This article series will cover PFF’s rankings of NFC West teams and Las Vegas Green Bay Packers. This first article will cover the LA Rams, who came in #2 in the NFL, and first in the NFC West.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Biggest strength: Aaron Donald finished each of the past four seasons as the league’s highest-graded interior defender. And last year was Donald’s best season yet, as he earned a monstrous overall grade of 95.0 and recorded a mind-boggling 113 total pressures to lead interior defensive linemen by a handsome margin in both categories. He is a one-man wrecking crew, which will continue in 2019.
Biggest weakness: It’s tough to find a weakness on the Rams’ loaded defense, but collective run defense is probably it. Sure, they have Donald, but it wouldn’t hurt to get better against the run at other positions. Consider that the Patriots gained 154 rushing yards in the Super Bowl, and forced seven missed tackles. Aside from Donald, only one other Rams front-seven member earned a run-defense grade above 80.0 last season. That was Ndamukong Suh, who has left town.
X factor for 2019: Jared Goff is coming off a great season in which he earned an overall grade of 84.3, ranking eighth among quarterbacks, but struggled mightily in the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. The Rams have an excellent coaching staff, a loaded roster and Super Bowl experience, but they will get only as far as Goff allows them to. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and if Goff can continue to improve, the Rams might get back to the big game. Goff’s clean-pocket passing ability ranked third in overall grade in 2018 and is an extremely strong and stable metric for looking at year-to-year production.
Not going to argue with the ranking. Talent wise, the Rams have a top 3 roster. The question will of course be how the run defense is shored up after an overall poor showing last year. The Rams are banking on younger players like rookie 4th round pick Greg Gaines, among a host of younger LBs and defensive lineman. The lack of a true run stuffing MLB was in my opinion the most glaring weakness. In the playoffs, however, the Rams run defense was spectacular in shutting down the Cowboys, Saints and Patriots for most of the Superbowl.