colts, with the Rams claiming him off waivers shortly afterwards. After former Rams RG Jamon Brown was suspended for 2 games prior to the season, Blythe was given the opportunity to start & never let go. Blythe finished the regular season ranked PFF's 5th best guard, but his average play in the postseason dropped him outside of the Top 10. Still, he's a very promising young player that could look to build on his 2018 going forward.

RT

Rob Havenstein

Grade: A -

With a shiny new contract signed prior to Week 1 of the 2018 regular season (4yr/ $32.5M), Havenstein decided to step his game up in a big way this year. Allowing all of 4 pressures & hits COMBINED during the 2018 season, Havenstein wins consistently with his excellent hand technique and footwork. Luckily for the Rams, his play didn't take a step back in the post season, and like Whitworth, he finished 2018 on PFF's Top 101 (#54, 5th among OT's).

DI

Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers

Grade: S

Do I even need to explain this one?

If so, i'll start like this -> Aaron Donald is the most dominant player at his position in the National Football League & has propelled himself into the conversation for possibly one of the best to ever play defensive tackle. Donald led the league this year in sacks with 20.5, the first time ever for a DT. Not only that, he did so without getting his first sack until Week 4; you might ask why that matters? WELL ILL TELL YOU WHY DANGIT!

As many already know, Donald held out the entire 2018 off season; the first time he hit the practice field was after week 4 of the preseason. Incidentally, his worst games were also early on in the season, but it wasn't because of the competition...

Week 1 - Raiders: O line sub par throughout the season

Week 2 - Cardinals: O line made of flaming garbage

Week 3 - Chargers: O line also sub par throughout the season

It's unusual that his production was so unassuming during this period, and it's not ridiculous to think he wasn't in peak form without the proper time with the staff to build up during the off season. I'm not going to say Donald could've had more sacks if he'd been able to get to peak form prior to Week 1, but it's an interesting thought to ponder given how dominant he was from Week 4 onward.

106 total pressures (led the league among all positions), 20.5 Sacks (led league among all positions, all time at DT), and 28 TFL (led the league among all positions). Oh yeah, and he also won a back to back DPOY, one of only three to ever do so. Many of his #'s for DT's completely blew every other participant out of the water (for example, his 28 TFL's were 9 more than the next best interior lineman, Chris Jones with 19), and other than Fletcher Cox & Chris Jones, I'm not sure any other DT could've been considered in his stratosphere in 2018.

Suh on the other hand, was... pretty good. He definitely had his best games towards the beginning of the season (Week 4 comes to mind), but his inconsistency as a pass rusher was not ideal. His biggest issue apparently was just a lack of effort, because once the postseason came around he was able to turn around his play immensely, helping to solidify the Ram's run D, a lackluster unit for most of the season.

Brockers took a definite step back in 2018, from a 2017 campaign that saw him play well as both a pass rusher & run defender, in 2018 he was only able to put together 1 sack & not alot against the run. Though it could just be a down year, with all of the attention Donald took during the season, it's very disheartening to see such a lack of impact.

EDGE

Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre, Dante Fowler Jr.

Grade: D

This was a pretty bad group overall; though Fowler did provide some late season punch to the outside. In total, Samson Ebukam & Matt Longacre combined for four sacks, and though Fowler was a much stronger player than either, he still only accounted for 2 sacks in 6 games started. Ebukam shows promise as a versatile play maker, but his consistency in providing those plays is still wanting. Overall it wasn't a good group & it'll need to be better in 2019 if Donald doesn't want to get double/tripled on 90% of his snaps.

LB

Cory Littleton, Mark Barron, Ramik Wilson

Grade: C

Pretty good in coverage, total garbage in Run D is about how you could sum up this group. Mark Barron specifically was one of the worst tacklers in the NFL in 2018, and Littleton wasn't very far behind him. Littleton's saving grace was his superiority in coverage & as a pass rusher; Littleton had 3 INTs & 4 sacks (Barron had 1 sack & 0 INTs). With Barron recently released, the Rams have an opportunity to improve the position, though it's unclear how exactly. A quick shout out to Ramik Wilson, who backs (backed) up Mark Barron & played in place of him in the beginning of the season; a solid back up.

CB

Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey - Coleman, Sam Shields, Troy Hill

Grade: B

A fantastic group when healthy, a shitty one when Aqib isn't in. Aqib is the backbone of this group; without him not only is there one less All Pro CB, but the other (Marcus Peters) is forced to play out of place, which he doesn't do so good. With Talib in, Peters is able to play off coverage more consistently, which plays more to his strengths; take Talib out & now Peters has to play alot of tight man coverage, which he struggles in given his smaller frame & lackluster speed. In the slot, you have Nickell (NRC), who has excelled in recent years at his position. Though many will only remember him for the no - call hit in the NFC Champ game, he's a good corner in his own right and one that helps solidify the trio. Shields & Hill are competent back ups.

S

Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson III

Grade: A -

This time in 2017, if you'd asked me who the best safety between the two was, I'd have said Joyner. Now, with what I'd call John Johnson III's breakout year, I'm going to flip my answer. Joyner was still pretty good in 2018, but JJIII was a force at the position, and given it was only his second season, the potential for future growth is promising (you might remember him as the guy who drove off with Drew Brees' dreams). Both constituted a very strong back end, although Joyner specifically had a few troubling lapses in coverage throughout the season.

Special Teams

Grade: A

I'm not going to review every player on special teams individually - but I will highlight the stars. It's a really good unit overall & has showed a great deal of stability with special teams phenom John Fassel (aka Bones) coaching the group. Kicker Greg Zuerlein might have the strongest leg in the league, and still manages to use it well (87.6% FG). Hekker is the best QB/K dual threat in the league, and Jake McQuaide is allegedly a good Long Snapper, though I'm not sure what that's actually supposed to mean.

Free Agency/ Draft Concerns

  • NT
  • ILB
  • C
  • EDGE

With the departure's of Suh, Barron, & Sullivan, the first three positions are of the most concern currently. All have potential replacements already on the roster, and given my love for Kromer's magic hands & the seeming lack of importance of ILB to Wade, I'd bet on NT being the top target for the team in the 1st round of the draft. Even though the Rams acquired Clay Matthews & resigned Fowler in the offseason, I'd still like to see that position beefed up a bit so I include it. Other than that the team is pretty much set at every other position.

Who'd you like to see drafted with that juicy first pick?

Jeffrey Simmons would be an excellent replacement for Suh if he fell to us. He's an excellent player at the position & might even be ready to contribute in year 1. Additionally, Les stated recently that with their additions in the off season they felt confident in going BPA with their first pick. Dexter Lawrence is also another good option at the position, though if a player like Simmons isn't available don't sleep on a C or ILB being the pick.

Final Thoughts

This was a truly wonderful season to be a part of as a Rams fan - I ended up going to almost all of the home games for the first time ever & and it was such a wild ride. The team looked as dominant as can be in certain parts of the season, while other times they felt like they'd be bounced in round 1 of the playoffs, making those wins so much juicier (especially against Dem Boys). In the end, they came up short in the Super Bowl, but it still felt like a close game for the most part. Looking forward to many more years drooling over McVay's dreamy face. Not sure where we'll land in 2019 but I don't think we'll be shit, and I'm looking forward to the future regardless.

Shoutouts: Everyone on r/LosAngelesRams, and u/therealDoctorKay for putting this on and dealing with all of the nonsense that comes with that.

Thanks for reading!