We close out our look at the teams of the NFC West by focusing on the team that won the division, the Los Angeles Rams and new head coach Sean McVay. Even though the Rams lost to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs, the team has improved greatly, going from a 4-12 2016 that cost coach Jeff Fisher his job to an 11-5 2017 and a playoff birth.
The biggest change had to be the hiring of McVay. The offensive minded coach came in and helped turn around the offense and second year quarterback Jared Goff. The Rams outscored their opponents by 149 points and were a remarkable 7-1 on the road. Running back Todd Gurley II had an impressive year with 1,305 yards and 13 touchdown on 279 carries and second round draft pick Cooper Kupp lead their wide receivers with 869 yards and 5 touchdowns on 62 receptions. The team far exceeded expectation and their loss in the playoffs can likely be attributed to the lack of playoff experience. It's one thing for a team to start winning, but it's another thing for them to know winning in the playoffs. The Falcons made the Super Bowl last year, so a wild card game isn't that big a deal. But for a team that is just used to being good, the pressure of the playoffs can slow them down. Also, there is a debate in football about resting players at the end of the season. The Rams were locked into their spot and rested a good number of players in their last game. Then the offense had a hard time getting started when the playoffs began. On Saturday they ran into a better prepared and more experienced team.
They have a good foundation set with a number of young players who will only get better as they play more. One change they will have to deal with is the loss of quarterbacks coach Greg Olson who will be headed to the Oakland Raiders as offensive coordinator on Jon Gruden. But the biggest thing the team will need to address is a number of important players are eligible to be free agents. Those include wide receiver Sammy Watkins, center John Sullivan, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, safety Lamarcus Joyner, and outside linebacker Connor Barwin. And they'll have contract decision to make soon on outside linebacker Robert Quinn, inside linebacker Mark Barron, wide receiver Tavon Austin and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who's heading into the final year of his rookie contract. Donald is likely to become the highest paid defensive player in the NFL whether he stays in L.A. or not.
General Manager Les Snead will need to some magic to keep the foundation of this team together for 2018.