In the span of three years, the Rams have been transformed from a collection of promising but relatively unknown commodities to an organization of household names. A good portion of that rise in Q-rating has occurred through individual development, while marquee trades and free agency have layered in All-Pros and Super Bowl-winning veterans.
However, in the spirit of “We Not Me,” what if we presented keys to the upcoming season without mentioning a single one of those players? After all, haven’t you read enough this summer about the left knee of a certain No. 30, and how the Rams fate will hinge on whether or not he’s able to score another 21 touchdowns?
Let’s go a different direction: What macro trends have enabled this franchise to win 24 regular season games and two division titles since the youngest coach in NFL history arrived?
(Yes, I’m even avoiding his name. You have my permission to throw a penalty flag if I slip up.)
Here are five that come to mind.
The Rams take on the Oakland Raiders in the first preseason game of 2019!
In many ways, it starts and ends here.
In 2018, the Rams were fourth in the league with a plus-11 turnover margin. Similarly, in 2017, they finished in the black at plus-7. Over that two-year span, only Kansas City and Seattle have better cumulative margins.
Last year, just two of the 14 teams that had neutral or negative turnover margins – BAL and PHI – made the postseason. So this is virtually imperative.
The current Rams coaching staff is unbeaten when wining the turnover battle and has only been beaten twice when the margin was even (at NO in Week 9, 2018 and Super Bowl LIII).
Football Outsiders quantifies health with their Adjusted Games Lost metric. After leading the NFL in that category in 2017, the Rams rated as the fourth healthiest team in 2018.
The coaching and medical and nutrition and operations and analytics staffs all deserve major kudos for prioritizing team health, especially when it comes to avoiding soft-tissue injuries. (Unfortunately, we can’t give them credit by name, here.)
That being said, the Rams also have been extremely fortunate since their Los Angeles homecoming when it comes to the injury report.
Offensive Line Continuity
The closest corollary to health has been the durability of the offensive line.
Last season, the same five lineman started all 16 regular season games and three postseason contests. In 2017, the only variation in the starting lineup occurred in Week 17, when the Rams opted to rest starters, having clinched the division.
We know the Rams will have two new starters on their offensive line in 2019. However, maintaining continuity within that group could go a very long way to replacing lost production.
Yards After Catch
Throughout the offseason program and training camp, the Rams attention to detail on this attribute cannot be overstated.
From schemes that put shifty weapons in space to delivering passes on time and on target, from players blocking for each other downfield to ball-carriers habitually finishing through tacklers, the Rams are elite at racking up yards after the catch. Over the past two years, they rank second in the NFL in YAC/reception (6.2).
Consider the play-calling options available on 2nd & 5 versus 2nd & 7. Or the impact of an extra yard per play over the course of the 1,060 snaps the offense ran last season.
Last one, as this was meant to be a light exercise, not an endurance test. And unlike a marathon, the sprint out of the starting blocks has proven to be significant to the Rams reign in the NFC West.
They led the league in first half scoring in 2017 and ranked second in 2018.
Since the most recent head coaching change, Los Angeles is 19-0 when leading at halftime.
I don’t put much stock in Time of Possession, except in this regard: Like any team, when the Rams play with the lead, they tend to stay ahead of the chains, stay on the field, and run up their play count. Having led the NFC in scoring in back-to-back seasons, there aren’t many opponents that stand a chance of orchestrating a comeback against the Rams – especially if they don’t possess the football.