Our NFL preview column shifts to the NFC West for the rest of this week. Today we start with the Los Angeles Rams, who ended up with a 10-6 record in 2020. Though the Rams did win a playoff game last year, fans are hoping for even better results in 2021.
The Rams sported the league’s best defense in 2020 and this unit should be stout again this season. The biggest change is at the QB position, where former Detroit Lions gunslinger Matthew Stafford will take the reins (gamblingsites.org). Can Stafford get Sean McVay and company over the hump in 2021?
Former QB Jared Goff was not terrible but he was far from an elite passer. Stafford is a huge upgrade and should enjoy playing in McVay’s offensive scheme. The 33-year old had another solid season for the Lions last year by throwing 26 touchdowns and only 10 picks. The former Georgia Bulldog star also threw for over 4,000 yards for the first time since 2017.
The running game will be a bit of a question mark in 2021, especially since starting running back Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles a few days ago and will miss the entire season. Darrell Henderson and Xavier Jones will share the workload in Akers’ unfortunate absence. Henderson, a former star at Memphis, rushed for 624 yards and five scores last season.
The Rams wide receiver corp is stacked with loads of speed and catching ability. Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, and Van Jefferson form a terrific trio of targets for Stafford down the field. Veteran wideout Desean Jackson should also see some playing time and don’t forget about Tyler Higbee, who should be one of the top tight ends in the NFC.
2020 was a storybook season for the Rams defense. They led the league in total yards allowed per game (281.9), passing yards allowed per game (190.7), and points allowed per game (18.5). This year’s defense should also be one of the best in the league.
Aaron Donald is a one-man wrecking crew on this defensive line. The 6-1 280 pound defensive tackle had 13.5 sacks last year. A’shawn Robinson will start in the other tackle slot and is a beast against the run.
The linebacking corp is solid with guys like Leonard Floyd, Micah Kiser, and Troy Reeder all knowing how to play smart football. Jalen Ramsey is one of the best cover corners in the NFC and leads a talented group of defensive backs. The former Florida State standout only had one interception in 2020 but that’s mainly because quarterbacks rarely throw his way.
2021 Special Teams
Johnny Hekker will return as the Rams starting punter in 2021. The former Oregon State Beaver averaged 45.6 yards per punt last year. Matt Gay should handle the placekicker duties after hitting 14 of 16 field goal attempts in 2020.
Second-round draft pick Tutu Atwell will be the main return man for the Rams in 2021. Atwell has 4.4 speed and knows how to make people miss.