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Scouting the Rams ahead of their week one match-up with Raiders

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NFL: Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL season is underway, and the Oakland Raiders season opener against the Los Angeles Rams will be in the primetime spotlight of Monday Night Football. Here is what the Rams will be bringing to town.

NFL’s top scoring offense

Taking a look at the Rams first we must give credit to the number 1 scoring offense in the NFL (478 total points 29.9 pts/g). In just his rookie season Rams head coach Sean McVay won the NFC West division, won 11 games and sent the Rams back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Rams are a worthy opponent and a well coached team.

Last years offensive line was one of the best units in the league. They excel in the screen game, were stout in pass protection, and run blocking was tremendous as well. Another year of continuity and comfort in McVay’s system should only add to that.

Second-year quarterback Jared Goff enjoyed a terrific sophomore season, he would win an award for Most Improved Player, if they had one. Goff’s rookie season, was poor enough to start the “bust” conversations. A bit premature in that distinction, in the seven games he started his stat line read 112/205 54.6% 1089 yds 5 TD’s 7 INT’s and he was sacked 26 times.

Under McVay, Goff put up All-Pro worthy numbers, while playing in only 15 games in 2017. He went 296/477 (62.1%) for 3804 yards, 28 TD’s and 7 INT’s and was sacked 25 times. Goff has shown vast improvements in the deep passing game, yet continues to struggle with short to intermediate accuracy. Goff is also prone to hearing footsteps and if you pressure him he will fold.

Todd Gurley II is everything you could hope for in a running back. He’s Big, fast, strong, soft hands, smooth hips, great vision, patient, follows his blocks, breaks tackles, coachable, and wants to be great.

Last year Gurley enjoyed his highest career production and accounted for 2,093 total yards from scrimmage and 19 TD’s last season. Whats more amazing, Gurley accomplished this feat in 15 games and touched the ball a mere 343 times. That means Gurley averaged 6.1 yards every time he touched the football.

Gurley will test the disciplines of Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s defense. The Rams run many single back stretch plays as well as powers and screens. Gurley had solid receiving numbers, and his 73.6% catch ratio, was better than most wide receivers in the league.

Brandin Cooks was signed in the offseason to replace the failed Sammy Watkins experiment and he could be the home-run threat which potentially puts this offense over the top. With the Patriots last season Cooks accounted for 1122 yards from scrimmage on 74 touches. Used primarily as a deep threat Cooks caught 65 passes for 1082 yds with 7 TD’s. Cooks 16.6 yards/catch was eighth most in the league in 2017. As if Cooks wasn’t enough, the Rams most targeted receiver last season was a rookie.

Cooper Kupp was the leader in receiving yards last season for the Rams. In his rookie campaign Kupp converted 62/94 targets for 894 yards and 5 TD’s. Primarily used in the slot, Kupp, is more quick than fast. His clean footwork in and out of breaks are a problem for opposing defenders and the future is bright for him as a player. Having earned a role, Kupp, is a good tough receiver who must be accounted for at all times.

Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are the tight ends for the Rams. Combined the two caught 41/77 passes for 539 yards 3 TD’s. While not what many would deem receiving threats, these two are capable of beating linebackers up the seam and hitting a defense for an explosive play.

Defense has to prove it

Wade Phillips is a highly respected defensive coordinator and has given Derek Carr fits for his entire career. Last season the Rams defense ranked 19th in total yards, 12th in points, and 5th in takeaways. The rush defense was ranked 11th in attempts, 28th in yards, and 27th in touchdowns. The passing defense was ranked 19th in attempts, 13th in yards, 10th in TD’s and 6th in INT’s.

Phillips’s defense gave up 15 rushing TD’s and 21 passing TD’s in 2017. Phillips did a marvelous job of not allowing teams to take the top off of his defense. The Rams only gave up 1 passing TD of longer than 50 yards (65) and three scoring runs of 20+ yards (61, 75, and 24). At first glance, given the names signed its hard to believe this defense may have gotten worse.

To be frank the signing of Aaron Donald to the mega deal of 6yr/$135M 87M guaranteed with a signing bonus of $40M, necessitated the departure of Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, Connor Barwin and others. The Rams have heavily invested into their team as it appears they are full speed ahead on operation win now.

Adding free agent cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Sam Shields, in addition to trading for former Kansas City Chief Marcus Peters on paper gives the Rams one of the best secondaries in the game. The Rams deploy a lot of single high man looks, and with what used to be a ferocious pass rush it yielded many ball hawking opportunities.

A lot is going to be placed on the shoulders of the middle of the Rams defensive line. Ndamukong Suh and Donald are going to be called upon to not only be the run stoppers, but the block occupiers, and the pass rushers. While the Rams may have locked up an elite player throughout the prime of his career the front seven has been significantly weakened. Without Quinn and excluding Donald, no other Ram had more than 4.5 sacks last season.

The last of the Rams holdovers at the linebacker position, Mark Barron, is currently injured with an ankle issue and may not play Monday. Meaning, the Rams starting linebackers will consist of Ramik Wilson, Cory Littleton, Matt Longacre, and Samson Ebukam. In terms of starting linebackers they are unknown commodities.