The Los Angeles Rams are geared to kick off the 2021 NFL season with a facelift on offense while returning all but two starters on last season's No. 1 defensive unit.
After a 10-6 campaign last year — losing in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers — the Rams have Super Bowl aspirations with a new quarterback at the helm.
Meanwhile, the road in which the Rams will have to face in order to achieve their lofty goals won't be an easy accomplishment. The Rams' expectations are to finish towards the top of the NFC West, however, their division is arguably the best in the NFL.
Since coach Sean McVay's arrival in Los Angeles, the Rams have made the playoffs in three of four seasons, including a trip to Super Bowl LIII.
The Rams will attempt to do what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did last season: play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
The Rams moved all their chips in the middle of the table this offseason when they acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford. Choosing to part ways with former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff and upgrade at the most formidable position has given McVay the ability to open up the playbook to its greatest extent.
Stafford has glamoured over his new playmakers, coaches and future with the organization. He took it as far as stating he would like to improve in this offense for up to 10 years.
“I hope I’m getting better in this offense for five, seven, 10 years,” Stafford said during training camp when asked about his new team. “I hope that my first game on September 12th isn’t my best game as a Ram. I’d love to have a great one, but I hope I get better and better in this offense with all these guys, with this team as it goes.”
While the Rams will go as far as Stafford's arm takes them, McVay's rushing attack is also a critical part of Los Angeles' success on offense.
The Rams received devastating news prior to training camp beginning when running back Cam Akers suffered a torn Achilles. In wake of his absence for the season, the plan was to rely on Darrell Henderson. After Henderson dealt with a lingering hand issue, that prompted general manager Les Snead to acquire running back Sony Michel from the New England Patriots.
As the Rams begin the new season, their plan is to run the ball with some combination of Henderson and Michel.
From a receiving standpoint, Stafford will have the joy of distributing the ball to the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson and second-round pick Tutu Atwell to name a few.
McVay will have a lot to live up to this season. As a play-caller, he’s regarded among one of the best, and with the personnel the Rams have, there's no reason they can't rank near the top of the league on offense.
The Rams will enter the 2021 season on defense under new guidance. Last year's defensive coordinator Brandon Staley took the head coaching job of the Rams' inner-city rival, the Los Angeles Chargers.
As a result, the Rams replaced Staley with Raheem Morris — last season's interim head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
Morris enters his first season in Los Angeles having inherited last season's top-ranked defensive unit. While the Rams lost two crucial members of its secondary in John Johnson III and Troy Hill to free agency, they're positioned well to have young talent fill the void. Although, lumps in the road may present themselves at times.
Most notably on defense, the Rams continue to pair two All-Pro players in defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey — each of which could be labeled as the best at their position.
While the Rams feature two of the most publicized names on defense, players like cornerback Darious Williams and safety Jordan Fuller have conveyed the ability to develop into prominent defenders.
Williams and Fuller combined for seven interceptions in 2020. Their excellent ball skills and knack to take away the ball will be crucial for the young secondary the Rams will possess in 2021.
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Rams' Final Injury Report for Week 3 vs. Buccaneers
The Rams have released their final injury report ahead of the Week 3 game against the Buccaneers.
Two Buccaneers Players Ruled Out in Week 3 vs. Rams
The Buccaneers have ruled out two players ahead of their matchup against the Rams.
The Rams will look to follow the defensive footsteps that laid the groundwork last season when they ranked No. 1 against the pass and No. 3 against the run.
As Morris gets his defense dialed in, the Rams have towering expectations and their defense will be a pivotal part in reaching that.
Rams 2021 Record Prediction: 12-5
After posting a 10-win season with Goff under center, expectations have skyrocketed since the addition of Stafford and rightfully so. Factoring in Stafford's contributions combined with a defense that should maintain its mold, I predict the Rams will win 12 games in 2021.
Expected Depth Chart
Quarterbacks: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
Running Backs: Sony Michel, Darrell Henderson Jr., Jake Funk
Wide Receivers: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek
Tight Ends: Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt, Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris
Offensive Line: Andrew Whitworth, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, Bobby Evans, Alaric Jackson, Coleman Shelton
Defensive Line: A'Shawn Robinson, Aaron Donald, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Greg Gaines, Michael Hoecht, Jonah Wiliams, Bobby Brown III
Outside Linebacker: Leonard Floyd, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, Chris Garrett
Inside Linebackers: Kenny Young, Troy Reeder, Travin Howard, Ernest Jones
Cornerbacks: Jalen Ramsey, Darious Williams, David Long Jr., Robert Rochell
Safeties: Jordan Fuller, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott, Terrell Burgess, J.R. Reed, JuJu Hughes
Specialist: Matt Gay (kicker), Johnny Hekker (punter), Matthew Orzech (long snapper)
*OT Tremayne Anchrum and OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo were added to injured reserve on Sept. 2.
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Nick Cothrel is the Publisher of Ram Digest. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickCothrel.