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The Los Angeles Rams are once again in a rebuilding mode after parting company with Jeff Fisher following their 4-12 campaign in the 2016 season.
The Rams endured four seasons of mediocrity under Fisher during the time in St Louis, but the move to LA was meant to kickstart their rebirth to compete in the playoffs once again.
However, the club took a step backwards last season as they struggled to find their form, especially at the quarterback postion where Case Keenum failed to bear the load.
Number one overall pick Jared Goff was pressed into action later in the term, although his side’s issues were too much for the rookie to overcome, which culminated in Fisher being fired.
Los Angeles stunned the NFL by hiring 30-year-old Sean McVay as his replacement, with the former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator becoming the youngest coach in the history of the league.
He has a huge challenge ahead of him to reverse the fortunes of the ailing franchise, starting with getting Goff to fire in his sophomore campaign.
We’ll now take a look back at the last season to see what went wrong for the Rams and what they will need to do to compete for a place in the playoffs.
The Rams would have been eyeing a chance to get off to a winning start to the season on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Chip Kelly struggled during his tenure at the Philadelphia Eagles and his new club had had issues in the off-season with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
However, Fisher’s men collapsed at Levi’s Stadium as they were blown out by the 49ers, suffering a 28-0 defeat. The result poured pressure on the Rams coach after he publicly stated on the television programme ‘Hard Knocks’ that he would not accept another mediocre term in charge of the club.
His side responded to their defeat on the opening day by producing one of the most dominating defensive performances of the campaign – by any team. The Rams limited the Seattle Seahawks to just three points in their first match in Los Angeles at the Memorial Coliseum as they secured a 9-3 victory.
Los Angeles built on their win with a brilliant offensive performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, putting 37 points on the board to overcome Jameis Winston and company. Keenum found his touch with two touchdown strikes, while Todd Gurley also found the endzone on two occasions to notch back-to-back wins.
The Rams made it three on the spin to top the NFC West by defeating the Arizona Cardinals on the road. They capitalised on late turnovers from Drew Stanton to hold out for the victory after Carson Palmer left the game with a concussion, while David Johnson was held in check. However, those three wins on the bounce would be the club’s high point of the season.
After their bright start there was hope that the club could end their run of mediocrity, only for them to follow up their run of three wins with three defeats on the bounce.
They were hammered by the Buffalo Bills on home soil and then were the victims of a stellar comeback from the Detroit Lions as Matt Stafford threw four touchdowns to guide his team to victory at Ford Field.
They suffered a close defeat at the hands of the New York Giants in the International Series as Landon Collins produced an outstanding interception.
After their bye week, the Rams’ defense were on form, but lacked the support needed in another loss to the Carolina Panthers, although the week later they suffocated the New York Jets’ offense enough to claim a 9-6 win on the road.
The victory over the Jets would be the club’s final triumph of the season as they tumbled from a 4-5 record to lose their last seven matches of the term.
The Rams were hammered by the New Orleans Saints, the New England Patriots, the Atlanta Falcons, the Seahawks and the Cardinals, prompting their front office to fire Fisher – ending his tenure with a 31-45 record in five seasons.
McVay performed well in his two years as offensive coordinator at the Redskins, with the NFC East side ranking third overall last term.
However, his lack of experience leaves him exposed, although he has made an excellent decision to bring Wade Phillips in as defensive coordinator. The veteran can be left to his own devices to coach his side of the ball, allowing McVay to control the offense, but rising to the top position still has huge challenges.
The new Rams coach will not have a first-round pick this year following the club’s decision to trade up to select Goff in 2016. How the quarterback develops under McVay will determine whether that selection was justified.
For all of his talent in the college game, Goff looked overawed by the NFL stage in his rookie season. He’s certainly is not the first rookie to struggle in his opening year, but he will need to improve rapidly to prove his and the club’s doubters wrong.
There are not many players scheduled to leave Los Angeles, although deals may need to be struck to secure the long-term futures of Trumiane Johnson, TJ McDonald and Greg Zuerlein. Should they fail to notch long-term deals for their defensive players, then they may plunge into the free-agent market to sign a player like Stephon Gilmore or Prince Amukamara
One of the biggest concerns for Los Angeles last season was the regression displayed by Todd Gurley. The 22-year-old put in an impressive rookie season, but he averaged only 3.2 yards per carry last term, running for 885 yards and six touchdowns. The Rams need to see a lot more from their running back in his third year to ease the pressure on Goff.
The Rams have been strugglers in the NFL for too long, but for McVay to make such a rapid improvement to their form in his first season as a head coach seems unlikely.
Goff and Gurley have potential to fire up their offense, while under Phillips their defense should maintain their high level of form.
As a result, there should be signs of progression, and although backing them at 50/1 51.00 +5000 50.00 50.00 -0.02 with BetOnline sportsbook to win the NFC Conference would yield a great win should the Rams pull it off, such an improvement in one season would be unlikely.
Los Angeles Rams To Win The NFC Conference
Odds: 50/1 51.00 +5000 50.00 50.00 -0.02