NFL Today: Los Angeles Rams Face Tough Road
The Rams need WR production beyond Cooper Kupp. (All-Pro Reels Photography)
The franchise tag multi-year extension signing deadline is less than a month away; Patriot CB Jack Jones pleaded not guilty to weapons charges; and recently released RB Dalvin Cook dreams of playing with recently released WR DeAndre Hopkins. Let’s take a look around the NFL world.
Can the Rams Rebound?
Last season, the Los Angeles Rams cratered to a 5-12 mark, their worst record since 2016, the year before the Sean McVay era began. Unfortunately, those hoping the team makes an immediate bounce back might be disappointed as oddsmakers are not projecting much of a turnaround, slotting the Rams’ over/under win total at just 6.5.
Given that they face the ninth-hardest schedule in the NFL, it’s not a big shock that no one is expecting a fast recovery.
The key to L.A. turning things around will be QB Matthew Stafford enjoying a much better year. In 2021, he did his usual Jekyll and Hyde thing, but the good massively outweighed the bad. Last year, Stafford’s campaign was cut short thanks to a spinal contusion, but even while active he was a shell of himself, managing just 10 TD passes in nine games.
We know he has one of the game’s top weapons in Cooper Kupp, but the rest of the WR corps (we’re looking at you, Van Jefferson) will need to step up if Stafford has hopes of rebounding.
For 2023, consider Stafford — who is no Russell Wilson, apparently (see video below) — a low-end QB2 with upside.
Concerns Over Jags’ Edge Rush
The Jacksonville Jaguars took a huge step forward last year, improving from 3-14 to 9-8, earning their first playoff berth since 2017 in the process. They enter 2023 as +2500 favourites to win the Super Bowl as per FanDuel sportsbook.
However, in order to take the next step, the team badly needs to address its edge rush situation. Josh Allen is one of the NFL’s best and seems to keep getting better, but behind him, there’s reason for concern. The Jags have shown they are capable of applying pressure, but too seldom has it resulted in sacks.
Losing Arden Key to division rival Tennessee definitely hurts, especially considering Jacksonville has not replaced him. Clearly, the Jaguars are banking on 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker becoming a more consistent force after a meh rookie effort.
We’re very curious to see if Jacksonville makes a move to add more depth to this unit.
The Michael Thomas Contract
Michael Thomas had a brilliant rookie year in 2016 and then just kept getting better, culminating in his monster 2019 season (149 receptions, 1,725 yards and nine touchdowns). However, it’s been all downhill since.
In 2020, a lingering ankle woe limited Thomas to seven games and just 40 receptions, and a subsequent operation for this injury cost him all of 2021. The news came just five days after we had projected him to be a top 10 receiver. Oops. About that…
Last year was an even bigger shit show as a foot injury cost him 14 games, so he only managed 16 receptions.
All the injuries forced him to take a very incentive-laden deal this offseason. Before you feel too sorry for him, Thomas did get a $5 million signing bonus, but his base salary for 2023 will be only $1.26 million. He can earn another $4 million based on a wide array of incentives for receiving yards, touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl, if the Saints make the playoffs or if he wins an individual honour.
Given all the rust, however, it’s hard to think of Thomas as even a top 50 option for 2023. Consider him a low-end WR4 or bye-week option.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Catalan rumba gods Gipsy Kings launched in 1978 and have been active since. In 1987, they released their third album, an eponymous effort, which included the hypnotic instrumental “Moorea.”