Los Angeles Rams: 5 Bold Predictions for the 2019 season

The Los Angeles Rams head into 2019 with some big goals. Jake Ellenbogen gives his five bold predictions for the season.

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The Los Angeles Rams 2018 season ended at the last stage possible for an NFL team – the Super Bowl. The new roster in 2019 brings in some new faces as well as some returning faces for a team that just missed out on the ultimate season goal of winning the Lombardi Trophy. That goal won’t change heading into 2019 when the Rams will look to get over the hump. Here are five bold predictions for the 2019 Los Angeles Rams.

5. The Rams offense and defense will finish the season ranked first in the league

This prediction might seem extremely bold to start, but the Rams offense was second to only the Kansas City Chiefs and was first the year prior. The Chiefs averaged just more than four offensive yards per game and only two more points per game.

Looking back to the Rams 2017 campaign on offense – they finished 10th in total yards, but led the league in points, averaging 29.9. The Rams were much more improved, consistent and efficient this past year, but because of the increase in the competition of the Chiefs, it hid the fact the Rams offense got even better in 2018.

Fast-forward now to 2019 and the Rams have their entire offensive arsenal back and ready to go with the addition of Darrell Henderson. The Rams added Henderson via the draft to play in an Alvin Kamara role that he started in his rookie year. Factoring in the fact that Jared Goff will continue to improve as he enters his third year with the same offensive weapons and his offensive play-caller/play-designer remains in place. Continuity and consistency are what drives an NFL offense, and the Rams have both of those heading into 2019.

The only question and possible derailment is the fact that the Rams only return three starters on the offensive line and will start Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen for the first time. That uncertainty paired with the fact that Whitworth is aging and Blythe could very well have been a one-year wonder, the Rams have questions up front.

The Rams struggled with a patched offensive line in Goff’s rookie year as it brought down the entire offense. While that seems unlikely to happen with McVay, it still could pose enough of a threat to knock the Rams off track and leave them falling just short of their goal.

Adding up all the variables for the Rams to be the potential best offense, the Chiefs could lose their featured weapon Tyreek Hill to a four-game suspension or more. It’s also worth mentioning that Kareem Hunt isn’t going to be returning after the team released him last season due to off-field issues as well. While the Chiefs will have Damien Williams, they won’t have the dynamic nature of Hunt like they did the majority of last year.

Travis Kelce will be back and probably even more of a part of the offense. On top of that, the Chiefs did add offensive weapons via the draft. Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman and Utah State running back Darwin Thompson join Andy Reid‘s toolbox, but with all of these moving parts, it could take time to make them all work together.

That leaves one other offense that could find their way into this discussion – the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway and David Njoku on their offense. The offensive line looks solid as well. While Reid designed the Chiefs offense and McVay the Rams offense, Freddie Kitchens will be designing the Browns,’ and he’s not on the tier of the previous two names. Great offensive minds have become head coaches before and the positive results don’t always transfer.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball is where this prediction gets extremely bold. The Rams defense was ranked 20th in the NFL in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed last season. Moving up to No. 1 is quite the improvement.

It’s worth mentioning that the Rams weren’t fully healthy in 2018  as they lost Aqib Talib early on and Mark Barron didn’t get acclimated to the defense until later in the year as he battled back from an ankle injury.  Marcus Peters was banged up with a calf injury as well. Injuries hurt the defense, but once Talib returned to the field, everything tightened up.

The lasting impression on the 2018 season ending in Atlanta was the defense and how they held the same Tom Brady who threw a combined 971 passing yards and five touchdowns in back-to-back Super Bowls to only 262 yards, zero touchdowns, and one interception.

The Rams showed that they were turning a corner at the end of last year. Peters’ play improved, Cory Littleton got more comfortable as the year went on, Aaron Donald somehow got even better, and the Rams acquired a legitimate pass rusher in Dante Fowler Jr.

Going into the 2019 season, as long as the Rams stay healthy on defense, this could be the top defense in the league. With a defensive line that includes the trio of Donald, Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers with the depth of Morgan Fox, fourth-round pick Greg Gaines and 2018 seventh-round selection Sebastian Joseph-Day, there’s a lot to like.

Then, the linebackers include Littleton, Fowler Jr., Clay Matthews, Samson Ebukam, and second-year players Micah Kiser, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Trevon Young, and Justin Lawler. That’s not to leave to out rookies like Dakota Allen, Troy Reeder, Landis Durham, and Natrez Patrick either.

Lastly, the defensive backs will be led by newly-signed star safety Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Talib, Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, third-round pick David Long, second-round pick Taylor Rapp, Marqui Christian, seventh-round pick Nick Scott, Troy Hill and Kevin Peterson. It’s a deep and inexperienced group, but also younger group coordinated by one of the best in Wade Phillips.

After just scratching the surface in his first year and being inconsistent in his second year, the third year for the Rams defense under Wade will be their biggest yet.

The final prediction here is that the Rams and their high-powered offense will average 37.2 points per game while the Rams defense holds teams to an average of 17.2 points allowed per game. It’s bold, but the Rams are primed for it.

4. The Rams will ink Cornerback Marcus Peters to a long-term deal mid-season

This prediction is especially bold because the Rams tend not to sign their own during the regular season. They have been a team that has been consistent in signing players to contracts right before the season, preseason or right after the NFL off-season begins.

However, NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche joined the Downtown Rams podcast and seemed confident that Peters could be on his way to an extension. The Rams like what they have in the former Chiefs cornerback and they gave up a large haul to acquire him. Peters is one of the most dynamic young defensive backs in the league and while it’s fair to say that he’s coming off his worst season to this point,  it’s also fair to say that he found his stride near the end of the season.

Peters racked up an astounding 22 interceptions, including three of which were taken for touchdowns, to go with 63 pass breakups. Peters is an elite corner that just had a bad season to his standards but the 26-year old to should be back and better than ever this year. Peters has a full year in Phillips’ system and can build on that.

As far as the negotiations go, Peters is making a little over $9M this year due to the 5th-year option. Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard just signed a long-term deal that made him the highest-paid cornerback at $15M per year. Howard is also is almost two years younger than Peters.

However, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore signed a $13M deal which might be more of Peters’ range. The Rams don’t fleece their guys, and they don’t play hardball unless they have to. While $13 million might seem like an overpay, if Peters goes back form, the Rams should reward him.

If Peters plays well, the Rams will reward him with a lucrative 5-year deal worth close to $80 million. The Rams loved Peters despite his play last year, and even with the upcoming contracts, they can afford to do it before paying their franchise quarterback.

The longer the season goes on, the more of a chance Peters has of driving up his price tag. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that the Rams do have a franchise tag to play with, but that tag is expected to be $16,486,000 per OverTheCap. It makes much more sense if the Rams want Peters on their roster for the long-term, just to extend him now. General manager Les Snead is well aware of this and will get it done during the regular season.

3. Aaron Donald will break Michael Strahan‘s sack record

Arguably one of the best defensive players almost broke one of the most sought after milestones in the NFL. Aaron Donald has terrifyingly gotten better every season since entering the league. The former “undersized” defensive lineman got the last laugh.

The 28-year old interior defensive lineman has a bevy of hardware which now includes back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year selections. He recently signed a six-year deal worth $135M, and while things are great for Donald, he’s not content with what he has. He’s the type of player that is never satisfied. He wants Super Bowl rings, and he wouldn’t mind breaking that sack record.

Donald started his career in a base 4-3 defense as a  4-3 defensive tackle racking up nine sacks in 12 starts during his rookie year. The next year in 2015 he topped that, finishing with 11 sacks. After a “down year” in 2016 in which he recorded eight sacks, he tied his career-high in sacks with 11 in Wade Phillips’ new 3-4 scheme.

None of this would compare to what Donald was going to accomplish in 2018. The Rams defensive lineman finished with 20.5 sacks – two away from breaking Michael Strahan’s 22 single-season sack record in 2001. Even though Donald did not accomplish the phenomenal feat, it’s worth mentioning he had two sacks taken away due to roughing the passer calls. It’s also worth mentioning that Donald didn’t log a sack until week four.  If Donald was able to get 20.5 sacks in a mere 12 games, he could undoubtedly surpass 22.5.

The fact that this is now his third year under Phillips, the secondary improved, and the pass rushers on the team either are getting better, Donald should have an easier time getting to the quarterback in year six. With that said Donald could end up finishing with 24 sacks and breaking Strahan’s record in what will go down as the greatest defensive season of all time en route to winning the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year award.

2. Jared Goff will break every Rams single-season record held by Kurt Warner

Jared Goff is going to have a great 2019 season that completely shuts down his critics. Goff is going to surpass 5,000 yards and become the first Rams quarterback to do so, breaking Kurt Warner’s record. He’ll also break Warner’s record of touchdown passes (41), completion percentage (68.7%), and passer rating (109.2).

Goff may have Sean McVay calling the plays and have the best running back in Todd Gurley with one of the best receiver cores in the league. However, that shouldn’t take away from the player Goff has become. The Rams quarterback has already done a great job of leading his team and becoming the youngest quarterback of all-time to win an NFC Championship game.

Returning to the same system for the third year with the same weapons means good things for No. 16 and the rest of the offense.  Goff’s attempts went up from 477 to 561 last season and should only increase in year three. Goff could easily surpass the 600-mark while the Rams install the best passing offense in the game.

Goff is no longer learning the offense and has moved on to mastering it. The Rams will be able to add to the playbook and keep opposing defenses guessing. 2019 may not end with Goff winning MVP, but he will be in the finalist conversation.

The final stat prediction for Jared Goff:

Starts: 16
Completions: 444
Attempts: 640
Completion Percentage: 69%
Passing Yards: 5,284 yards
Passing Touchdowns: 42 Touchdowns
Interceptions: 9 Interceptions
Passer Rating: 110.3

1. The Rams will defeat the New England Patriots In a Super Bowl rematch 

Alas, the most important bold prediction ends here with the Rams not only hoisting the Lombardi trophy at the end of the season but also in a rematch against the New England Patriots.

In 2019 it was a tale of the defenses and the lack of experience for McVay and Goff. This year will be the theme of passing the torch. The Rams will take the torch from the Patriots signaling a potential long reign as the next great NFL dynasty.

The rematch would be another close game, but every time Goff and the Rams have been knocked down, they’ve gotten back up and prevailed. The Rams have had enough of the “only three points in the Super Bowl” joke. Aaron Donald hasn’t gotten over how he was entirely ineffective. Todd Gurley hasn’t gotten over the fact he barely saw the field due to his injury. And you can be sure that Brandin Cooks hasn’t gotten over his dropped pass that could have been a touchdown.

Both teams improved and it would appear these two are on a collision course once again. The Patriots reign has to end sooner or later and why shouldn’t the team that takes over be the Rams?

 

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Richard Harding

Kurt Never threw for 5,200 yards, it was over 4,200 yards!!!