After 21 years, the Los Angeles Rams are officially back despite beginning the 2016-17 NFL season on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams have undoubtedly been the most talked about team this offseason with the move to Los Angeles, as well as trading up to acquire the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft before subsequently being featured on HBO’s Hard Knocks.
It is the current makeup of this extremely talented, yet vastly inexperienced team that makes them such an intriguing group. However, there is plenty of good to take away from this squad with the emerging superstar Todd Gurley, along with possessing one of the fiercest front-seven units in the entire league. There are also huge question marks such as the current state of the Rams receiving corps who have not had a wideout top 1,000 yards since 2007 (Torry Holt) or a struggling secondary unit that saw two of last year’s key members lost in free agency.
There are a number of storylines to follow as the Rams look to impress their new host city. Here are just a few for the upcoming season:
Development of Jared Goff: When the Rams emptied their pocket full of draft picks to take Goff with the first overall pick, it was clear they were sending a message hey had found their future franchise quarterback. However, Goff’s slow progression has seemingly delayed any plans of him taking the reigns anytime soon as Case Keenum established himself as the clear-cut starter. While this may seem like a bit of a let down considering what the Rams gave up for him, it is not only a testament to the faith they have in Keenum, but it also shows the Rams have one goal in mind this year. Goff should eventually see playing time this season and only then will fans see if the patience and investment are justified.
Emergence of Young Stars: Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, the Rams struck gold with the selections of Aaron Donald in 2014 and Todd Gurley in 2015. Despite being in just the infant stages of their young careers, each player has established themselves as arguably the best at their positions. Since coming into the league, Donald has terrorized offensive linemen with his freakish strength and lightning-quick first step. Last season, Donald finished second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year behind J.J. Watt.
Meanwhile, Gurley stormed into the league leaving behind only a trail of doubts that he could be productive after suffering a devastating knee injury in college. His tremendous power and breakaway speed has drawn comparisons to Minnesota Vikings back Adrian Peterson. Now that both are in the Los Angeles market, their rare talent will now be on display to the masses.
Avoid the “7-9 bulls—“: The Rams have largely been a mediocre team for the last decade. As displayed on Hard Knocks, head coach Jeff Fisher is hoping to leave their losing ways back in St. Louis. Since taking over in 2012, the Rams have only come on the cusp of earning their first winning record since 2003. However, with the new city, comes a new mindset. There is nothing Angelenos love more than having a winning sports team. It seems the Rams have decided to focus on just that by naming Keenum the starter, rather than having Goff struggle to get his feet under him at the expense of the team winning games. While developing Goff will continue to be one their highest priorities, the first is to take that next step into playoff contention.