LAST YEAR: Move to West Coast did nothing to end streaks of 13 consecutive non-winning seasons and 12 straight non-playoff seasons. Los Angeles lost 11 of last 12, leading to Jeff Fisher’s departure and hiring of 31-year-old Sean McVay as youngest head coach in NFL history. Had NFL’s worst offense for second consecutive year, managing 262.7 yards per game, nearly 46 yards fewer than 31st-place San Francisco. No. 1 pick QB Jared Goff went 0-7 as starter after taking over, looking unsurprisingly shaky behind subpar offensive line. RB Todd Gurley had disappointing sophomore season, managing meager 3.2 yards per carry. Big-money WR Tavon Austin also didn’t produce, getting only 509 yards on 58 catches. All-Pro DL Aaron Donald had another standout year leading solid group, but defense faded late in games due to offense’s ineptitude. Fans kept filling Coliseum, but all that losing cost Rams some momentum in nation’s second-largest market.
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IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: McVay, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, WR Robert Woods, LT Andrew Whitworth, LB Connor Barwin, C John Sullivan, CB Kayvon Webster.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Kenny Britt, TE Lance Kendricks, OL Greg Robinson, WR Brian Quick, S T.J. McDonald, DL William Hayes, QB Case Keenum, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
CAMP NEEDS: McVay and Phillips face ample work across roster to transform Rams into winner. Goff’s development into top-flight starter must be offense’s top priority, but returning Gurley to elite form is key as well. Both depend on Whitworth, Sullivan leading offensive line’s revival after miserable 2016. Phillips is moving Rams to 3-4 scheme that should suit Donald and NT Michael Brockers while moving Robert Quinn to OLB. Donald under contract for two more years, but could be unhappy with deal after sitting out OTAs during negotiations for huge extension, which still aren’t completed. Must sort out playing time in secondary, where CB Trumaine Johnson is getting huge payday under franchise tender again this year. Every other job could be up for grabs, with Lamarcus Joyner, Maurice Alexander expected to step up at safety.
EXPECTATIONS: Rams seem almost certain to improve after last year’s freefall, but roster hasn’t improved noticeably with no first-round pick or major free-agent signing. Counting on new coaching staff, fresh mentality to lay groundwork for winner. Quick results would be huge with Chargers crashing LA party this fall. Legit playoff hopes have receded and are still years away, just like opening date of Rams’ new stadium.
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