Rams: Did The Defending Champs Really Get Better?
Most of the NFL loving universe has already penciled in the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams to represent the NFC again in the big game and many are even predicting a repeat. My question is why? Did the Rams really get better this off season or did they simply swap out some parts that may or may not be better than the player they're replacing?
courtesy of Sports Illustrated
Odell Beckham Jr. was a very welcomed surprise addition to the Rams offense last year when Robert Woods went down for the season. OBJ is now a free agent and there's a slight chance he rejoins the Rams for another run. But if not his replacement is Allen Robinson. Now, I like Allen Robinson and think he is a solid number two receiver. But I also think OBJ is a better numer two and on a lot of NFL teams he'd still be #1. So did the Rams improve at the wide rceiver position?
How about at linebacker where the mid-season addition of Von Miller can be argued put the Rams over the top and made that defense one of the best in the league. Well he's gone to the other side of the country to play with another Super Bowl contender with the Bills in Buffalo. Bobby Wagner comes in to replace Miller and that's a good thing because it will be extremely difficult to fill those shoes even if it is Bobby Wagner. There's no doubt he can still play some really good football but his best days are behind him. So did the Rams really improve at the linebacker position?
courtesy of The Boston Globe
How about the offensive line? The man who protected Matthew Stafford's blind side has retired. Left Tackle, Andrew Whitworth may have been in his 40's but he played like he was in his 20's. His blocking ability will be sorely missed along with his leadership skills and intellect of the game. I'm sorry but if the Rams think Joe Noteboom or AJ Jackson is going to have the same production as the future Hall of Fame OT then they have another thing coming! So did the Rams really get better on the offensive line?
What's the story at the running back position? Cam Akers is a pretty good running back but has had issues staying on the field. Then he suddenly developed a case of the fumbles during last years post season run in the game against the Bucs in which they almost blew an historically big lead. L.A. let Sony Michel walk without a sufficient back up and someone who can step up when needed.
The Rams also had a weakness in the secondary which they did not address properly either. Last year they relied on a retired Eric Weddle to come in late in the season and try to quarterback the secondary. The only move the Rams made of any significance in the defensive backfield was signing Troy Hill at cornerback. But how significant is that really? I mean they gave up a 5th round pick in 2023 to acquire him. I think the trade value alone speaks to the volume of the impact or lack thereof Hill will have in the secondary.
courtesy of Bleacher Report
Now look big picture at the Rams going back to last season. First thing is that Matthew Stafford threw 17 interceptions which led the league. Sean McVay can't rely on Aaron Donald and that defense to clean up all of Stafford's mistakes. They beat on a weakened Arizona Cardinals team in the wild card round. They almost blew a tremendous lead to Tom Brady and the Bucs in the divisional round. And if Jaquarski Tartt holds on to that pick by Stafford in the conference championship, the Rams likely wouldn't have got to the Super Bowl. And let us not forget that they needed the last 4 minutes of that Super Bowl to take the lead along with some questionable pass interference calls near the goal line.
courtesy of Ramblin' Fan
Then when the Bengals got the ball back with a chance to tie or win, Jow Burrow and Ja'Mar Chase put Cincinnati in prime position to make that happen. If not for the heroics of All Pro Aaron Donald consecutively on 3rd and 4th downs, the Bengals could have easily won that game. The Rams should have been able to score more than 23 points against the Bengals defense and needed every minute of that ball game to get it.
So were the Rams maybe just a bit lucky last season? Are we overselling how good this team really is? And with all the talk around L.A. repeating in 2022, did they really get better or worse with the moves they made and the ones they didn't? I leave it to you to decide!