LOS ANGELES RAMS
2018 NFC Champions (13-3)
Head coach: Sean McVay (3rd season with LA)
Ranked 2nd in total offense in 2018
Ranked 19th in total defense in 2018
The Broad Strokes
The Rams, as you might expect from a team that just went 13-3 and lost in the Super Bowl, have a ton of talent all over the depth chart.
Head coach Sean McVay is an impressive young offensive mind and fourth-year quarterback Jared Goff has plenty of tools at his disposal in wideouts Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Running back Todd Gurley is one of the best at the position, but no one seems quite sure what to expect from him in 2019 after lingering knee issues limited him during the Rams’ postseason run. Gurley did not play at all in the preseason for the second year in a row.
As far as the defense goes, 50-year coaching veteran Wade Phillips again coordinates a disruptive unit headlined by All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who accounted for 20.5 sacks on his own last season. The Rams were among the best at creating turnovers last year with 30 total.
Los Angeles ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed per attempt in 2018 (5.07). The Panthers, meanwhile, ranked first in rushing yards gain per attempt in 2018 (5.13)
On paper, this looks like an area Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers can exploit, but it’s a new season and the Rams have made a concerted effort all offseason to improve their run defense.
Retooling for another run?
The Rams added a pair of accomplished vets to the defense this offseason. Safety Eric Weddle joined the team after three really solid seasons in Baltimore (nine years with the Chargers before that) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews signed after 10 years with the Packers.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has a ton of respect for Weddle after the two worked together in San Diego. Matthews had just 3.5 sacks in 2018, a career low. What does he have left in the tank?
As for notable departures, here’s the list: DT Ndamukong Suh (Bucs), G Rodger Saffold (Titans), C John Sullivan (free agent), S Lamarcus Joyner (Raiders) and LB Mark Barron (Steelers).
The press clippings reveal two names that are potential breakout candidates for the Rams: pass-catching tight end Gerald Everett and rookie running back Darrell Henderson.
Everett was a second-round pick in 2017 and he finished with 33 catches and three touchdowns in 2018. Henderson, a speedy back from Memphis, was taken in the third round. With the question marks surrounding Gurley, he could be a real contributor.
View photos of action between the Panthers and Rams through the Years. Carolina owns a 13-8 advantage in the all-time series record.