Overview: On paper, the Los Angeles Rams should win this game. They are at home, odds-makers are making them a 10-point favorite, and they are facing a struggling team with an inconsistent quarterback. However, this is the NFL, and the other guys get paid too. A couple of other concerns include the fact that Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Head Coach Bruce Arians knows the Rams from his days leading the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West and the fact that the Rams faces a big test against division-rivaled Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. We never want to assume lightly of a team, and we cannot afford to look ahead in this league.
Rams Offense vs. Tampa Bay Defense: In one way this game presents a good challenge for the Rams offense, which has struggled through the air. The Buc's defense has been relatively good against the rush, giving up just under 70 yards per game. That is good for sixth in the NFL. However, they are 21st in pass defense, giving up 261 yards per game. Rams quarterback Jared Goff has not quite looked right since the Super Bowl loss to New England. He may have a chance to get back on track on Sunday.
For that to happen, the Rams need to find a way to contain Buc's outside linebacker Shaq Barrett, who insanely have eight sacks through the first three games of the season. That ties the record at this point of the season, held by the late New York Jet's Mark Gastineau in 1984. The Buc's also feature former Rams d-lineman Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line. New defensive coordinator and former Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles have implemented an aggressive 4-3 defensive alignment that focuses on pressuring the quarterback. They will need to do that on Sunday to help out a suspect secondary.
The good news for the Rams is that guard Austin Blythe is expected to play after missing the last 1.5 games with an ankle injury. Tight end Tyler Higbee also returns to action after missing last week with a lung injury. As the Rams rarely have the luxury of a clean injury report going into this game, this will help. If the Rams can do a decent job of protecting Goff they have a chance to score 30 plus points in this game.
Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, said this week that despite any appearances, Todd Gurley is not on any snap count and that ideally the Rams running back should be in line for 25 carries per game through the rest of the season. The jury remains out on whether Gurley is healthy this year. The extraordinary thing has not been his rushes per game, although comparing to the past seasons have declined. However, the meaningful decline has been in Gurley's touches as a receiver out of the backfield. Will that change on Sunday?
Rams Defense vs. Buc's Offense: Whatever we might think of Buc's quarterback Jameis Winston, he is rarely dull. At times the former Florida State Seminole star has shown flashes of the talent that made him the top pick in the draft a few years back. He had that kind of week against the Giants last week, passing for 380 yards and three touchdowns in a game the Buc's should have won. He has one of the best wide receivers in the game in Mike Evans, who caught eight passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
The Rams so far this season have done an excellent job of limiting elite receivers such as Micheal Thomas of the New Orleans Saints and Odell Beckham of the Cleveland Browns. Whether they can reciprocate the same with Evans on Sunday may well determine the outcome of Sunday's game. The Rams pass defense enters this game ranked fifth in the NFL, and with the additions of safety Eric Weddle and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, they seem to have given this unit a huge jump-start. Matthews already has four sacks, compared to 3.5 all of last season with the Green Bay Packers.
Of course, any conversation about the Rams defense starts and ends with Aaron Donald, generally considered the best defensive player in the NFL. Those who have not seen the Rams play this year might look at AD's paltry sack total of one through three games and assume the Rams defensive tackle is off to a slow start. That shows how numbers can be deceiving. The fact is that Donald has been in the opposing team's backfield on almost every play, wreaking havoc and occupying blockers. He draws double and even triple teams, freeing up players like Matthews and Dante Fowler. The Buccaneers offensive line is reliable, but certainly not spectacular. Aaron Donald is a one-person wrecking crew, and if he can force Winston into making some crucial mistakes, the Rams defense could have an important dayof
Special Teams: Buc's placekicker Matt Gay made four of five field-goal attempts last week, including a 52-yard against the New York Giants. The problem was that he also missed the potential game-winning field goal. Tampa Bay's Bradley Pinion is one of the game's better punters, but he is no Johnny Hekker. The Rams special teams have been showing slow improvement after something of an ideal rough start against the Carolina Panthers, and we think that will continue this week.
Prediction: The Rams SHOULD win this game, in which they are playing at home and frankly have a better team. If Jameis Winston and Mike Evans can have the type of day that they had last week, it could get interesting. Perhaps the most significant danger for the Rams outside of Evans and Shaq Barrett going crazy is complacency as they look ahead to the Thursday night match-up against the Seahawks. We do not think Sean McVay will let that happen.
Rams 34, Tampa Bay 21
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams today have added former University of Florida EDGE rusher Jachai Polite to their practice squad. Polite's signing comes just two days after the Rams lost linebacker Dakota Allen to the Oakland Raiders after signing him to their active roster.
The New York Jets selected Polite in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The talented EDGE rusher had him projected as a late first-round or early second-round draft choice. However, from bad team interviews, and his poor performances at the 2019 NFL Combine, his stock plunged to the third round. Polite expressed that he had issues with a lingering hamstring that supported with his lousy performances at the combine.
Polite's time with the Jets became short after the team released him during the preparation of the final cuts. Polite continuously compiled internal fines of about $100K from his $1.1M signing bonus for violating team rules and being late for team meetings.
The Seattle Seahawks would sign Polite to their practice squad after clearing waivers in which he only as spent just three weeks with the team. There was no explanation from the Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll in regards to Polite's release. Carroll only indicated that they needed to make a roster spot and they were moving on from Polite. He was released from the practice squad on Monday, as the Rams signed him this morning.
The Rams were pretty high on Polite during the draft process, after inviting him a couple of times for private workouts. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was knowledgeable of Polite's skill of being an elite pass rusher.
Now bringing in yet another player who had baggage to this team, only exemplify that the Rams can sign any player to play under their "We, Not Me" philosophy. The organization has brought in other players who fell under the "so-called" horrible guy label, and had done nothing but blossomed under head coach Sean McVay's philosophy. It is paramount that Polite buy-in to the McVay's system as he is running out of chances in the league. If he adapts well, never will know when he will get the chance for promotion to the active roster.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
After having a stellar performance on Sunday night against the Cleveland Browns, the Los Angeles Rams linebacker Clay Matthews Jr played well in front of family. Matthew's first season with the Rams after signing with the team as a free-agent this past off-season play has paid off immensely.
Matthews excellent play against the Browns could not come at a better time as his father Clay Matthews Sr, was being inducted into the Brown's Ring of Honor. The Matthews family were in full attendance to witness Matthew Sr induction of the Browns where he played linebacker for 16-seasons. Mathew's Jr was not able to be present during the ceremony, however, just after the conclusion of Clay Sr. speech, Clay Jr surprised him at the podium with a hug.
On his father's commemorative night, not only did Clay Jr show up, but he also showed out on the field. Matthews Jr posted his first multi-sack game in nearly two seasons on Sunday night. He ended the night with three tackles (three for loss), two sacks, one forced fumble, two quarterback hits, and one pass deflection. Matthews great night helped the Rams defeat the Browns 20-13, after stopping them on a fourth and goal.
Matthew's two sacks on Sunday now puts him as the team leader and tied for fourth with leagues best. He will seek to increase his sack total on this up-becoming Sunday against a Tampa Bay Buccaneer's pass happy offense. The veteran linebacker has fitted in perfectly with this Rams defense as their 16.3 points allowed have the Rams defense ranked fifth in the NFL
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Oakland Raiders have signed linebacker Dakota Allen from the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. Allen, who impressed just about everyone on the coaching staff immediately became the fan-favorite in Los Angeles from competitive play.
Shock-waves went through the Rams fan base once the final cuts of the 53-man roster finalized, and Allen was not listed.After not making the final cuts, the Rams quickly signed Allen as a practice squad player after clearing waivers. The rookie linebacker from Texas Tech University was grateful even to have the opportunity to be with a team. Head Coach Sean Mcvay and Les Snead remained optimistic that Allen would clear waivers and they made it a priority to get him signed.
Allen fulfilled his childhood dream and a promise that he committed to after a brush with the law. During his sophomore year at Texas Tech, Allen got arrested for breaking into a home during the winter school break stealing a gun safe containing seven firearms, a 40-inch TV, and two digital cameras. Following his arrest, Allen was subsequently dismissed from the Texas Tech football program and school transferring to an East Mississippi Community College.
Allen starred in the NETFLIX documentary on "Last Chance U" as he revived his career by winning a national junior college championship with East Mississippi Community College. Allen would contact Texas Tech shortly after graduating from EMCC and spoke to the coaching staff and administration and won them over for a second chance. It paid off as the Rams drafted Allen in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The practice does not protect any player as any other NFL teams can sign a player off any practice squad to their active roster. Like the case, the Raiders who injuries to their defense have decimated a team, signed Allen who will have the opportunity to play immediately.
The Rams will genuinely miss this kid who defied against all the odds to get his life right and make it at the next level.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Oakland Raiders have signed the Los Angeles Rams seventh-round linebacker Dakota Allen to their active roster. Allen, the fan-favorite did not make the Rams initial 53-man roster was released but was the first player to be signed to the Rams practice squad. (click here FULL STORY)
Overview: It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that this could be a Super Bowl preview, although the Cleveland Browns haven't exactly looked ''super" so far. Even so, we are only two games into the season and there is a lot of talent on the Browns roster. The Los Angeles Rams, meanwhile, are coming off a big win against their NFC arch-rival New Orleans Saints and sport a 2-0 record. They need a win to potentially keep pace with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, both of whom carry unbeaten records into play this weekend.
Rams Offense vs Cleveland Defense: This game could very well be decided in the trenches as both defensive fronts have top shelf talent and are going against O-lines that have some questions. For the Rams, it's looking like starting right guard Austin Blythe may not play with an ankle injury, although that isn't certain at this point. If he can't go, Jamil Demby will start at guard. Demby frankly played poorly in the preseason, but seemed to hold his own last week against the Saints. The Rams will likely need him to step up again, assuming Blythe is not available. Center Brian Allen and guard Joseph Noteboom, both new additions as starters on the Rams O-line this year, have been solid so far this season and will need to play well on Sunday night. It's looking like that Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who has been battling injury, will play on Sunday night. While the Browns defensive end Myles Garrett gets most of the headlines, tackles Sheldon Richardson and Ogunjobi are no walk in the park either. The Rams interior O-linemen have a big challenge facing them on Sunday night, and their success or lack thereof could be critical to the outcome of those.
Speaking of Myles Garrett, his battle with Rams tackle Andrew Whitworth is one of the better matchups you are likely to see all season. Whitworth is a perennial All-Pro candidate who seems to have lost little, if anything, at age 38. Garrett is a former top draft choice who notched 13.5 sacks last season, and we all know Rams Jared Goff is not the same quarterback under pressure as he is with time to throw the ball.
Of course, a lot of the Rams passing game works off of the play action pass, which in turn needs an effective running game to work. While Todd Gurley has been used somewhat less so far this season compared to past years, he has looked more or less like his old self. He's a dynamic playmaker who can take it to the house either running the ball or as a receiver. This year he's been effectively paired with Malcolm Brown, a tough, hard nosed back who fights for the last yard and breaks tackles. Brown was battling an ankle injury earlier this week, but was a full participant in practice on Thursday and Friday and is expected to play on Sunday night.
The Browns ability to pressure Goff is made even more critical by the fact they face some injury issues in the secondary. Safety Damarious Randall has been declared out for Sunday's game, and cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams and fellow safety Morgan Burnett are all questionable. It's likely that some or all of that trio will play, but may not be at top speed. That's bad news against one of the deepest groups of receivers in the league. Expect to see the Rams three top receivers on the field for the big majority of snaps. Brandin Cooks is a speedster who notched a big catch on a 54 yard pass against the Saints last week, Robert Woods is a great route runner and jack of all trades who catches pretty much everything thrown in his direction. Slot receiver Cooper Kupp is coming off a 120-yard game against the Saints, including a 67-yard catch that came just inches from being a touchdown.
The Rams will be missing starting tight end Tyler Higbee, but fellow tight-end Gerald Everett is a player who can make some big plays when needed.
The Browns really needs to pressure Goff and contain the running game, or this could get ugly. If they can do those things up front, they have a chance in this game.
Rams Defense vs Browns Offense: Once again, this battle may be decided up front. Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is listed as ''questionable" with a back injury, but he's widely expected to play on Sunday night. While Donald hasn't notched a sack in the first two games, that's misleading. Both the CarolinaPanthers and Saints double and even triple teamed Donald, and he still spent a good deal of time in their backfields. Donald is widely considered the best defensive player in the NFL, and if he ends up not playing or isn't up to his usual dominating standards it will be bad news for the Rams
One thing all of the attention Donald draws has done is open things up for defensive tackle Micheal Brockers and linebackers Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews, all of whom have notched sacks in the Rams first two games. Cleveland is loaded with offensive stars, but their offensive line was likened to a ''lawnmower engine" in a high-performance sports car this week by NFL network commentator Maurice Jones-Drew this week. That's a problem for the Browns, especially assuming Aaron Donald plays and is anywhere near his usual self. The Browns face an even bigger challenge because tackle Kendall Lamm is not expected to play, and starting right tackle Chris Hubbard is rated as questionable.
Cleveland is loaded at wide receiver, perennial All-Pro Odell Beckham Jr is coming off a huge game against the New York Jets, and his old college team-mate Jarvis Landry (played together at LSU) isn't far behind Beckham in terms of talent and can easily take over a game if ignored. The Rams secondary has a big challenge on their hands, although unlike their counterparts on the other side, they come in healthy. Even so, if the Rams can't pressure the Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, they could get lit up. Corners Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters will have their hands full in this game, especially if Mayfield gets time to throw.
It's hard to know what to think of the Rams rush defense after two games. They got shredded by the Panthers Christian McCaffrey in the season opener before shutting down the Saints Alvin Kamara last week. They did have the luxury of loading up against the run after Drew Brees got hurt in the Saints game, which may have been a factor. The Browns won't have running back Kareem Hunt, who is serving an 8-game suspension, but they do have Nick Chubb, a former top draft pick who can take over a game all by himself. The question here again is the effectiveness of the Browns O-line.
Rams inside linebacker Corey Littleton has looked like an All-Pro so far this season. Not bad for a guy who wasn't even drafted coming out of college. Fellow inside linebacker Bryce Hager has been solid against the run. On passing downs he's often replaced by safety/linebacker Taylor Rapp, who would probably start for most NFL teams. Cleveland will be missing tight-end David Njoku, who is out with an broken wrist.
Cleveland has under-performed on offense so far this season, but two games is an awfully small sample size and their talent is certainly capable of lighting up the scoreboard. IF they can get a solid performance from their O-line--which is a big if--they could break out this week. Even so, we are going to check this box for the Rams.
Special Teams: So far the Rams special teams don't seem to have hit their stride. They were frankly not very good in the season opener against Carolina, somewhat better against the Saints. Punter Johnny Hekker in particular has been less than his usual stellar self. But the thinking here is that special teams coach John ''Bones" Fassell will have corrected whatever problems have been in play. The Rams generally have the best special teams in the NFL. They have been pretty average so far this season. That's due to change. If it doesn't on Sunday night, we could see an upset in this game.
Coaching: Sean McVay vs. Freddie Kitchens. Enough said.
Prediction: Even though we gave the Rams the edge across the board in this game, there are a lot of x-factors and question marks that could make this game much closer than it might appear,. A Browns win is by no means out of the question, make no mistake. The outcome of injuries to the Browns secondary and Rams all-world defensive tackle Aaron Donald could completely change how this game plays out. The battles in the trenches could be critical, and if neither O-line can hold their own we could be looking at a defensive slugfest.
Oddsmakers are favoring the Rams by three on the road and on paper, they should win. But Cleveland is a time bomb waiting to go off, especially if the can find a way to give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket.
Rams 28, Cleveland 24
Ed “Pi Double I” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee reportedly been hospitalized with an apparent lung issue. Higbee’s sustained a hit in Sunday’s game in the defeat over the New Orleans Saints 27-9 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Reported that Higbee coughed up blood an had to be admitted as a precautionary measure to further evaluate his symptoms. At this point, the Rams organization has not reported how long Higbee would be out due to this injury. If Higbee is to miss any significant time the Rams will consider using their “next man up”, with third-year tight end Gerald Everett. Many have expected that this was going to be Everett’s breakout season after displaying significant flashes last season.
Also, reserve tight end Johnny Mundt is expected to step up in the absence of Higbee too, when the Rams travel to Cleveland to play the Browns next Sunday on the SNF late game. The Rams offense have suffered a blow with Higbee’s injury, while the Browns secondary is expected to play the Rams receivers in press coverage all game long. This will allow the tight ends to see a lot of targets in the middle of the field and Higbee is a dominant force in the seams.
Higbee signed a new four-year contract extension last week for $31M and could earn up to $36M with incentives. Higbee’s extension also revealed that he receives $15.5M in guarantee, and is with the team up through the 2023 football season.
Overview: What can we say about the game between the New Orleans Saints vs. Los Angeles Rams previously not mentioned? It is possibly the most-anticipated matchup of the 2019 regular season, and indeed the most prominent game this weekend. While it hardly qualifies as a ''must-win" game for either team in terms of division standings, it is the latest chapter in what has become perhaps the NFL's biggest non-divisional rivalry. Moreover, even though it is only the second game of the season, it is not a wild exaggeration to think this game could well end up being a tie-breaker for playoff-seeding come the postseason.
Rams Offense Vs. Saints Defense: For all of the talk about Drew Brees vs. Jared Goff, this game could well be decided by which team can run the ball more effectively. The Saints gave up 180 yards rushing in Monday night's last-second win over the Houston Texans. Meanwhile, the Rams win over the Carolina Panthers seemed to be a tale of two Todd Gurley's. He looked so bad in the first half that NFL analyst Tony Gonzalez said at halftime that he was clearly "not right." However, in the second half, Gurley rushed for 89 yards and looked like the Todd Gurley Rams fans have gotten used to watching over the last few years. Malcolm Brown also played a vital role in the win, scoring two touchdowns and effectively spelling Gurley in much of the first half. Brown also received the majority of the carries inside the red-zone, where his power-running, smashmouth style played well last week.
The Saints, meanwhile, need linebackers Alex Anzalone and Demario Davis to step up their games this week in rush defense. Giving up 180 yards rushing against the Rams could be fatal.
When the Rams do throw the ball, they need their offensive line to give Jared Goff time, because he is not the same quarterback when he is under pressure. A crucial battle upfront will feature Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein against Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in a battle of two of the league's better players at their respective positions.
The newcomers to the Rams line, center Brian Allen and guard Joseph Noteboom put in strong performances last week against a talented Panthers defensive front. They will need to repeat that play on Sunday.
The Rams will likely try to pick on Saints cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Eli Apple, as did the Texans with some success last week, avoiding Saints best corner, Marshon Lattimore. The Rams particularly like the matchup of slot receiver Cooper Kupp against Williams. Kupp was not available in last year's NFC title game, and his return could be a critical factor in this game.
Rams Defense vs. Saints Offense: First task for the Rams defense will be to contain Saints running back Alvin Kamara on Sunday. That is easier said than done, especially since Saints head coach Sean Payton is a master at taking advantage of favorable matchups for Kamara on defense. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who features a similar skill set as Kamara, had a monster day for Carolina last week. Both backs are especially dangerous as receivers, and the Rams have to find a way to limit Kamara in the passing game especially. Whether Wade Phillips can find a formula for doing that may very well determine the outcome of this game
The crucial other performers for the Saints is wide-receiver, Micheal Thomas. It is worth noting that in the Saints regular-season win over the Rams last year, Thomas went off, notching 213 receiving yards, much of it against Rams cornerback Marcus Peters. It is no accident that in the Rams title game win, Thomas was virtually a non-factor. Whether the Rams can contain Thomas again remains to be seen, and could be a massive factor in this game.
The other crucial battle here could be the Rams defensive front versus the Saints offensive line. As high as Brees is, he is not the most mobile quarterback. He typically makes up for that by getting rid of the ball quickly. However, no quarterback likes facing a pass rush that forces quick decisions and causes mistakes.
Again referring back to the two games between these teams last year, Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was kept in check during the Saints regular-season win but was much more of a problem for the Saints in the 2019 NFC Championship. It is a safe bet that the Saints will double and even triple-team AD on Sunday. That should open up some opportunities for Rams outside linebackers Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews to apply some pressure. Fowler registered two sacks last week against the Panthers and was a crucial factor in the Rams title game win in New Orleans last season.
Two other players to keep an eye on Sunday are Rams inside linebacker Corey Littleton and former Rams and Saints tight end Jared Cook. Littleton came up huge against Carolina last week, intercepting a pass, a forced fumble and generally wreaking havoc. Cook, meanwhile, torched the Rams for 135 yards in receptions last year as a member of the Oakland Raiders and could be the x-factor for the Saints on Sunday.
Special Teams: The Rams got unprecedented weak special teams performance last week, and it almost cost them the game against the Panthers. Johnny Hekker had one punt blocked and another tipped, although he did have several booming punts that pinned the Panthers back as well. Placekicker Greg Zuerlein likewise had a mixed day, nailing three field goals while missing one. The Saints will very likely try to pressure Hekker again. As for Zuerlein, well, nobody is perfect. We guess that Special Teams Coach John "Bones' Fassell will have addressed the problems that led to last weeks kicking issues. The Rams typically have the best special teams in the league, and they need to return to that form on Sunday.
The Saints special teams are also usually outstanding, and kicker Will Lutz proved his worth on Monday night by kicking a 58-yard field goal to beat the Texans as time expired.
We are going to check this box for the Rams, but its close. The Rams have to play better in this area than they did against the Panthers, or they may very well lose this game.
Prediction: Last time we checked 1.5 points favored the Rams. Home field advantage generally is worth 3 points, so apparently, the oddsmakers think New Orleans is a slightly better team on a neutral field. There is no doubt that New Orleans will be out for revenge for the infamous "non-call" in last year's NFC title game.
On the other hand, the Saints are also a dome team that will be playing on natural grass, out in the weather. The Rams are a better team at home, and the Saints will not have the advantage of crowd noise disrupting the Rams on offense.
A final factor could be the refs, who will be under a microscope in this game. Will they try to overcompensate for the infamous blunder in last year's title game? We hope not.
Rams 34, New Orleans 31
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angles Rams and Johnny Hekker have agreed on a restructure and contract extension for the four-time pro bowl punter. The terms of the extension are for a one-year $4.25M and will lock the versatile punter though out the 2023 season.
The Rams signed the seven-year veteran in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. Hekker's dominant leg is the 12th man of the Rams defense as he pins team inside of the 10-yard line consistently. At Superbowl LIII, he set a record for the longest punt of 65-yards against the New England Patriots.
Hekker is simply a jack of all trades when it comes to the game of football. He was a quarterback in high school before landing at Oregon State where he focused on punting. Hekker has not only been called upon to punt the football, but has also thrown a touchdown pass, kicked point-after attempts, and even field goals when kicker Greg Zuerlein went down in the 2017 NFL season with a groin injury.
Hekker currently holds a career average of 47-yards per punt during playing in 112 games. He also has a 57.9 completion percentage while completing 11 passes of 19 attempts for 156 yards.
The Rams extension of Hekker is done several days after quarterback Jared Goff signs a record extension that pays him $110M in guarantees. Starting tight end, Tyler Higbee signed a new four-year extension with $31M in guarantees too. Hekker contract extension also comes with General Les Snead and Head Coach Sean McVay both have been extended through the 2023 season as well.
Overview: Oddsmakers are favoring the Rams on the road by anywhere between 1.5 and 2.5 points. It's the season opener for both teams, who are expected to contend for NFC playoff spots in 2019. This will be the first outing for the explosive Rams offense since they laid an egg in Super Bowl LIII, scoring only three points. Since Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Sean McVay essentially rested his starters in the preseason (an increasingly common NFL practice), it will be interesting to see if the Rams will appear rusty coming out of the gate.
Rams Offense vs Panthers Defense: On paper, this is the most intriguing part of the game, putting what is believed the teams' strongest units against one another. The Carolina Panthers, which frequently shifts from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 alignment and vice versa, will be missing pass-rushing linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin, who is out with an injury. He will mostly be replaced by rookie Bruce Burns, Carolina's first-round selection of the 2019 NFL Draft from Florida State University. At 6-3 and 250 pounds, Burns has bulked up a little since his college days with the Seminoles. Linebacker Thomas Davis, a Panther stalwart on defense for the last decade, is gone after the Panthers decided not to re-sign him. But any discussion of the Panther’s linebackers has to start with Luke Kuechly, who along with Bobby Wagner of the Seattle Seahawks, is probably the premier middle linebacker in the NFL.. Intelligent and athletic, Kuechly is one of those rare defenders who you must account for on every play. He'll be joined in both defensive alignments by Shaq Thompson, a former number one draft choice out of the University of Washington. Thompson is one of the reasons the Panthers felt comfortable letting Davis walk, and they are expecting big things from him as a full-time starter in 2019.
The Rams, meanwhile, will be debuting their 2019 offensive line, and there are some questions about that unit. No longer there is guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan, a couple of heady veterans who helped lead the Rams to the Super Bowl last season. They are replaced by second-year Joseph Noteboom at guard and second-year Brian Allen at center, both players who saw a smatter of playing time in 2018. They'll be facing a Panther defensive line that will feature multiple fronts after under-performing in 2018. But Carolina does have some talent up front. Veteran tackles Dontari Poe and Kawann Short both tended to disappear last season and are looking to bounce back this 2019 season. Poe, a mountain of a man at 6-3 and around 350, will be the primary nose tackle when the Panthers go into their 3-4 alignment. Brian Allen is giving up roughly 50 pounds versus Poe, so he may need some help moving him out if the Rams intend to run the ball at the heart of the Panther’s defense.
Addressing the running game, one of the key subplots to this game will be the whole Todd Gurley injury saga. As every NFL fan knows, the Rams star running back saw relatively little action in the 2018 NFC title game and Super Bowl LIII, sparking a torrent of speculation about his health and specifically that of his surgically-repaired knee. When Gurley is healthy, he is probably the best all-around running back in the NFL, despite the media hype surrounding Dallas Cowboys Zeke Elliot and the immense talent of the New York Giants' Saquon Barkley.
So, is he healthy? Media reports over the last few months have ranged in tone from ''He's absolutely fine" to ''He is done as an NFL back," covering about every shade in between. The Rams insist that he is good to go on Sunday and Gurley will not be on any sort of snap count.
But head coach Sean McVay has also promised touches for rookie Darrell Henderson out of the University of Memphis and veteran backup Malcolm Brown, even hinting that all three backs could see the field at once against the Panthers. Henderson, the third-round pick in this year's 2019 NFL Draft is compared to New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara type running back, who is capable of breaking off big plays on the ground and as a receiver. Brown is more of a power-type back, a bit of a plodder in terms of breakaway speed, but a tough, hard-nosed inside runner who has played well when given the chance over the past couple of years. For the Rams fans, the effectiveness and composition of the running game on Sunday is almost as important as notching a win.
The Rams boast one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL, and welcome back slot-receiver Cooper Kupp, a favorite target of quarterback Jared Goff when healthy. Kupp missed the second half of the season last year, despite Josh Reynolds stepped in for him and played well, his return is critical to this offense. Adding him with speedster Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, who simply catches everything thrown his way and runs great routes, give the Rams one of the best receiving units in the NFL. Don't forget about Reynolds either, who made a lot of big catches in the Super Bowl LIII run last season.
The depth of this unit could pose problems for the Panthers, who have a decent secondary not loaded with depth. Safety Eric Reid is one of the better players at his position in the NFL. Fellow safety Rashaan Gualden and corners James Bradberry and Donte Jackson are solid to above average players who make up a solid unit overall. Corn Elder will likely step in as the nickel back. None of these are bad players, but whether they can cover the deep and talented Rams receivers core on a regular basis could be one of the keys to the outcome of this game. IF the Rams can allot Goff time in the pocket and if the run game for the Rams is credible, the may be able to put up some points on Sunday’s contest.
Rams Defense vs Carolina Offense: Panther’s quarterback Cam Newton was having one of his best seasons in 2018 until a shoulder issue effected his play. He wasn't the same player down the stretch, and it showed as the Panthers ended up missing the playoffs despite s strong start. He suffered an ankle injury in the preseason, but it reportedly was not serious and he is expected and will be fine for the game. When healthy, Newton is a truly dynamic player who can beat you with his legs or his arm. While he has a very strong arm, he sometimes struggles with accuracy, and has only had one season where he finished with a completion rate of over 60 percent. Even so, he is a very dangerous player who can get hot and carry his team to victory.
Newton had arthoscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in January, all indications are that it went well and his shoulder is fine. The Panthers certainly hope so, because if he is ineffective, Carolina has virtually no shot at making the playoffs.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is the other Panther player who keeps defensive coordinators awake at night. The son of former Denver Broncos and New York Giants wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, racked up over 1,000 yards rushing last season in addition to 867 yards as a receiver. Carolina supposedly wants to scale back his workload in 2019, but the problem is that the depth behind him is not great. He played 93 percent of the Panthers offensive snaps last season. The top reserves, Cameron Artis-Payne and rookie Jordan Scarlett, don't really scare anyone.
One of the keys for the Panthers in this game is controlling the Rams defensive front with a suspect offensive line. That job didn't get any easier when starting left tackle Greg Little ruled out of Sunday’s game with an concussion. Little is expected to be replaced by Darryl Williams, who spent most of 2018 on injured reserve. He was excellent in 2017, being named second-team All-Pro. How much impact will the injury and layoff have? We will see on Sunday.
Of course, anytime you face the Rams defense, job one is containing reigning two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, an absolute monster who gives quarterbacks nightmares. Despite facing double and even triple teams last season, AD still overcame with 20.5 sacks. He was rated the number one player in the league in the NFL Network's countdown of the Top 100 players, an honor that carries added weight because it is voted upon by the players themselves. Panthers WILL need to account for Donald on every play and keep him at least somewhat under control if they are to win this game. Donald had held out for much of the past two preseasons and tended to get off to rather slow starts by his standards. Will he get off to a faster start with a full training camp behind him?
The Rams are hoping outside linebackers Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews can generate enough of a pass-rush to take some of the pressure of off AD.
The Rams will have to replace Ndumukong Suh at nose tackle, and it looks like Sebastion Joseph-Day will see most of the action, with rookie Greg Gaines also getting snaps. They lost starting inside linebacker Micah Kiser to a pectoral injury in the preseason. The Rams was pretty bad in defending the run last season, giving up an average of five yards per carry. That remains a concern, and having to replace your nose tackle with a couple of untested young players and then replace one of your starting inside linebackers doesn't help. Whether the Panthers can run the ball effectively with McCaffrey and Newton could be a key factor in this game.
The Carolina receiving corps is somewhat underwhelming on paper, although McCaffrey helps make up for that by basically serving as another receiver, and a good one at that. Tight end Greg Olsen has had a great career, but he is also coming off an injury at age 34. Devin Funchess is gone via free agency, leaving D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel as the likely starters. Moore racked up 788 yards last season, and he is considered the number one receiver on this roster. Samuel is a former second round pick who has yet to live up to expectations. These guys aren't bad, but the Rams secondary shouldn't let them have big days. If they do would could be looking at a Carolina win.
Special Teams: The Rams probably have the best special teams in the NFL, and they will have the edge in this category again on Sunday. But Carolina's special teams are actually pretty good, and this category might be close had the Panthers not lost kicker Graham Gano to a season-ending injury. Gano was money in pressure situations, and his absence could be a factor in a close game.
Prediction: There are a lot of ''x-factors" in this game. Is Todd Gurley 100 percent? Can the Panthers run on a Rams defense that had persistent problems in that area last season? How will the Rams rebuilt offensive line match up against the variable fronts they will see on Sunday? Opening day usually includes some surprises, and a Panthers win here wouldn't shock anyone. But the Rams appear to be the better team.
Rams 27, Panthers 24
Ed “Pi Double I” Henderson
The Los Angles Rams and Johnny Hekker have agreed on a restructure and contract extension for the four-time pro bowl punter. The terms of the extension is for a one-year $4.25M and will lock the versatile punter though out the 2023 season.
(FULL STORY TO FOLLOW)
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
Just days following the colossal contract extension of the Los Angeles Rams starting quarterback Jared Goff, they would extend yet one of their offensive pieces. The Rams have agreed to terms with starting tight end Tyler Higbee on a four-year contract extension.
Higbee's deal has been reported as a four-year deal of $31M, $15M fully guaranteed and can earn up to $36M with incentives. Not a bad deal for an underrated player who quietly has done his job for the Rams.
The Rams drafted Higbee in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft from Western Kentucky as the former wide receiver converted to a tight end. Under the Jeff Fisher regime, Higbee seemed to prolong his talent as many expected him as another bust. However, under the new head coach Sean McVay's potent offense, Higbee did nothing but do his job making difficult catch after another.
Higbee's extension comes sort of a bizarre move considering the fact the Minnesota Vikings tried to trade for him last season. Also, this past off-season there were reports that the New England Patriots were interested in acquiring Higbee too.
Higbee has platooned at the tight end position with fellowed tight end Gerald Everett, whom the team expects to have a break out year. Perhaps will Higbee deal make it difficult for the Rams to honestly evaluate Everett's talent before he becomes a free agent in two years? We will have to wait and see when the time permits on what does occur with Everetts extension in 2021.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have come to terms with tight-end Tyler Higbee with a four-year contract extension. Higbee’s deal comes just two days after the starting quarterback Jared Goff signed a lucrative massive contract with a guarantee.
FULL STORY click here
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams now have their captains for the 2019 football season. The organization announced today that those captains are the following players:
The two-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, 2018 Pro Bowl quarterback Jared Goff, punter Johnny Hekker, veteran starting corner Aqib Talib, veteran Pro Bowl tackle Andrew Whitworth, and first-year all-pro Ram safety Eric Weddle.
This season Todd Gurley and Michael Brockers will not wear the letter “C” on their game jersey which is hard to understand for Gurley to say the least. The team chose Gurley as a team captain for the last three consecutive years 2016, 2017, and 2018, and just surprised he is not representing this season.
The Rams will take their travel plans to Charlotte, North Carolina this Sunday to play the Carolina Panthers a game where the Rams are a +3-point favorite. The fans have anticipated this matchup for weeks and cannot wait to observe the offensive arsenal attack the Panthers defense.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
Jared Goff, of the Los Angeles Rams, agrees to a record-setting deal for the fourth-year starting quarterback. It was not a matter of when they were extending him, but how much. Reports indicate that Goff deal is for a four-year $134M ($110M guaranteed), earning him about $33.5M per year.
Not bad for a quarterback who once labeled as a bust after producing a 0-7 record in his first NFL starts under then-head coach Jeff Fisher. Playing for head coach Sean McVay, Goff collected 24 wins with just seven losses. Goff helped engineer the Rams to two-consecutive NFC West Titles, NFC Championship, and a trip to Super Bowl LIII. Although the Rams did not bring the Lombardy Trophy home after a 13-3 defeat to the New England Patriots, he embarked he will get the team back and win.
Les Snead, the Rams General Manager, and Coach McVay also received contract extensions during the pre-season. Rams have locked up critical pieces of this team, and next will concentrate on linebacker Corey Littleton, wide-receiver Cooper Kupp, tight-end Gerald Everett, and cornerback Marcus Peters.
Goff contract extension comes just days before the Rams traveling to Charlotte to play against the Carolina Panthers in their season opener. Speculation will come to arise on how sharp Goff will perform and other starters who did not play a single down in the pre-season.