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Rams open season on road against familiar foe | Rams-Seahawks Game Preview

Our final on-air duty last season was a brief postgame interview with Sean McVay.

My broadcast partner Maurice Jones-Drew and I wished the head coach of the Rams well and expressed our hope we'd get to do it again.

Following a heart-wrenching overtime loss in Seattle last January, we all knew the season was over. We'd be prepared for that reality for months.

Was the McVay Era over, though?

It wasn't just the head coach. Having already pondered retirement after completing his trophy case with a Super Bowl ring, Aaron Donald's future was uncertain after the first consequential injury of his career. Matthew Stafford had been shut down. And while Cooper Kupp was not as far along professionally, he too had missed the second half of the Rams 2022 schedule.

We were all wondering if that near-upset of Seattle was going to be the last time we'd see the leading characters of Super Bowl LVI on the field. Or more accurately, whether we'd failed to notice that day way back in Week 9 at Tampa Bay, when they had last been in the lineup together.

Thankfully, to a man, they're back. Their partnership continues.

Kupp won't play this season-opener, as you know. But he'll play this year. He'll be a part of the Rams attempt to remodel without rebuilding. And when he does, L.A. will be a tough out.

As they were in Week 18 last season.

Kupp Half Full

It's no slight against Kupp to be exponentially more confident in the Rams ability to win without him in Seattle nine months after we left.

He's been mostly sidelined through the offseason, so as McVay pointed out to the media recently, this doesn't catch the Rams flat-footed in terms of game-planning.

Van Jefferson has looked terrific all summer. Tutu Atwell's time is now. Puka Nacua could be the most impactful Rams rookie since Kupp, and has been training in his absence almost since the day he arrived. Demarcus Robinson was a revelation in training camp and has a proven track record with multiple franchises. Ben Skowronek is as close to human duct tape as you'll find in the NFL. Plus, the Rams have a deep and viable tight end room – there's nothing wrong with playing Tyler Higbee and Brycen Hopkins (or Davis Allen) together more if the three-receiver sets don't threaten the Seahawks defense the way you'd intended.

And most importantly, unlike last summer, these eligibles have all been getting extensive work with Matthew Stafford. I'll take this predicament over where the Rams were last summer, when the quarterback was the non-participant.

The Rams want Kupp back in a helmet just as urgently as those who drafted him in their fantasy leagues. But in the meantime, this offense is more than capable of moving chains and scoring points.

Starting Line Up

My belief is fortified by what they've done on the offensive line.

From new position coach Ryan Wendell to rethinking the approach with new offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur.

From supplementing the talent with rookie draft pick Steve Avila and trade acquisition Kevin Dotson, to the return of players I'm convinced are starting-caliber like Alaric Jackson, Joe Noteboom, and Tremayne Anchrum Jr..

If you haven't heard the latter describe the disposition of the 2023 offensive line room, by the way, the jolt of competition and confidence is rejuvenating.

Last year's setback has laid the foundation for a comeback in the trenches.

Did Seattle Model The Way?

What the Rams are attempting to do – renovate without rebuilding – is essentially what the Seahawks have successfully accomplished.

In moving on from Russell Wilson and bringing the Legion of Boom era to a close (though Bobby Wagner is back in navy blue), few gave the Seahawks much consideration going into last season.

Quoting directly from Pro Football Focus in August of 2022:

We have become accustomed to thinking of Seattle as a playoff contender, but that was only a constant as long as their quarterback was elite, and that's far from the case now.

Not only did the Seahawks land in PFF's "Rebuilding" category, they were 32nd – dead last! – in the preseason power rankings.

Yet they won nine games and earned a Wild Card berth, and are in even stronger standing going into 2023.

I won't stretch the parallels to Los Angeles too far (PFF has the Rams 29th currently, for what it's worth). But kicking off in Seattle should be a reminder that it can be done successfully, even if the Rams are approaching their roster refresh differently.

Oh, Captain, Eight Captains

I get it. Eight is a lot. Everyone gets a "C" on his chest. Have a chuckle at the Rams expense if you will.

But here's what I read into the Rams selecting so many captains, including first-timers Tyler Higbee, Ernest Jones IV, and Ben Skowronek: We have more than enough to get this done.

These captains are barely a year removed from their ring ceremony, after all. And they're not alone. Cam Akers and Van Jefferson and John Johnson III have all played in the season's final game. We could go on.

The 2023 Rams seem to be indicating that while the outside world may not know who they are, inside their walls, there's experience and leadership and trustworthiness.

It's Not How You Start… Or Is It?

Since the schedule was released, we've anticipated this weekend but also had to reckon with what awaits.

It's a brutal juxtaposition – the least experienced Rams roster in recent history versus four Super Bowl contenders in the first five weeks.

This is normally where we assert how important it will be to get off to a good start. How September has been a dominant month for the McVay-led Rams.

But the truth of the matter is that there seems to be a bunch of gettable games after the bye, if the team is in good shape and improving with experience. I could see how a team dependent on so many players on rookie contracts might actually grow together and be in position to make a run come November.

Is winning five of their last seven or six of eight down the stretch unrealistic, on paper? Not to my way of thinking.

But how many of the first two, the first five, the front nine do the Rams need to win to be in position to capitalize?

My hope for the 2023 Los Angeles Rams is that they earn the right to survey the landscape of the NFC at the trade deadline (which nearly aligns with their bye week) and inform their next wave of organizational decisions. That can only be accomplished by putting their best product on the field versus the league's toughest first two months.

Take a look through photos of Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald, tight end Tyler Higbee, defensive back Cobie Durant & more Rams players getting ready to face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

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