Coming off a division title and an active offseason, these five Los Angeles Rams have to up their games this year.
The Los Angeles Rams needed a new head coach perhaps more than team in the league after the 2016 season, and 11 wins with a division title in Sean McVay’s first season proved it. As the NFC West’s power structure flips, the Rams are on the rise.
The Rams have not rested on their laurels this offseason, with trades to add wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib along with the signing of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. So expectations will be very high this year, with a playoff win the next conquest for the Rams.
But there is room for improvement in certain areas, particularly if the Rams want to be serious Super Bowl contenders in the NFC in line with how they look on paper. Last year’s 28th-ranked run defense (122.4 yards allowed per game), which also allowed 4.7 yards per carry (tied for second-worst in the league), will be helped by Suh’s presence. But one guy can’t make a top-10 run defense, and others will have to step up.
If the Rams are to make further progress this year, these five players have to improve.
5. Dominique Easley
After a solid first season with the Rams in 2016 (3.5 sacks), with Pro Football Focus grading him No. 30 out of 125 qualified interior defenders, Easley missed all of last season with a torn right ACL.
But the team re-signed Easley in March, and the former first-round pick looks likely to an important backup along a defensive line filled with bigger names (Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Brockers). Health has been elusive for Easley, with three of his four NFL seasons ended on IR and a torn ACL in each knee during his college career at Florida. But he could be an underrated factor in any improvement the Rams’ run defense makes this year.