Fresh off a Week 11 open date, the Los Angeles Rams return to practice in Thousand Oaks and resume their 2021 campaign with seven wins and three defeats.
An infusion of fresh talent – Von Miller on defense and Odell Beckham Jr. on offense – should spark a stretch run. But the back half of the schedule is daunting, with long road trips and playoff-caliber competition.
Before looking ahead to Green Bay, let's reflect on a handful of individual performances worth honoring through 10 games.
Midseason Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp
The most obvious of any Rams award, Cooper Kupp has been the NFL's most prolific receiver.
Already with double-digit touchdowns and over 1,000 yards receiving, Kupp set a torrid pace and redefined fast starts. The acquisition of Matthew Stafford has unlocked the full potential of the fifth-year pro, who is now justifiably included on the list of true No. 1 options in the NFL.
But the story of Kupp's season can't be his record-breaking first half. After the 2018 and 2020 seasons concluded with Kupp sidelined, we all agreed we never want to see another Rams season end without him on the field.
Get in the playoffs with a healthy Cooper Kupp, and anything is possible.
Midseason Defensive Player of the Year: Jalen Ramsey
Normally we exclude Aaron Donald from such honors, taking his greatness for granted and allowing for the opportunity to highlight a fellow defender.
In 2021, it's actually fair to contend that Jalen Ramsey has outperformed even the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Thankfully for the Rams, they've got both.
Ramsey deserves the nod for having taken his game to another level – building off an All-Pro 2020 and leveraging it into an even more imposing 2021. His coverage has been immaculate, his tackling impactful, and leadership impressive.
Extra credit for recruiting Beckham, as well.
Midseason Special Teams Player of the Year: Matt Gay
Now with more than a 17-game-season sample size, Gay had been All-Pro caliber, ranking as one of the league's top placekickers since being signed in mid-2020. Aside from one rough night in Seattle in Week 5, there's been hardly anything to critique.
The rest of the kicking game still has a lot of work to do in order for the Rams to attain their goals, but Gay has been tremendous.
Midseason Newcomer of the Year: Matthew Stafford
Up until kickoff against the Titans, it was unanimous: Stafford had delivered everything the Rams had hoped for and more. And indeed, L.A. was proving to be the perfect place to unleash his skill set. He was generating MVP buzz.
Two losses and four costly interceptions later, the bloom may be off the rose for some observers.
However, the bye week arrived at a necessary time for Stafford to sync with Beckham, to heal some bumps and bruises, and to reset with Sean McVay.
He'll be back on track to continue his career-season and lead the Rams to the playoffs.
Midseason Most Improved: Greg Gaines
In his third campaign, defensive tackle Greg Gaines has emerged as the starter the Rams drafted him to be back in 2019. The superb efforts of Sebastian Joseph-Day blocked the way for Gaines to step into that role in prior years. But when opportunity knocked, Gaines was more than ready to answer and has stepped up with the best football and highest snap counts of his career.
Edge defenders Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Terrell Lewis warrant a mention here, too. Their reps have been more limited, and you could classify their progress under the heading of "comeback players" as opposed to strict improvement, which is why I settled on Gaines.
Rookie of the Year: TBD
Unfortunately, three rookies have been lost to injury before making much of an impact: Tutu Atwell, Jacob Harris, and Jake Funk.
Bobby Brown III had been largely inactive until stepping into Joseph-Day's vacated position on the game day roster. Chris Garrett has yet to dress for a game and is effectively redshirting.
That leaves Ben Skowronek on offense, Ernest Jones and Robert Rochell on defense. They've each had moments, but the Rams will need much more from them coming back for the playoff push.