Where does your squad stand in 2023? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the key figures to watch and setting the stakes for the season to come.
Members of the Rams organization, Rams fans around the world and those who actually like draft picks ...
Few sequels ever live up to the original. And while we weren't expecting the Rams' follow-up to winning Super Bowl LVI to be an all-timer like The Empire Strikes Back, we also weren't expecting the champs to dip to the level of Speed 2: Cruise Control, either. I mean, when you can't get Keanu to sign on, you might just want to go ahead and stop production. Which is kind of what the Rams did last season.
One high from last season: Starting 2-1. The Rams recovered from a Kickoff Game loss to Buffalo by winning two straight, and you started to think maybe the team was going to make a run at repeating.
One low from last season: The next six weeks. In Week 4, the Rams were destroyed in San Francisco on Monday Night Football. Then they lost to the Cowboys at home in Week 5. Los Angeles managed a win over the Panthers prior to a Week 7 bye -- and got destroyed by the 49ers again in Week 8, this time at SoFi Stadium. When L.A. lost to the Bucs, who had also won just three games to that point, in Week 9, that's when it was over. Then the injuries started rolling in. But it was a lot of fun to celebrate that title!
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford. Here's something interesting: Pro Football Focus ranked Stafford 12th among NFL quarterbacks heading into the 2023 campaign, just behind Dak Prescott and Tua Tagovailoa. PFF rightfully cites concerns about Stafford's health coming off a season that was waylaid by injuries, including a spinal cord contusion that helped send him to injured reserve in December. But I don't want Stafford's recent ailments to distract us too much from what he's capable of. At 35, he's still four years younger than Aaron Rodgers -- and Stafford has just as many Super Bowl rings as the Packer-turned-Jet, despite playing most of his career in worse circumstances in Detroit than Rodgers enjoyed in Green Bay. The Rams floundered without Stafford last season. If he's ready to go, as he indicated he is, that's obviously going to make a huge difference for Los Angeles.
Projected 2023 MVP: Cooper Kupp, receiver. It's so apparent how much he means to this team. I believe the Rams might have been able to survive without Stafford last season -- if Kupp hadn't also gone down, missing the final eight games after suffering a high ankle sprain. This team looks completely different when Kupp is on the field. From Week 1 through Week 9 (his last healthy contest before being injured in Week 10), he averaged 101.6 receiving yards per game. From Week 11 on, no Rams player averaged more than 50. I mean, the guy's last game was in mid-November, and he still finished second on the team in targets with 98, well ahead of the next-closest player, Ben Skowronek (61).
New face to know: Stetson Bennett, quarterback. All right, get all the jokes about Bennett and Stafford being former Georgia teammates out of the way now. Bennett might be 25, but he's not that old. And this is a pretty great fit for him. There are a lot of similarities between the Todd Monken system he was running in Athens and what he'll be asked to do with the Rams. He's competing with veteran Brett Rypien for the opportunity to back up Stafford. But, with the reinstatement of the three-quarterback rule, no matter how the QB derby goes, Bennett's going to be able to stick around and gain some experience. (Don't laugh! That was not an intentional reference.)
2023 breakout star: Cobie Durant, cornerback. The emergence of Durant late last season might have been one of the factors that made the Rams comfortable with moving on from Jalen Ramsey. Not the only factor, mind you. Still, the 2022 fourth-round pick seems poised to not only replace Ramsey when it comes to holding court with reporters, but also on the field. From Week 13 (when his defensive snap count began to tick upward) through the end of the regular season, Durant posted a completion percentage over expectation of -10.6, according to Next Gen Stats -- fifth-lowest among rookies with 100-plus coverage snaps in that span. He's going to need to live up to his promise if the Rams are to improve on their rankings in yards allowed (19th) and passing yards allowed (21st).
|Head coach||Sean McVay|
|General manager||Les Snead|
|Offensive coordinator||Mike LaFleur|
|Defensive coordinator||Raheem Morris|
|Special teams coordinator||Chase Blackburn|
- McVay's back! I'm thrilled that his recent postseason rumination period ended with him staying on the job. I'm sure he can be a great broadcaster someday, but for now, the NFL is a much better place with McVay on the sideline. Besides, McVay can't go out on the first sub-.500 season of his head-coaching career. He won nearly 70 percent of his first 55 career games (through the 2021 season). Yes, the Rams finished last in total offense in 2022. They were 27th in scoring. It was pretty bad. It's time for McVay to work his magic once again.
- Some might question Snead's infamous pick-spurning approach now, but I still think it was the right decision to go all in. Winning a Super Bowl is hard to do. Now you're paying for it a little bit. But it was the right call. Plus, the Rams definitely did not shy away from making picks in 2023, as evidenced by their 14-player draft class.
- So LaFleur is no longer with the Jets, who ended up pairing Nathaniel Hackett and Aaron Rodgers together. Coaching with McVay is certainly not a bad next step for the younger brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
Below is a rundown of the Rams' most notable roster developments for the 2023 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.
|Draft class (round-pick)||Key additions||Key departures|
|Steve Avila, OG, TCU (2-36)||Hunter Long, TE||Baker Mayfield, QB|
|Byron Young, OLB, Tennessee (3-77)||John Wolford, QB|
|Kobie Turner, DT, Wake Forest (3-89)||Allen Robinson, WR|
|Stetson Bennett, QB, Georgia (4-128)||Ty Nsekhe, OT|
|Nick Hampton, OLB, Appalachian State (5-161)||Matt Skura, C|
|Warren McClendon Jr., OT, Georgia (5-174)||Leonard Floyd, Edge|
|Davis Allen, TE, Clemson (5-175)||Greg Gaines, DL|
|Puka Nacua, WR, BYU (5-177)||A'Shawn Robinson, DL|
|Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson, CB, TCU (6-182)||Bobby Wagner, LB|
|Ochaun Mathis, OLB, Nebraska (6-189)||Troy Hill, CB|
|Zach Evans, RB, Mississippi (6-215)||Jalen Ramsey, CB|
|Ethan Evans, P, Wingate (7-223)||Taylor Rapp, S|
|Jason Taylor II, S, Oklahoma State (7-234)||Nick Scott, S|
|Desjuan Johnson, DL, Toledo (7-259)||Riley Dixon, P|
|Matt Gay, K|
Three key dates:
- Week 2 vs. San Francisco 49ers. The Rams finally defeated the 49ers in the 2021 NFC Championship Game -- then really struggled against San Francisco last season. But if there is ever a favorable time to take on the Niners in 2023, it might be in Week 2, when Kyle Shanahan and Co. could still be dealing with uncertainty at quarterback. A Super Bowl LVI rematch against the Bengals in Cincinnati looms the following week.
- Week 8 at Dallas Cowboys. As I covered in the 2022 rewind, losing to Dallas helped break the dam on last year's lost season. This is a barometer matchup against one of the other mid-card teams in the NFC.
- Week 11 vs. Seattle Seahawks. After a Week 10 bye, the Rams kick off the back stretch of the regular-season slate with a home game against Seattle, a team McVay largely owned prior to last season's series sweep by the Seahawks.
Will the Rams be able to ...
... find someone other than Cooper Kupp to catch the ball? I mentioned this earlier, but Kupp was the team's second-most-targeted player last season despite logging just nine games. The Rams need a solid No. 2, like they had in 2021 with Odell Beckham Jr., who played a vital role in that Super Bowl run. We thought Allen Robinson could be that guy last year, but he recorded just 33 catches in 10 games and is in Pittsburgh now. Ben Skowronek is limited. Van Jefferson will be given a chance. One name to look out for: Puka Nacua, the fifth-round pick whom fantasy enthusiasts will have you selecting in the 10th round of your drafts. Nacua has looked pretty good in OTAs.
... block? I mean, we talk about keeping Matthew Stafford healthy, and a significant factor there will be the offensive line, which dropped from seventh in PFF's O-line rankings in 2021 to 25th in 2022. This is one area where a lack of first-round picks over the past few years might be starting to catch up to the Rams. Joe Noteboom went into last season as Andrew Whitworth's replacement at left tackle but suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 6. Right tackle Rob Havenstein was the only offensive lineman to play on more than 50 percent of the Rams' offensive snaps. The team did make a really nice pick with Steve Avila in Round 2 of April's draft -- I had him as one of the top linemen available this year, and he looks like a Day 1 starter, which means they are on their way. But this unit remains a concern.
One storyline ...
... people shouldn't overlook: Who steps up next to Aaron Donald? After mulling retirement last offseason and missing six games in 2022 with an ankle injury, Donald is back for more in 2023. But who will rise alongside the three-time Defensive Player of the Year? As with the O-line, it might have been nice to have some first-round picks up front defensively. Still, L.A. did nab some help in the third round this year: Byron Young, who figures to be the replacement for Leonard Floyd; and Kobie Turner, who can be a rotational piece.
For 2023 to be a success, the Rams MUST:
- Get back to scoring points. Los Angeles is kind of in a weird spot here, with a core that is aging but likely still capable of mounting a playoff run. Whether or not Super Bowl contention is within reach is another question. If anything, the Rams just need to become interesting again -- and reinvigorating an offense that managed just 18.1 points per game last season will go a long way toward doing that.