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New Faces, Old Opponents: Los Angeles Rams

Last time we saw them, they played in a different city. A lot has changed since then.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
Sammy Watkins welcomes Robert Woods, who was also brought in this offseason.
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

If you ask me, the Rams should have stayed in St. Louis. Good for the city for not letting a billionaire push them around and force the people to pay for a new stadium. I am more accepting of their move to Los Angeles than the Chargers, but I do not think Los Angeles will be as supportive as hoped. Los Angeles does love one thing, though—winners. The Rams are now 6-2 and atop of the NFC West. Led by sophomore QB Jared Goff and skilled RB Todd Gurley, the Rams’ offense is playing at a level we have not seen from the franchise in a while. The Texans’ opponent this week added a lot of quality pieces to the team, so let’s get right to it and discuss the newest additions to the Los Angeles Rams’ roster.

Through Free Agency:

Robert Woods (Buffalo):

Woods was an underperforming wideout for the Bills and was not re-signed after his rookie contract expired. Out of college, his production outpaced his measurables as he excelled and earned many honors at USC. He was labeled a “bust”; it is just that his ceiling for production seemed to be set at 40-60 receptions, 500-600 yards, and 3 touchdowns each season. Now back in Los Angeles, where Woods played college ball, he is back to racking up big numbers in the Coliseum. He currently is the leading receiver for the Rams in terms of receptions and yards. Woods’ best play is over the middle, but he has great route running and excellent hands.

Andrew Whitworth (Cincinnati)

Take note, Houston: If you want to protect your young QB, invest heavily in a left tackle. New head coach Sean McVay made sure young Goff would have less pressure from his blindside for a couple of years with Whitworth protecting him. The 12-year veteran provides the stability and consistency to run an offensive scheme that takes a little bit longer than normal for plays to develop. Whitworth has barely missed a snap all season. His presence will make the Texans shift their defensive scheme away from the left side of LA’s line. Jadeveon Clowney will likely be lined up on the right side (of the offensive line) to avoid Whitworth.

Nickell Robey-Coleman (Buffalo)

Another USC product in his fifth year, Robey-Coleman is a tackling machine in the slot. Never given much credit for his role in Buffalo, he is a part of a young breed of corners who live in the slot for their tackling ability. He is tied for the team-high 2 INTs and has played a majority of the snaps on Wade Phillips’ defense. He will most likely be on whoever is in the slot - so probably Bruce Ellington or Stephen Anderson.

Connor Barwin (Eagles)

Barwin has made a solid career for himself after leaving the Texans. His best season was in 2014, when he recorded career highs of 14.5 sacks and 64 tackles. Barwin’s productivity seems to be staying consistent, as he has 4 sacks already. His ability to rush the passer in 3-4 defenses is a huge asset to the Rams because their defensive line is more predicated on stopping the run. At the age of 31, Barwin is still making an impact on the league.

John Sullivan (Washington)

Although he spent most of his career in Minnesota, Sullivan has assumed a starting role for the Rams. Sullivan is a part of a retooled offensive line for the Rams, and he has been a good addition to their squad. Although his snap counts have declined in the past two games while rotating in with free agent signee Austin Blythe, Sullivan is still the starter. He will be facing off against D.J. Reader and Carlos Watkins for the majority of Sunday’s game.

Through Trade

Sammy Watkins (Buffalo)

The Rams sure do like players who want to get out of the cold of Buffalo and into the California sun. The Bills traded Sammy Watkins and a 2018 sixth-round pick for former Rams’ cornerback E.J. Gaines and a 2018 second-rounder. The Rams have inhaled a ton of talent to surround Goff quickly. Watkins has been a productive WR in the league, but his potential has not matched his production. He has the size, speed, and hands to be a WR1 but looks to be a third or fourth option behind RB Gurley in the passing game. Watkins can really stretch the field and will terrorize Marcus Gilchrist if the Texans continue to run a single high safety set.

Through the Draft

Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington)

Kupp is the perfect slot receiver in the Rams offense. He has the triple crown of receiving records in Division IA football (receptions, yards, and touchdowns). He caught 428 passes for 6,464 yards and 73 touchdowns in his college career. With Sammy Watkins not being as involved in the offense as expected, the third round pick has excelled early in his NFL career. Kupp will not blow you away with his speed, but he is one of those guys who can get open against anyone. His best production comes on third down, where he has 10 catches for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kupp has three touchdowns on the season and will be a huge factor as WR2 for the Rams.

Gerald Everett (South Alabama)

Oh hey look, another weapon. Gerald Everett is a strong tight end with soft hands. This was considered an odd pick at the time it was made, as it was the Rams’ first pick in the draft (in the second round) and they just had drafted TE Tyler Higbee the year before. Everett has only caught eight passes this year, but does have one touchdown. He rotates in with Higbee and plays about 30% of the offense snaps. Most of his passes are good for 21+ yards, and he stretches the field over the middle. This may be a big problem, as Texans fans have watched LB Benardrick McKinney struggle against tight ends over the middle.

John Johnson III (Boston College)

Starting SS Johnson has made great strides in his rookie year. When he started against the Seahawks for the first time, he picked off Russell Wilson and almost took it to the house. He has made a ton of fourth down stops this season and looks to maintain the starting role over Maurice Alexander.

Tanzel Smart (Tulane)

Lightweight for a DT, Smart plays a two-technique in the Rams’ 3-4 defense. He has quickly gained a starting role for the Rams. His job is not too difficult when he has Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers on either side of him. From what I have read, Smart had been the starter at Tulane for three straight years and had quality production in each of them. What he lacks in size, he makes up for with a big motor and crushing determination. He recovered a fumble against the Cowboys in a very fun game to watch. When he does get beaten, it’s usually on double teams at the point of attack.

In my opinion, the Rams have an offense that can go round-for-round with anyone in the league. They are the 76ers of the NFL. They are performing well above their weight right now with a young talented core of skill players with a strong and athletic set of defensive athletes. If the Texans were at full health, this game would be an amazing watch. My biggest fear is that when the Rams go four-wide with Woods, Kupp, Watkins and Everett, their talent exceeds the coverage ability of our secondary. Combine that with the skills of Todd Gurley against a weakened Houston front-seven, and I think the Rams will race out to some early points.