Los Angeles Rams 2018 team preview
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The Los Angeles Rams made a huge jump in 2017. They improved from four wins in 2016 to 11 last season and won the AFC West division. They bowed out of the playoffs in the wild-card round but acquired big-name players to take the team to the next level.

Here is a breakdown of the Rams for the 2018 season.

Head Coach

Sean McVay is entering his second year as head coach of the Rams. The 32-year-old has been coaching for 10 years. Prior to joining the Rams, he was the offensive coordinator of Washington (three seasons), tight ends coach of Washington (three), assistant tight ends coach of Washington (one), wide receivers coach of Florida Tuskers of the UFL (one) and assistant wide receivers coach of the Buccaneers (one).

Draft Picks

Round 3, Pick 89 – Joseph Noteboom, OT, Texas Christian. Noteboom is an athletic edge blocker. He also has the technique to be a long-time starter but needs to add muscle and be more consistent.

Round 4, Pick 111 – Brian Allen, C, Michigan State. Allen is a strong and tough center. He lacks the ideal athleticism or size but has long-time starter potential.

Round 4, Pick 135 – John Franklin-Myers, DE, Stephen F. Austin. Franklin-Myers is a big, edge defender that likely will be a sub-package player. He lacks the athleticism and speed to be a pass rusher but could be effective in running situations.

Round 5, Pick 147 – Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia. Kiser was a productive and somewhat undersized linebacker in college. He lacks the athleticism and speed to be a three-down playmaker but can help in run support.

Round 5, Pick 160 – Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma. Okoronkwo does not have ideal size and speed. He doesn’t have the size to play end nor the athleticism to play outside linebacker. The Rams needs to find the right role for his skills.

Round 6, Pick 176 – John Kelly, RB, Tennessee. Kelly is a tough runner and good receiver out of the backfield. He is a bit undersized and doesn’t have breakaway speed, but could be a very good backup to Gurley.

Round 6, Pick 192 – Jamil Demby, G, Maine. Demby is a big and strong interior blocker. He has experience at tackle but lacks the athleticism to play on the edge in the NFL. He needs to improve his consistency.

Round 6, Pick 195 – Sebastian Joseph, DT, Rutgers. Joseph is a big defensive tackle with good athleticism. He doesn’t have the burst to be an interior pass rusher but can be a situation run stopper.

Round 6, Pick 205 – Trevon Young, DE, Louisville. Young is a long, edge defender. He doesn’t have ideal speed or athleticism to play outside linebacker nor the size or strength to play defensive end.

Round 7, Pick 231 – Travin Howard, LB, Texas Christian. Howard is an undersized linebacker. He wasn’t projected to be selected but was highly productive at TCU.

Round 7, Pick 244 – Justin Lawler, DE, Southern Methodist. Lawler is a strong edge defender with a high motor. He lacks the athleticism to be an every-down end.

Notable Additions

WR Brandin Cooks (Patriots) – Cooks is an electrifying, downfield receiver. He has the speed to get behind defenders and create big plays.

CB Marcus Peters (Chiefs) – Peters is a big play cornerback. His ball hawking ability and physical skills to be a shutdown cornerback, but has mature and off-field issues.

DT Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins) – Suh is a dominant defensive tackle that can be unblockable for large stretches of time. He is an intimidating presence in the middle of the defense.

CB Aqib Talib (Broncos) – Talib is a big and athletic cornerback with the physical presence to be a shutdown cornerback. He can take away half the field just by being on the field.

Projected Starters

Offense

Quarterback – 16 Jared Goff; Running Back – 30 Toddy Gurley; Wide Receiver – 18 Cooper Kupp; Wide Receiver – 17 Robert Woods; Wide Receiver – 14 Brandin Cooks; Tight End – 89 Tyler Higbee; Left Tackle – 77 Andrew Whitworth; Left Guard – 76 Rodger Saffold; Center – 65 John Sullivan; Right Guard – 68 Jamon Brown; Right Tackle – 79 Rob Havenstein

Defense

Defensive End – 90 Michael Brockers; Defensive End – 96 Matt Longacre; Defensive Tackle – 94 Ndamukong Suh; Defensive Tackle – 99 Aaron Donald; Linebacker – 50 Samson Ebukam; Linebacker –58 Cory Littleton; Linebacker – 26 Mark Barron; Cornerback – 22 Marcus Peters; Cornerback – 21 Aqib Talib; Safety – 43 John Johnson; Safety – 20 Lamarcus Joyner

Specialists

Kicker – 4 Greg Zuerlein; Punter – 6 Johnny Hekker; Long Snapper – 44 Jake McQuaide

Biggest Question

How is Aaron Donald’s holdout going to affect the team?

Donald is holding out for the second consecutive season. He is the most disruptive player in the NFL. There isn’t a better interior pass rusher. Last season, he ended his holdout the day before the season started. He had until Tuesday to report to training camp or he lost an accrued season toward unrestricted free agency. He did not show up, so his leverage next offseason is almost gone. It is clear that his future with the Rams may be over.

To Answer That Question

It is going to hurt

The Rams signed Ndamukong Suh to seemingly give them the most dominant interior duo in the league. However, their depth is a concern without Donald. As long as Dominique Easley is healthy, he can fill in. But, expecting him to play all 16 games is not realistic. There is no experience behind him.

Along with the depth at the position, Donald is just half of the returning starting defensive linemen on the roster. Newcomers to the starting lineup, Suh and Matt Longacre, need to build chemistry with Donald and Michael Brockers.

Outlook

The Rams are going to be better on defense than they were last season, but the offense should take at least a small step back. However, they should still get the No. 2 seed in the NFC due to a favorable schedule. They will likely win a home playoff game before losing on the road in the NFC championship game.