LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams’ 5-12 finish was a surprise not just to the league after their Super Bowl-winning season in 2021, but within the franchise as well.
Perhaps most surprising was how much the offense struggled to consistently move the ball, even when quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Cooper Kupp were on the field. The Rams finished the season ranked 23rd in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, compared to eighth in 2021.
A big reason for the regression, of course, was the offensive line. That unit dealt with so many injuries that the Rams started 12 different offensive line combinations in their first 12 games of the season. By the time LA finally gained stability there, Stafford (spinal cord contusion), Kupp (high ankle sprain) and wide receiver Allen Robinson II (stress fracture in foot) were on injured reserve.
Now, one of the biggest questions of the offseason for the Rams is whether their offensive struggles can be remedied by a healthy roster, or whether they need a rehaul to get back to the powerhouse that won the Super Bowl less than a year ago.
Several times during Les Snead’s end-of-season new conference on Thursday, the general manager used “remodel” to talk about making changes to the roster. Remodel is a more accurate description than rebuild, Snead said because “of the way our roster is built right now.”
“We would almost have to somewhat tear it down to rebuild,” Snead said. “Because we do have a lot of really good players in their prime on this roster.”
So if the Rams aren’t rebuilding their roster — and specifically their offense — what does that mean for the 2023 season?
Some changes have already begun, as coach Sean McVay has moved on from several members of his coaching staff, although most were on the defensive side of the ball. Offensive line coach Kevin Carberry will not return, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris is also interviewing for outside head coaching jobs and former offensive coordinator Liam Coen exited after the season.
When asked what moves, either internal or external, needed to be made this offseason to get the offense playing at the level of the 2021 season, Snead pointed out that the Rams have “been very successful on offense since Sean has taken over,” regardless of the personnel.
“We’ve been successful many different ways with more than one, let’s call it, starting-caliber, franchise-caliber QB, with different wide receivers, different running backs, even different offensive line combinations,” Snead said. “And during that time [we were] … a top-five offense in a lot of different categories. So I think it’s probably … continue evolving, continue staying ahead of the curve.”
Snead said when evaluating the offense, he likes to first look at it “from a macro level.”
“How is our offensive machine going to get yards, get first downs, score points, and then at that point, it’s how do we want to accomplish that?” Snead said. “What do we want to do to accomplish that? Who do we need on our team to accomplish that?”
One area the Rams may have found some help in — and an area that could eventually be better than that 2021 team — is the run game. Down the final stretch, Cam Akers emerged as a running back who can carry the load and create “when there isn’t anything there,” according to McVay.
Midway through the season, Snead and the Rams thought they might not have Akers as a long-term option. Akers was on the trade block and even spent time away from the team in the middle of the season. But he eventually returned and played tremendously in December — amassing 512 yards and six touchdowns — and rushing for at least 100 yards in three straight games to end the season.
He missed most of the 2021 season with an Achilles injury and his replacements — Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson Jr. — behind a strong offensive line, ranked 12th in Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA.
While it wouldn’t be unexpected for Snead and the Rams’ front office to make a big move this offseason to add on either side of the ball, Los Angeles doesn’t have any big holes it will need to fill due to free agency. Instead, the Rams may try to add depth later in the draft. Snead said Thursday that including compensatory picks, the Rams expect to have 10 selections in the 2023 NFL draft, although many of those will be on Day 3.
If the Rams’ starting lineup can stay healthy next season, Snead said, the idea is that just like in the past Los Angeles can “use those Day 3 picks as relatively competent depth players that come in to partner with those starters when necessary.”
Still, while Snead made it clear that the Rams aren’t in a rebuild, historically this hasn’t been a franchise that will sit back hoping that a healthy roster will have them back in contention.
“We didn’t meet our standards,” Snead said. “We’re definitely aware of that. It is our reality. And that’s where we stand today.”