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
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.
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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.
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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.
Team Overview: Of all teams of the NFC West, the Seahawks present the biggest threat to the Rams in the division. The acquisition of Jadeveon Clowney for a couple of so-so linebackers and a third-round draft choice does nothing to hurt that status. Clowney's history of injuries and perhaps not played up to the expectations once predicted after declaring early for the 2014 NFL Draft, but he is an outstanding player when healthy.
Offense: The offense starts with Russell Wilson, who is one of the league's best quarterbacks. The very best at taking a "broken play" and turning it into a significant gain. Wilson is on the small side and takes more than his share of hits, but so far, he has not been injury prone.
As of Labor Day, the word is that Seattle will re-sign Geno Smith to back up Russell Wilson. While there probably are worse backups than Smith, Seattle had better hope they do not have to lean on him to replace Wilson long-term.
The Seahawks had one of the most run-oriented offenses in the league last season, rivaled only by the Baltimore Ravens in that regard. While the Seahawk running backs may not be huge names as a group, they certainly got the job done in 2018. Chris Carson rushed for over 1,100 yards last year, the best total of a Seahawks back since Marshawn Lynch. Carson likely will split carries with former first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who averaged almost five yards a carry last year but was plagued by injuries. Mike Davis and his 500 yards rushing left in free agency, but there is enough depth here so that Davis' departure should not be a huge deal.
There are some questions at receiver with Doug Baldwin's departure. The Seahawks hope rookie D.K. Metcalf can emerge with veteran Tyler Lockett as the top receivers. Lockett, who is also a dangerous return man, racked up over 950 receiving yards last season, leading to a fat new contract. Metcalf is a big, fast receiver whom most people expected to go in the first round of the draft. Flawless during his workouts as part of several NFL teams, or did they know something that raised concerns?
We may find out after the Seahawks spent a second-round pick on him. Metcalf suffered a preseason injury that may delay his progress somewhat.
Veteran David Moore should also see significant targets this season. This group as a unit is not terrible, but on paper, they also do not frighten anybody. The Seahawks have also resigned Jaron Brown after releasing him after the final cuts. Basically what Seattle has at the receiver position is one pretty good player (Lockett), one rookie that some see as having potential (Metcalf), and a bunch of other guys who are, well, questionable (Brown, Moore and others). It's not an overly impressive group, considering Lockett would be a #2 or #3 receiver (at best) on many NFL teams, probably including the Rams. But Russell Wilson can do a lot with a little.
One of the reason's the Seahawks was so run-oriented on offense last season was because that strategy plays to the strength of the Seattle offensive line. Starting left tackle Duane Brown arguably the best Seahawks offensive lineman, and they need for him to stay healthy. There is not a ton of depth here on the Seahawks offensive line. Four-time pro-bowler Mike Iupati replaces J.R. Sweezy at one of the guard spots, which probably an upgrade at that position. The rest of the starting line is OK but not so great considering the talent. The mobility of Russell Wilson's helps offset some of the deficiencies in pass protection. Considering the Seahawks apparently, lack of a reliable backup quarterback they may not him taking off and running any more than what is necessary.
Offensive Overview: Russell Wilson makes what might be considered a mediocre to sub-par offense on paper a lot more credible. Even so, this team is not built to win many shootouts.
Defense: This is the strength of this team, and if everything falls into place, it could be one of the elite units in the NFL. Can teams still win championships in the NFL with the old 1970s formula of running the ball and playing good defense? The 2019 Seattle Seahawks may answer that question IF the defense can stay healthy and do a better job of shutting down opposing running games compared to last season.
However, there are injury concerns here, as well as questions about a secondary that is not entirely on par with the defensive line and linebacking corps.
With the addition of Clowney, the Seahawks front seven on defense match up well with anybody in the league. Frank Clark traded to Kansas City Chiefs, but with Clowney and Ziggy Ansah lining up on Sundays for the Seahawks, opposing quarterbacks will not be celebrating. The big concern is whether both of those guys can stay healthy, given their injury history. The big concern last year for the 'Hawks up front was a porous run defense, which is still a concern. Jaron Reed (suspended) and Poona Ford, are the starting defensive tackles and will need to step up this season. The Seahawks is to be anything more than a fringe wild-card contender. Seattle thinks they will.
Seattle's linebacking unit is among the best in the league when healthy. Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner rivaled only by Luke Kuechly of the Panthers for the title of the best at his position in the NFL. Outside linebacker K.J. Wright is no slouch either. Mychal Kendricks looks like the third starter in Seattle's base defense. Kendricks is not entirely on a level of Wagner or Wright, but he's still pretty good. The one downside to the Clowney trade is that it did create some depth concerns. Two players the Seahawks traded (Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin), are likely not pro bowl players, but are heady veterans who knew the defense. The linebackers did not make many mistakes. Mingo started at strongside linebacker for much of last season, so obviously, 'Hawks coach Pete Carroll did not think he was a lousy player. So long as the starters stay healthy none of that may matter, but the remaining reserves are mostly unproven.
The Legion of Boom is gone, and the current secondary is not comparable in terms of talent or experience. Safety Bradley McDougald will start at one of the safety spots. He is not a bad player and is capable of dishing out some nasty hits, albeit he is no Earl Thomas. The starting corners look like Shaquille Griffin and Tre Flowers, a converted safety. Again, as with McDougald, they are solid players, although they will not make anyone forget Richard Sherman. However, after that, there are a whole lot of questions in terms of depth and the other safety position.
If the Seahawks can inflict a pressuring pass rush as expected, and the secondary remain healthy, they may be fine in terms of pass defense.
However, if either or both of those things do not happen, there could be trouble ahead. Seattle does not want to get caught up in too many 45-41 type games, given the style and talent level of their offense.
Defensive Overview: Wagner is an elite player, a real difference-maker at middle linebacker. Wright, Clowney, and possibly Ansah are all outstanding players who are close to elite when healthy. Seattle does need to stop the run better and stay healthy. If they can do those things, they should contend for a playoff spot and maybe even battle the Rams for the division title.
Special teams: Punter Micheal Dickson is excellent, maybe the best punter not named Johnny Hekker in the NFL.
Other than that? Seattle, we have a problem. The special teams for the Seahawks were just not very good last season. Kick and punt returner Tyler Lockett can make things happen when he gets a little blocking, but that usually did not happen last season. Jason Myers replaces Sebastian Janikowski at placekicker. He lost out to "Sea Bass" in 2018 for the job, but now it is his. He lacks Janikowski's range, but Seattle hopes he will be more reliable. We shall see.
Overview: This is a good team and one that should at least contend for a wild card spot.
However, there are concerns. Russell Wilson needs to stay healthy for one thing. Since the Seahawks runs the ball more than anyone else in the league, as long as Wilson is in the lineup, we cannot disregard the threat of the passing game. The Seahawks running backs are a capable group, but they are going to have a hard time being productive. Against eight-men box, especially with an offensive line that is decent at run blocking, but certainly not elite.
The defense is very good at linebacker and on the D-line, while the secondary is relatively average. If Seattle can get ahead and force opponents into passing situations, they can do some damage on defense. However, the run-defense needs to be better than it was last year, and this is not a team that can afford to get behind by more than ten points or so early. Another concern for the 'Hawks is the fact that they were plus 17 in turnovers last season. Historically, the turnover margin is not a stat that tends to be repeatable from season to season. Seattle also notched 7 of their ten wins last year against teams with losing records. If you expect to be the best, you need to beat the best. Seattle didn't really do that in last season.
Prediction: Seattle could battle the Rams for the NFC West in 2019, but a lot would need to go right for that to happen. This is not a team that can sustain many injuries or makes many mistakes if they are going to go anywhere. However, as long as they have Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll, you can't count them out.
10-6, Second Place NFC West
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams and starting quarterback have agreed to a four-year extension worth about $33.5M per year.
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Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams have center Coleman Shelton to their active roster. Shelton, the six-foot-five 300-pound center, is another Southern California kid that played high school football at Loyola High School in Pasadena and played collegiately at the University of Washington. Shelton was a 2017 All-Pac-12 First Team selection his senior year for the Huskies. He started every game since his sophomore year, compiling a history of being a durable player.
Invited to the 2018 NFL Combine, Coleman ran a 5.21 40-yard dash, a 7.62 three-cone drill, and 4.59 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle. Coleman went unselected in the 2018 NFL Draft but signed with the San Francisco 49ers as UDFA (undrafted free-agent).
The 49ers released Shelton where he landed on the roster with Arizona Cardinals where he did not survive the final cuts. Something must have stuck out on a film that impressed Aaron Kromer, the Rams offensive line coach. Landing on the Rams makes this the third NFC West team he has played. Shelton's speed will enable him to be productive with the Rams style of run blocking, is something that Coach Kromer enjoyed from the young lineman.
In a corresponding move, the Rams place second-year linebacker Justin Lawler on the injury-reserve.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams seek for veteran offensive line help; the Houston Texans had just released one former Southern Cal boy. The Texans have released Matt Kalil, number four overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
The release of Kalil comes as a surprise of the Texans, especially after the making of their 53-man roster. Just two weeks ago, head coach Bill O'Brien made it public that Kalil would be the starting left tackle. However, after a blockbuster trade by sending acquiring Laremy Tunsil in a trade from the Miami Dolphins, and shipping linebacker Jadaveon Clowney to the Seattle Seahawks freeing up cap space.
The Rams need to consider on signing Kalil as he can return to Southern California, after attending Servite High School and USC. Kalil experience also can give additional depth to the Rams offensive line where they are not profound beyond their starters.
Drafted by Minnesota Vikings, Kalil played for four seasons with the team and suffered a hip injury. However, he overcame the injury and signed a five-year $55 million contract to play with the Carolina Panthers in 2017. Inactive with that knee injury in 2018, the Panthers released him after one season, and he landed with the Texans.
It makes sense on the Rams trying to acquire Kalil, which will boost up the Rams offensive line tremendously.
Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams signed their first practice squad player which none other than rookie linebacker Dakota Allen from Texas Tech University. Head Coach Sean Mcvay and Les Snead remained optimistic that Allen would clear waivers and they made it a priority to get him signed.
Shockwaves went through the Rams fan base once the final cuts of the 53-man roster finalized, and Allen was not listed. Allen, who impressed just about everyone on the coaching staff immediately became the fan-favorite.
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.
Now that Allen is back with the Rams expect for him to remain on the practice squad too long. Allen potentially can become promoted from the practice squad at any given time, mainly after an injury. Also, the practice does not protect him as any other NFL can sign him off the practice squad to their active roster.
The Rams will play their season opener in Charlotte, NC against the Carolina Panthers. Rams will travel there and remain optimistic about returning to Los Angeles with a victory and no injuries. They will be on a quest to return to the Super Bowl after losing 13-3 to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII.
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams 53-man roster was finalized yesterday afternoon releasing a total of 37 players since last pre-season win over Houston Texans. The organization as a whole had tough decisions to make factoring in the team had entirely too much depth at the skill positions. Tough decision there were as many fans, and media outlets were surprised at the final roster.
One surprise that followed yesterdays final cuts was with the Rams releasing their 2019 Rookie of the Year John Franklin-Meyers. Franklin-Meyers is the same player that sacked New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Super Bowl LIII. Upon Franklin-Meyers release, Rams General Manager Les Snead stated that he took the release professionally and it was a tough decision to execute.
However, the biggest shock to the Rams fan base yesterday was the news of seventh-round selection Dakota Allen linebacker from Texas Tech was released. The news of Allen cut started trending immediately throughout all Rams media and social networks.
Allen played so hard throughout the pre-season and seemed to have made every play his way. Allen mostly remembered by striking one Dallas Cowboys player it dislodged his helmet from his head. Dakota played with a great deal of determination and intensity after gaining his second chance with the game of football.
During his sophomore year at Tech, Allen was arrested for breaking into a home during the winter school break and stole a gun safe containing seven firearms, a 40-inch TV, and two digital cameras. Following the arrest, Allen was subsequently dismissed from the Texas Tech football program and school and transferred to a junior college.
Allen starred in the NETFLIX documentary on "Last Chance U" as he revived his career by winning a national championship with East Mississippi Community College. Allen would contact Tech shortly after his time an EMCC and spoke with the coaching staff and administration and won them over for a second chance. It paid off as the Rams drafted Allen.
The Arizona Cardinals claimed Kevin Peterson a former defensive back released. The Cleveland Browns signed wide-receiver KhaDarel Hodge, and as the New York Jets reeled in defensive lineman John Franklin-Meyers. These players were surprised too many and now with new organizations.
Also, two other former Ram players that are with new teams are safety Steven Parker to the Miami Dolphins and quarterback Brandon Allen to Denver Broncos.
2019 Projected practice squad
QB John Wolford Wake Forest
OG Chandler Brewer Middle Tennessee State
RB John Kelly Tennessee ***
TE Kendall Blanton Missouri
WR Jalen Greene Utah State
DL Marquise Copeland Cincinnati
LB Dakota Allen Texas Tech
LB Landis Durham Texas A&M
DB Donte Deayon Boise State ***
DB Ramon Richards Oklahoma State ***
10th player to be claimed off waivers/Aaron Neary after returning from suspension
Ed “Pi Double i” Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams add linebacker Dakota Allen to their practice squad after clearing the waiver wire.
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Ed "Pi Double i" Henderson
The Los Angeles Rams concluded their 2019 pre-season by defeating the Houston Texans 22-10 last night. Rams head coach Sean McVay will have some tough decisions to make by reducing their 90-man roster down to 53 players. Having depth at just about every position, they will need to explore different options on returning to the Super Bowl.
General Manager Les Snead has worked out some magic in drawing veteran talent to the team. The past two seasons, the roster would only include 52 players as they sought out for trade or have signed a player from the practice squad of another team in the league. Currently, the Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonzo have requested for a trade from the Dolphins. Acquiring Alonzo can be a great addition since the loss of Micah Kiser who will be out for significant time.
The offensive line depth, in our opinion, is not very strong in case of injury. Behind the starters, the line can use more help, and perhaps they may bring in a veteran lineman. Defensively, they have several defensive backs and a defensive lineman they can utilize as trade bait. Therefore, the roster short will become one player short and let us see how it works out this season.
Quarterbacks (2): Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
Jared Goff returns for his fourth season and third full season as the starting quarterback. After a very disappointing performance in Super Bowl LIII, the young talented quarterback will attempt to get the Rams back to the Superbowl. Goff will put up some significant numbers with this explosive offense, which was one of the league's highest-scoring offenses. Many of the Ram starters did not play one single down in the preseason, as he will need to be sharp in week one against a good Carolina Panthers defense.
The Rams will have a new backup to Goff, as Blake Bortles the former Jacksonville Jaguars starter signed with the team in free agency. This season will be the first year that Goff will have a backup that has experience playing in the league.
Brandon Allen battled with undrafted rookie John Wolford from Wake Forest, but after returning for his third consecutive season with the team, Allen seemed to have had the edge early. However, Wolford play seemed to be more impressive only by his ball security, unlike Allen. Wolford finished his preseason passing 25-44-249 yards and three touchdowns. On the other hand, Allen threw 44-59-426 yards, with no touchdown but threw three interceptions. Both players made active cases, but the team decided to advance with Wolford. Wolford seemed to move the offense and was consistent with protecting the ball. Wolford will be signed to the practice squad after clearing waivers.
(Practice Squad) John Wolford
Running Backs (4): Todd Gurley, Darryl Henderson, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
All discussions have surrounded Todd Gurley and his arthritic knee since the Super Bowl. Analyst throughout the league seemed to have the Rams have written off the Rams run game primarily due to Gurley's non-participation in the preseason. In our opinion, Gurley is ready to return and run the ball with fresh legs to help explode the Rams offense. The Rams drafted rookie running back Darryl Henderson out of Memphis, who will be the clear cut favorite as the number two running back behind Gurley. Henderson did perform average; however, his explosiveness was able to be seen. Malcolm Brown will be in the mix behind Gurley, as they matched the Detroit Lions offer to bring him back. The was an uphill battle between Justin Davis and John Kelly, but expect one of the two traded by final cuts. Davis, the shifty of the two backs, do not be surprised as the Houston Texans make an offer for him after losing Lamar Miller for the season with a torn ACL.
(Practice Squad) (none)
Receivers (7): Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, KhaDarel Hodge, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster.
The Rams potentially will return the best four wide receivers in the league this season with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Josh Reynolds. They had their first two-1,000 yards receivers since the "Greatest Show On Turf," with Woods and Cooks. The team probably would have had three receivers had Kupp did not go out with a season-ending knee injury who was on pace as well. Josh Reynolds will be another weapon in his third season in this offense. Reynolds can easily be a starter on most other teams in the league but stepped up big when Kupp went down. Mike Thomas will continue to battle for action as seemed to have impressed this preseason. Thomas was lost last season after an injury to his ankle in the opener against the Oakland Raiders. Do not get too comfortable on Thomas, as he may become available for trade. If so, this will open the door for undrafted receiver Nsimba Webster from Eastern Washington. This preseason Webster has been impressive both as a receiver and return specialist. Webster hauled in his first NFL touchdown in his final preseason game against the Houston Texans. We believe Webster has done enough to outdo Jo Jo Natson, and will get the nod in the return game. If not, Rams will take the risk in cutting Webster and signing him to the practice squad. Let us not forget about KhaDarel Hodge who played well in the preseason while leading the Rams with 176 receiving yards on eleven receptions.
However, Webster led the team with 15 receptions for 150 yards in addition to his touchdown. It will be interesting to read when the Rams finally post their final 53-man roster.
(Practice Squad) Jalen Greene
Greene has earned himself a lock on the Rams practice squad, as he made several good catches against the Raiders in his debut. Greene also grabbed his first NFL touchdown last week to help defeat the Denver Broncos. Green returned home to the Coliseum where he once played as a USC Trojan.
Tight Ends (3): Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Tyler Higbee will start but will be challenged for his starting position and playing time by second-year tight end Gerald Everett. Everett in his third year is expected to break out in this offense as Jordan Reed. Johnny Mundt will back up the two and will play on primarily on short-yardage plays.
Rookie Kendall Blanton who scored in the final pre-season game was the better of the reserves and will land on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Kendall Blanton
Offensive Linemen (8): Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Austin Blythe, Joseph Noteboom, Jamil Demby, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Brian Allen,
The Rams are optimistic for the first time in two seasons, as their offensive line will have a new look up front. An overhaul to their line created where they lost players at critical positions. They will return both starting tackles in Andrew Whitworth and John Havenstein, along with starting right guard Austin Blythe. Blythe who filled in last season as starter Jamon Brown received a suspension from the league for the first two regular-season games. They lost veteran left guard Roger Saffold to free agency as he signed with the Tennessee Titans. Center John Sullivan did not receive a contract extension as they look to succeed him in the lineup.
Second-year lineman Joseph Noteboom will start at left guard replacing Saffold, and as well as the second-year center, Brian Allen who replaces Sullivan as the new starting center. Reserved center Aaron Neary, who faces a four-game suspension stemming back to the last season DUI, he also fractured his ankle against the Broncos last week. The only natural center on the roster at this point is undrafted Vitas Hrynkiewicz from Youngstown State, slips onto the roster possibly until the return of Neary's injury and suspension. To round out the remaining linemen, will be second year Jamil Demby, rookies Bobby Evans and David Edwards.
The depth at reserve linemen will be of a bit of a concern as they struggled at critical times in pre-season. Evans, Edwards, and Demby seemed to struggle with powerful bull rushes and the speed from fast edge rushers. Do not be too surprised if the Rams seek a veteran presence for the offensive line.
(Practice Squad) Vitas Hrynkiewicz
*** (Unfilled Roster Spot)***
Defensive Linemen (5): Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, John Franklin-Myers, Greg Gaines, Sebastian Joseph-Day
The Rams with so much depth of the defensive side of the ball; here we have another tough decision. The easiest decision is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers shore up the three-techniques. In the middle, if healthy by week one, expect Sebastian Joseph-Day to start at the 0-technique position.
The Rams did not resign veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, instead drafted Greg Gaines from the University of Washington in the fourth round. Gaines strength has shown early in the preseason and will provide an addition to its defensive line nucleus.
John Franklin-Meyers return as the same player last season with anything to show differently. However, still is disruptive this preseason and solidified another year on the roster. On the other hand, we see Tanzel Smart getting snubbed due to the talent, as he was inactive almost entirely last season.
(Practice Squad) none
Inside Linebackers (5): Corey Littleton, Clay Matthews Jr, Bryce Hager, Dakota Allen, Travin Howard
The Rams returned pro-bowler Corey Littleton at inside linebacker and were expecting second-year linebacker Micah Kiser to beside him on game day. Unfortunately, Kiser lost to a torn pectoral that required surgery and will miss significant time this season.
The Rams added six-time pro bowl linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. who has excellent pass-rushing experience. Due to the injury to Kiser, expect for Matthews to play predominately inside on early downs unless they can attract trade to in acquiring another linebacker. Bryce Hager returns as well, but not sure if he will start aside of Littleton.
Wade Phillips has to be very impressed of second-year linebacker Travin Howard and rookie Dakota Allen. Both Howard and Allen made active cases in securing roster spots as they played well in preseason. Lost to Kiser open ups a back-up for one of the two as well will perform on special teams. The pursuit of the ball carriers was violent as Allen dislodged on player helmet this preseason.
Rookies Landis Durham and Ketner Kupp showed signs but just too much talent in front of the two who lands on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Landis Durham, Ketner Kupp
**(PUP List)** Micah Kiser
Outside Linebackers (4): Samson Ebukam, Dante Fowler, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Morgan Fox
Samson Ebukam and Dante Fowler are the favorites in starting outside opposite of each other. Rams signed returned Fowler with a new one year prove it deal as he looked very explosive during preseason workouts. They had yet another tough decision on players to keep as they buried on the outside. Morgan Fox is finally healthy and making through the preseason deserves his opportunity to shine.
Second-year EDGE rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finally was able to get in the field after being sidelined nearly the entire 2018 season. Okoronkwo did not disappoint once afforded the opportunity, as making his presence felt up in the last preseason game. Okoronkwo posted seven total tackles (six solo and two for losses), two sacks, one quarterback hit, and a pass deflection. Natrez Patrick also played well after converting outside but will casualty and end up on the practice squad.
(Practice Squad) Natrez Patrick
(PUP List) For the second year in a row, Justin Lawler will spend at least six weeks on the PUP list. He's still recovering from a foot surgery that was required early in the OTA's.
Corner-backs (6): Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Nickell Robey-Coleman, David Long, Troy Hill, Darious Williams
The Rams will return three starting corners in Michael Peters, Aqib Talib, and slot specialist Nickell Robey-Coleman. Last season, Peters and Talib were injured early; however, Peters remained in the lineup hurt. Peters struggled early and never used his injury as an excuse and gutted it out. As the season progressed he the corner that we were so familiar of the season as the Rams headed to the postseason.
They drafted David Long from Michigan whom they expect to take over for Talib once his contract ends. It was a robust decision making finalizing the roster as great talent is released. In four of the first five games, the Rams will play against teams that spread out the field. Rams will carry extra defensive backs to counter the offenses.
They rewarded Troy Hill to a new two-year deal as deserving, as he earned the raise. However, the most impressing of the corners was Darious Williams, who seemed to turn more heads as he made play after play. Rams signed him off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad, as he remained on the active 53-man roster. His effective play will overshadow other returning talent who deservingly should be on the team. Kevin Peterson shined with two interceptions, Donte Deayon, and Dominique Hatfield will not make the final roster.
(Practice Squad) Dominique Hatfield, Kevin Peterson,
Safeties (5): Eric Weddle, John Johnson III, Marqui Christian, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott
The Rams did not resign safety LaMarcus Joyner as he departed and signed with the Oakland Raiders. Rams added veteran safety Eric Weddle to its backfield to accompany returning starter John Johnson III. Weddle adds a veteran presence in the defensive backfield that will assist Johnson to his first pro bowl selection.
The Rams have deep with their safeties and with young talent. However, they have just too many to make their final cuts. Marquise Christian returns in his third season with the team and will play all over the defensive backfield.
Rams rookie safeties Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott impressed while on the field. Rapp seemed to be already in regular-season form flying to the ball. Scott will excel on special teams and perhaps play some dime linebacker in coverage, as his speeds are recognized all over the field.
(Practice Squad) Steven Parker
Special Teams (3): Punter-Johnny Hekker, Kicker Greg Zuerlein, Long Snapper Jake McQuaide
This group of specialist never seem to amaze us, as they tend to have life-time contract and roster spots. Jake McQuaide, a pro bowl snapper to former pro bowl punter Johnny Hekker, takes the snap for pro bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein who put the Rams in Super Bowl LIII against the New Orleans Saints after making a 57-yard field goal.