As teams get mathematically eliminated from the NFL playoffs, we’ll give you a jump on their offseason by examining what went right, what went wrong and what needs to change before next season.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Had you told the Rams before the season that they’d win the NFC West, their new coach would look like a grand-slam hire and their quarterback would emerge as one of the best in the NFL, they’d have signed up instantly, even if they knew it would end in a wild-card playoff loss. The loss to the Falcons was surely disappointing, but let’s not lose sight of the big picture. This was a remarkable season for the Rams. The future is bright.
What went right: Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate, Sean McVay will probably win coach of the year unanimously or close to it, Aaron Donald should win defensive player of the year, Jared Goff became one of the top young quarterbacks in football … that enough for you?
What went wrong: Other than falling apart in the playoff loss to the Falcons, not much. This is a team that had a fantastic offense, a very good defense and the special teams were good too. They pulled off the rare feat of finishing in the top six in offense, defense and special teams in Football Outsiders’ DVOA per-play metric. The only real negative is the Rams didn’t win a playoff game, and nobody in the NFL is guaranteed to make it back to the playoffs the following season. But this is a true growth stock.
Will the coach be back?: Unless Sean McVay is going to move on from the Rams after one season to perhaps solve world peace or cure cancer, yeah, he’s going to be back.
Do they have a quarterback?: No quarterback did more to help himself this season than Jared Goff. Before this season, Goff looked like a bust. What’s funny is everyone knew that Jeff Fisher and his staff weren’t good, but many of us didn’t factor that enough into Goff’s rookie struggles. When the Rams upgraded from a terrible coach to one of the best, Goff took off. Go figure. He posted a 100.5 rating, played well all season and should continue to grow. That’s a relief, because for most of his rookie season Goff looked like a lemon. He’s anything but that.
Quick free agent fix: The Rams have a tricky offseason coming up. They have a lot of key free agents. It needs to be said that they need to take care of Aaron Donald. Donald wants a new deal and has earned it. Yet, there are other issues too. There was a report from Alden Gonzalez of ESPN that receiver Sammy Watkins could get the franchise tag. They have big questions in the secondary, where cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety Lamarcus Joyner are set to be free agents. After the season the Rams just had, they need to focus on their own free agents and bring as much of this team back as possible.
Quick draft fix: The Rams will be drafting 23rd in the first round, and the secondary should be the focus. Even if they’re able to bring back Johnson and Joyner, cornerback Kayvon Webster will be coming off an Achilles injury and it’s never a bad thing to have secondary depth. And if the Rams do lose Joyner, Johnson or both, then they need to stock up on defensive backs.
Give it to me straight, can my team make the playoffs in 2018?: The only warning is that teams that have an enormous improvement one year usually take a step back. The 2017 Raiders are a good example. The Rams were clearly a bit ahead of schedule. All that said, it’s hard to come up with a realistic argument they won’t be back in the playoffs next season. This was a good, balanced team and they’ll be good again next season.
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