Yes, everyone knows that the Los Angeles Rams clobbered the Indianapolis Colts 46-9 earlier today. But this article is about what was learned from today’s game from an analyst of the Rams.
First off, the Rams have a keeper in kicker GREG ZUERLEIN. He was perfect on field goals (3 for 3) and on extra points (5 for 5). If that wasn’t enough, he also saw all nine of kickoffs sail into the end zone for touchbacks. It’s a good thing the Rams have him locked up through the 2019 season. Punter JOHNNY HEKKER was also money as far as doing his job today. He averaged 43.5 yards per punt and sent all five of his punts inside the Colts 20-yard line. He and Zuerlein make up one of the better punting and kicking duos in the NFL.
The days when the Rams were waiting for TAVON AUSTIN to emerge as their number one or two receiver are gone. The Rams have moved on to other receivers (more on them later), and they just want Austin to provide excitement here and there as a complimentary receiver and as a punt and kick return specialist. SAMMY WATKINS (5 catches for 58 yards) is that deep receiver that the Rams lacked in 2016. He was targeted by Goff five times today and he accepted every one of those passes. He challenged the Colts defense today in the short, intermediate and deep areas. He’s a keeper provided he stays healthy.
SEAN MANNION can play, but if Goff plays the way he did today, then Mannion will never see the field again unless Goff gets hurt or has a catastrophic 2017 season. JARED GOFF played within himself today, and he established rapport with the receivers who are responsible for making him look good. Goff must play like he did today or at least near that level for the Rams to be a contender in the NFC West this year or next year.
ROBERT WOODS (3 catches for 53 yards) made his regular season debut in his hometown today and he didn’t disappoint. He dropped two passes today, but other than that he showed that he can be a safety mechanism for Goff down the line. The Rams will need his services when they get into the teeth of their schedule. Possession/deep threats like him are invaluable in divisional games in the November and December portion of a team’s schedule.
And then there was COOPER KUPP. He led the Rams in receiving today with 4 catches for 76 yards and 1 score. Kupp worked himself into a lather this offseason to have a game like he did today. He is an up and coming receiver. Cornerback LAMARCUS JOYNER (4 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 passes defensed) took an interception 29 yards to the end zone late in the third quarter, which really closed the door on any chance the Colts thought they had of trying to make a rally. Joyner could emerge as one of the Rams better corners this year as he will be assigned an opposing teams’ number one or two receiver. He needs to be on his game to help the Rams have success on defense this year.
TRUMAINE JOHNSON’s 39-yard interception return for a score in the first quarter help set the tone for the Rams in this game and it let the Colts know that this is not the 2016 LA Rams. He needs to be a ball hawk, big-time cover man, and a big-play guy for the Rams this year, because he’s pretty much the Rams’ number one corner. Hybrid safety/linebacker MARK BARRON is a keeper in the short area and as a run defender. Running back TODD GURLEY was asked to do a lot today and he was ready for it. But so was the Colts defense. The Colts contained Gurley today, especially in the run game. He carried 19 times for 40 yards and 1 score and he had 5 catches for 56 yards today. Going forward, Gurley has to be big in the running and passing game for the Rams to score points or to set up other players to score.
Third-year running back MALCOLM BROWN (7 carries for 16 yards and 1 score) needs more carries and he needs to emerge as a complement or one of the running game complements to Gurley. It’s about time for the Rams to see if Brown or LANCE DUNBAR can be complimentary backs to Gurley. ALEC OGLETREE had a quiet game today, but he needs to show if he can be that run-stiffer or keep it short (an inside linebacker who consistently tackles running backs up the middle for short gains or no gain) inside defender. Backup outside linebacker CORY LITTLETON down the line can be a helpful special teams player and occasional pass rusher for this Rams defense. He has a lot of energy and he likes to make things happen. JOHN SULLIVAN held it down at center today and he moves well in space and in his own area. The Rams need his skills and veteran leadership on their offensive line, considering what they went through last year with this unit.
Left tackle ANDREW WHITWORTH looked good today in pass protection. And he is a serious upgrade at left tackle over what they had in 2016. He’s a no-nonsense player, a hard worker, and has good enough feet/athleticism to keep right defensive ends and outside linebackers off of Goff’s back. Defensive end MATT LONGACRE is a keeper. He had 1 sack and 1 quarterback hurry today. But those stats are a small representation of what he can provide the Rams with as far as pass rush and run defense.
In conclusion, the Rams look like a much better team than the 2016 version. The free agent signees and the emerging home-grown players will be key to the Rams’ success in 2017 and helping to erase the disaster that was the 2016 season. Is this a playoff team? It’s too early to say that. But this is a team that can contend in the NFC West this year.
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