In 2017, Sean McVay took Jeff Fisher’s leftovers and showed the NFL what a difference coaching competence makes, leading the Los Angeles Rams to a 11-5 record, the franchise’s first winning season since 2003.
But instead of sitting back and relying on the growth of young stars like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley to propel the team into the next tier of contendership, the team has spent the offseason arming McVay with an ungodly amount of talent, most recently trading a first-rounder and a sixth-rounder to the New England Patriots for stud deep threat Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick.
And while Cooks’ replacing the often-injured Sammy Watkins is a nice upgrade, the real improvements have been on defense, trading for ball-hawking cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and signing three-time All-Pro Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal.
Peters has more interceptions, 19, than any player since he entered the league in 2015. Talib has 34 picks since he graduated to the NFL in 2008, more than anyone save for future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. And in the defensive backfield they’re joining the already-there Lamarcus Joyner, whom Pro Football Focus rated as the third-best safety in the NFL in 2017.
As terrifying as the Rams’ fearsome secondary may be, quarterbacks will have few opportunities to test it — on the defensive line, Suh and his 51.5 career sacks join Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year who’s made an All-Pro team in three of his first four NFL seasons, and the solid Michael Brockers.
Good luck getting the ball out before your head comes off, would-be passers.
According to Football Outsiders, the Rams were fifth in the NFL in weighted offensive DVOA and eighth in weighted defensive DVOA, including third in passing defense. Expect those numbers to improve in 2018.
A season ago, Sean McVay and Co. snuck up on the NFL. Now, they should head into the year as favorites to win the Super Bowl.