Here is what Joe had to say about the division favorite Rams.
1. Through all the names on the defense, who are one or two players to keep an eye on that we may not know yet?
On offense, there’s not a ton of unknowns. The only member of the 2017 starting offense that’s gone is WR Sammy Watkins who landed a free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. I guess though one name to look out for is RG Austin Blythe. He’s playing in place of RG Jamon Brown who will serve out the final game of his two-game suspension this weekend. Given (a) that Brown hasn’t been overwhelmingly impressive to this point in his career and (b) Blythe played very well in Week 1, there’s a chance that Blythe could play himself into the lineup (semi-) permanently. I guess if there’s another unknown quantity, it’s the tight end position, but that’s unknown for Rams fans as well. Given McVay’s history with the position as a tight ends coach in Washington and the production he got out of tight ends there, many (myself included) expected more from the position last year with TE Tyler Higbee and 2017 NFL Draft second-round pick. They didn’t produce much, and in Week 1 they combined for 0 catches on 0 targets. Oh, and for 0 yards. So who knows.
As for the defense, it’s definitely got some headliners. But between the linebacking group and S John Johnson, there are some under-the-radar candidates. All four 2017 Week 1 starting linebackers are absent: EDGE Robert Quinn (traded to the Miami Dolphins), ILB Alec Ogletree (traded to the New York Giants), ILB Mark Barron (currently injured) and OLB Connor Barwin (left via free agency to the Giants). So there’s room for guys like EDGE Samson Ebukam or ILB Cory Littleton to make a name for themselves this year, for sure.
2. McVay and the Rams toyed with the Cardinals in 2017 offensively, how much better is this Rams offense in 2018?
TBD? It’s the same cast with WR Brandin Cooks in Watkins’ stead, so it may just be down to two factors: how much more creative and/or aggressive McVay is offensively and how much QB Jared Goff develops individually. I don’t think you can get much more out of RB Todd Gurley or the existing pieces like WR Robert Woods or WR Cooper Kupp. So it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how much better if at all the offense gets and, when we get to crunchtime leading up to the playoffs and thereafter, if they can top last year’s postseason performance.
3. Score and be gentle...
So I went with 33-10 in our staff predictions, but obviously we’re all biased here. And coming off of last year’s 33-0 and 32-16 pairings, it’s hard for me to predict much else. I will say though, I really think you guys are one of the most underrated teams in the NFL right now. I know that’s probably not all that encouraging given last week and the state of the Rams right now, but I could definitely see you guys surprising in much stronger fashion compared to expectations than say the San Francisco 49ers or Seattle Seahawks.