2018 NFL season preview: Los Angeles Rams

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Jared Goff has brought the Rams back to relevance. Not since the days of Kurt Warner and the “Greatest Show on Turf” have the Rams been a true contender. But it appears the team is ready to take that next step in becoming one of the league’s best teams.

Goff gives this team the confidence and playmaking ability necessary to compete in a very loaded NFC. In his first full season as the starter, he threw for 3,804 yards, along with 28 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Typically, quarterbacks start their careers in sluggish fashion, often making mistakes that end up costing the team wins. But Goff remained solid throughout the season, and was truly prolific as a passer and the leader of the offense.

The Rams front office, realizing they finally seem to have found their franchise quarterback, have been highly proactive in surrounding their young star with the right pieces to succeed. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp were already playing at a high level last season, but the team felt they needed to do even more to help out Goff. So they signed Brandon Cooks to a big contract this offseason, and now they have a very solid group of receivers.

The key to the Rams’ offensive success in 2017 was clearly running back Todd Gurley, who took a major leap forward in his first season with Sean McVay as the coach. McVay wisely played to his player’s strengths, finally getting him into open space and incorporating him into the passing game as well. The result was a career year for Gurley, who rushed for 1,305 yards on 279 attempts, for a 4.7 yards per carry clip. He also added 64 catches for 788 receiving yards. Gurley reached the end zone often last season, scoring 13 times on the ground, and adding another six receiving touchdowns. The Rams’ offensive line played very well last year and that is expected to continue in 2018.

With another offseason to get on the same page, the offense should see further improvement. But what about the defense? Are they at a high enough level to help this team reach and advance in the postseason? One thing is for sure – the front office did its job once again. They pushed hard through free agency and via trades, in order to assure that the roster is as stacked as possible.

The first priority was bolstering the secondary. The Rams acquired two great cornerbacks, in former Bronco Aqib Talib as well as former Chiefs star Marcus Peters. With the two manning the outside, there should be ample time for the pass rushers to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Ndamukong Suh has never had this type of secondary on his side of the field, but it should really go a long way in improving the overall performance of this defense.

Ultimately, the Rams should be able to play at a very high level this season. Yes, the NFC West division is beginning to get very competitive, with Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers starting to look like they could do some damage of their own. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have the most depleted defense they’ve had in years, and the Cardinals are in a transition period, with Carson Palmer now retired.

So the Rams have a big opportunity to win the division, before these teams get back on track. Jimmy G and Josh Rosen could both develop rather quickly, and Russell Wilson is always a threat to take down the division. Time will tell if the Rams can take advantage of the current landscape of their division and their recent offseason moves to make a Jaguars-style ascent to the top of their conference.