This article series will cover team previews and predictions for each NFC West team. First up, the reigning, defending, NFC West and NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams
Free agent additions:
FS Eric Weddle
OLB Clay Matthews
QB Blake Bortles
FS Eric Weddle should settle in nicely to the safety spot vacated by Larmarcus Joyner. While Joyner had his moments, his play overall last year was disappointing. Weddle has already made a very positive impact with teammates, with many saying he is an extension of DC Wade Phillips. Despite the fact he is on the tail end of his career, his steady play and awareness on the back end should provide a boon to younger players in the defensive backfield. OLB Clay Matthews is another veteran player similar to Weddle, but will not be relied upon as an every down starter. The Rams are hopeful that his presence can bolster the play of young pass rushers Dante Fowler and Samson Ebukam. Blake Bortles will serve as the backup QB, and will also be knee deep in the McVay QB school. The Jaguars are still paying him 15 million for this season, and he is likely looking to hit FA in 2020 as a viable option to start for another team.
Key draft picks:
Round 2, No. 61 overall: Taylor Rapp, DB, Washington
Round 3, No. 70: Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
Round 3, No. 79: David Long, CB, Michigan
Round 3, No. 97: Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma
Round 4, No. 134 overall: Greg Gaines, DL, Washington
Among these picks, Gaines is looking to be a day 1 starter. The departure of Ndumokong Suh in free agency has left a gap at the DT spot. While Suh had name value and played well in the playoffs – the balance of his consistency throughout the season left something to be desired. Gaines is a true 3-4 NT and has played well in camp/pre-season so far. Taylor Rapp and Darrell Henderson are also expected to be big contributors albeit on a part time basis for both. Rapp has impressed in camp/pre-season, and figures to be a lock for sub package LB spot as well as third safety. Darrell Henderson will be relied upon as a backup to Todd Gurley/Malcolm Brown, while providing a homerun threat with the ball in his hands.
Win/Season prediction: 13-3 NFC West winner
On paper, there’s still not an NFC West team that competes with the roster talent the Rams have. Cooper Kupp has recovered nicely from a torn ACL, and is expected to be 100% to start the season. Despite the poor offensive output in the Superbowl, the Rams proved they could win in the playoffs without a massive contribution from Todd Gurley. The Rams defense in the playoffs was also nothing short of spectacular, and provided that trend continues the Rams will contend for another conference title.
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo, File)