The Los Angeles Rams will have a new identity in the upcoming NFL season. In the past few months, they’ve acquired a new logo, new uniforms, and a new stadium. While the team will look different aesthetically, they will also have a different identity on the field.
Gone are key starters such as Todd Gurley, Cory Littleton, Dante Fowler and Brandin Cooks, but those departures open the door for other players to prove themselves. While nothing in this league is guaranteed, I’d like to give five (5) bold Rams predictions for the 2020 season.
1. Jared Goff will establish himself as a top 10 QB.
Rams QB Jared Goff is one of the most disrespected quarterbacks in the NFL. People are quick to forget that this two-time Pro Bowl, 25-year-old QB led the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, while placing in the top 10 in nearly every key QB stat. Last season, he regressed a bit, but not solely because of his own struggles. He had one of the worst offensive lines in the league to protect him, which in turn caused strife in the run game.
Still, Goff finished 3rd in the league in passing yards and had many bad breaks that were out of his control. For example, he was clutch in leading the Rams down the field to potentially win the game against Seattle, only for this to happen. (Sorry to bring that up, Rams fans.)
The Rams will return all 5 starters on the offensive line, and rookies who were thrust into action last year (David Edwards and Bobby Evans) now have some real game action under their belts. While the OL played poorly in the first half of the season, they actually improved in the second half to build momentum for the 2020 season.
Despite losing Brandin Cooks, Goff still has one of the best receiving groups in the league. Led by stalwarts WR Cooper Kupp, WR Robert Woods and TE Tyler Higbee, and loaded with potential breakout players in WR Josh Reynolds, WR Van Jefferson and TE Gerald Everett, the Rams have no shortage of talent. Additionally, while Goff will be without Todd Gurley for the first time in his career, he will have young, explosive players in Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson (along with mainstay power back Malcolm Brown) to support him in both the ground and pass game.
With new OC Kevin O’Connell already drawing rave reviews for his attention to detail and a renewed focus on Goff’s fundamentals, I fully expect Goff to finish top 5 in both passing yards and touchdowns as he proves the doubters wrong.
2. Tyler Higbee will have the greatest season by a TE in Rams history.
For such a storied franchise as the Los Angeles Rams, tight end is the one position at which they’ve never had a star performer. One could argue that Higbee already had the best TE season in franchise history last season, and they might be right.
After playing a minimal role in the Rams offense for the first 3.5 seasons of his career, the former Western Kentucky star exploded onto the scene to record 43 catches, 522 yards and 2 TDs in the final 5 games. Higbee became the first tight end in NFL history to register 7+ catches and 100+ receiving yards in 4 straight games. He finished the year with a 69/734/3 statline, and Pro Football Focus was very impressed with his performance:
Higbee actually set a Rams franchise record for most receiving yards by a tight end last year, and I think he will operate at an even higher level in 2020. I see him recording 70+ catches, 800+ yards and 8+ TDs. If he can pull that off, he’ll cement himself as one of the best tight ends in the league, and in Rams franchise history.
3. EDGE Terrell Lewis will lead all rookies in sacks.
Lewis was a stud for the Crimson Tide in his college days, but he always seemed to be dealing with the injury bug. His lack of availability on game day caused him to slip in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Rams happily snagged him with the 84th pick knowing that when healthy he is a “problem” for offenses.
Lewis is a well-rounded player that excels in pass-rushing situations. Coaches and teammates alike have been impressed with the rookie’s performance in training camp thus far, and Lewis will attempt to carry that success into the regular season.
There are plenty of talented rookie pass rushers that could end up being the top sack artist, such as Chase Young, K’Lavon Chaisson and A.J. Epenesa. Unfortunately for those players, Lewis has one thing they don’t: Aaron Donald lined up beside him.
With Donald consistently drawing double- and triple-teams, Lewis should benefit with plenty of one-on-one battles this year (especially if the Rams’ offense holds up their end of the bargain and bounces back to their 2017-2018 production). This frees him up to go after the QB and chase the sack crown.
4. S Taylor Rapp will become a Pro Bowler.
After John Johnson III went down in Week 6 last year with a shoulder injury, the Rams were left with a large hole in the secondary. Fortunately for the defense, Rapp was ready to step up, and step up he did. The former Washington Huskie finished the season with 100 total tackles, a fumble recovery, 8 pass breakups and 2 interceptions (including this pick-six against OROY Kyler Murray). While he made typical rookie mistakes, the good outweighed the bad.
Rapp will now start alongside the man he replaced last year in John Johnson III, and the two should form one of the top safety duos in the NFL. The Rams haven’t had a safety make the Pro Bowl since Aeneas Williams in 2003, and Rapp will look to change that.
5. The Rams will make a deep playoff run (you heard me).
If you listen to the average NFL fan, you’d think the Rams were a bottom-10 team last year. However, they finished 9-7 in the toughest division in the NFL despite suffering from many key injuries and unlucky plays; as a result, their QB + OL endured a significant regression, resulting in an unlikely-to-happen-again TD/INT stat line of 22/16. There are plenty of questions surrounding this team, but when you have one of the best (and most innovate) coaches in the league in Sean McVay, a playoff run is never out of the question.
The 49ers are no lock to repeat as NFC Champs. Super Bowl hangovers are no joke. The Seahawks are relying on one player (albeit a future HOFer) to carry them far. The Saints, Bucs and Packers are entering the end of their quarterbacks’ good years. The Eagles and Cowboys are consistently inconsistent.
When you look at all the competition the Rams have in the NFC, no one team stands out above the rest. It’s a wide open race. If all of the above predictions come true, those players will be leading the charge as the Rams make the divisional round, NFC Championship, or possibly the Super Bowl.