The Los Angeles Rams NFL season begins tomorrow with a primetime matchup against the Chicago Bears. Opening the multi-billion dollar SoFi Stadium to the L.A. faithful for the first time, the new-look Rams will have plenty to prove on both sides of the ball.
Here are three storylines to watch as the two team's make their final preparations for tomorrow evenings’ contest:
1. How Long is Matthew Stafford’s Adjustment Period?
Stafford arrives in Los Angeles looking for a new start. After an offseason deal that swapped Stafford for former quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams will have an entirely new offensive look. While the schemes and basic concept of the offense will remain the same, the ceiling is much higher in 2021.
The Rams are getting a quarterback in Stafford that has thrown for 4,000+ yards eight times in his career. Los Angeles finally has a true West-Coast offense quarterback who can help McVay’s system be revitalized after stalling a bit last season. The only true factor will be how long it takes Stafford to adjust. With a tough first defensive matchup facing pass rusher Khalil Mack and the Bears in his first week, whatever timing and chemistry Stafford has with his new teammates will be paramount.
2. Can the Rams Handle Andy Dalton?
The short answer is yes, the Rams can handle Dalton. Obviously one of the leagues’ best defenses from 2020 is not going to struggle against one of the lowest-rated quarterbacks from 2020. However, the Rams' historic success in 2018 was predicated on the elite defensive unit setting up Goff and McVay for success. A week one matchup against Dalton and a sub-par offensive line in Chicago is the perfect segway to the Rams defense once again taking control of Los Angeles’ destiny. Jalen Ramsey will be shadowing Allen Robinson and Aaron Donald will be causing chaos with the Bears' offensive line. Assuming all goes well, the Rams' offense will have an easy day set up by multiple turnovers from the Rams' defense.
3. How are the running back duties split?
Rushers Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson will be the two main running backs for the Rams this season. With Cam Akers out for the season, Michel was brought in to replace the young speed back. Michel averaged 5.7 yards per attempt last season during limited action in New England. He is more experienced than Henderson, however, Michel will likely have a decent learning curve given the advanced responsibilities of a running back in McVay’s offense.
Last season, Henderson averaged 4.5 yards per carry in a three-man backfield with Akers and Malcolm Brown. As one of two running backs now, Henderson projects around 650 yards and 7 touchdowns for the season. The duo of Michel and Henderson may not be as truly dynamic as Akers and Henderson, but with upgrades in the wide receiver depth and at quarterback, the running game will be slightly less important this year. However, given the importance of the running game in McVay’s offense, it will be interesting to see how the duties are split.
Season Records: Rams (0-0) vs. Bears (0-0)
Odds: Rams -8 (-105)
Stat: McVay has never lost a Week 1 game with the Rams, boasting a 4-0 record.
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Keep An Eye On: It would be naive to say anyone other than Stafford who will be making his Rams debut. The offense will go as far as his arm takes them.
Rams' Key To Victory: Get out to an early start on offense. With Stafford, the receiving core and the running backs not taking any snaps in preseason play, they'll need to show early on that they have the offense in the palm of their hands with just a minor adjustment period.
Date/Time: Sunday, September 12, 2021 at 5:20 p.m. PT
Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
TV: NBC (Local and National)
Radio: 93.1 JACK FM
The Final Word: “I think it would be naive for us not to prepare” to see Justin Fields in “some form or fashion,” McVay said.