Rams Season Win Total Prediction
Amid all the hullaballoo surrounding their move (back) to Los Angeles, the Rams actually lost some fairly significant pieces on the personnel side. Will a new man under center, though, make for a splashy Hollywood debut?
Handicappers aren’t prepared to roll out the red carpet right away. Online sports book Bovada.lv sets the beleaguered franchise’s 2016 win total at 7.5. In a division that remains headlined by Seattle and Arizona, such a figure seems appropriate.
Head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead, however, hope they landed a transformative talent in April’s draft. Los Angeles took Cal’s own Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick. While the Golden Bears only went 14-23 during the quarterback’s three-year stint in Berkeley, he torched the Pac-12 for 96 touchdowns and 12,195 yards.
The ground-oriented Fisher doesn’t intend to put an undue amount of pressure on Goff, though, at least immediately. That’s largely because the squad already boasts arguably the most gifted rusher in the NFL. Todd Gurley broke off 1,294 total yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie campaign, which was limited to 12 starts as the ex-Georgia star worked his way back from a torn ACL. Every-down backs hardly pepper the ranks of the modern game, but Gurley’s tailor-made for such a role.
At wideout, the situation still looks bleak. Tavon Austin established career highs in targets (86), catches (52) and scores (10) last season, but the West Virginia product’s 5-foot-8 frame raises concerns about his ability to ever develop into a genuine No. 1 guy. Kenny Britt and Brian Quick offer ample size and physicality. Yet, neither individual possesses top-end speed. Perhaps fourth-round selection Pharoh Cooper can open some eyes during training camp in Oxnard. Then again, his evolution at South Carolina would suggest a solid slot receiver over the long haul.
When the outside options failed to get open in recent campaigns, signal-callers always knew they’d be able to spot Jared Cook underneath. That’s no longer the case, as the tight end joined Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in free agency. A greater number of departures hit the defensive side, with veteran mainstays Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod among the chief losses. For a club that prides itself on giving coordinator Gregg Williams a dizzying array of choices and packages, this promises to present challenges in the first quarter of the schedule.
Of course, Aaron Donald’s presence alone soothes many of those concerns. The Pennsylvania native absolutely exploded in 2015, registering 11 sacks and gaining acclaim as the premier interior contributor in the league. Injuries limited Robert Quinn to eight contests, but he’s a virtual lock for double-digit takedowns. The bulk of the questions probably pertain to the secondary. Beyond Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles must compete with the likes of on-the-mend E.J. Gaines (Lisfranc surgery), Lamarcus Joyner and Coty Sensabaugh.
We’ll see if Russell Wilson and Carson Palmer abuse said youngsters to excess. Perhaps the front four, not to mention the Alec Ogletree-led second level, will reach the backfield fast enough to reduce opponents’ chances of exploiting the corners and safeties. In any event, the D isn’t the issue here. Rather, the Rams enter yet another year with a hodgepodge offensive line and middling vertical threats. Thus, despite the Goff-Gurley pairing, West Coast fans appear destined to endure the same heartache that St. Louis encountered for the majority of more than two decades.
THURSDAY NFL FREE PICK: LOS ANGELES RAMS UNDER 7.5 WINS (-150)