A Rams helmet placed in front of their home for the next three seasons until their state of the art stadium in Inglewood is completed. Photo courtesy of fansided.com
A PREVIEW TWENTY-TWO YEARS IN THE MAKING
LOS ANGELES RAMS – 2015 BY THE NUMBERS:
Record: 7-9, third place in the NFC West
Coach: Jeff Fisher, 5th season, 27-36-1 record
Last Winning Season: 2003
Last Time In The Playoffs: 2004
First Regular Season Game: Monday, September 12th vs the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA
First Regular Season Home Game: Sunday, September 18th vs the Seattle Seahawks
Highlights from the Rams’ historic preseason game at the Coliseum, the first time they have played in Los Angeles in 22 years, beating the Dallas Cowboys 28-24. Video courtesy of YouTube.com
Case Keenum, QB – 828 yards, 60.8% completions, 4 TDs, 1 INT
Todd Gurley II, RB (2015 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year) – 1,106 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 10 TDs
Tavon Austin, WR – 52 catches, 5 TDs
Aaron Donald, DT (2014 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) – 69 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 11 sacks
Todd Gurley II, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 who the Rams are expecting outstanding things from in 2016 and beyond. Photo courtesy of ramblinfan.com
It has been a long time.
So long that the last time these Rams were based in this part of the country, many of the team’s current players were in diapers.
And some of the ladies on their cheerleading squad weren’t even born yet!
I, for one, never thought this day would come.
But here it is as after 21 years in St. Louis, owner Stan Kroenke has in his wisdom brought the Rams back to the place where it was an institution in Southern California for 48 seasons, the first major sports franchise to call the Los Angeles area home.
The sense I got when I was at the Rams’ open scrimmage that L.A. dearly missed pro football was reinforced when nearly 90,000 fans – a preseason record – packed the Coliseum for their first game against the Dallas Cowboys on August 13th.
Which (not that it really mattered as it was only the preseason) they won on a late touchdown drive!
It certainly is a thrill that these Rams are home as they will make their return to Los Angeles official in four days from this writing, when they renew a reborn in-state rivalry with the San Francisco 49ers in the Bay Area.
With their return becoming truly official six days from then when they will play their first meaningful game as a Los Angeles-based team since 1994 – and their first game (that counts) in the Coliseum since 1979 – against the Seattle Seahawks.
January 3, 2016; Santa Clara, CA, USA; (then) St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) passes the football against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Photo courtesy of withthefirstpick.com
OK, let’s talk about the team itself…
Being that these guys haven’t had a winning season in 13 years, and haven’t played a postseason game in 12 years, one word best describes what Rams fans in this area, who are understandably still ecstatic over the return of their team, need to have this season:
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) reacts after a tackle of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (not pictured) in the first half of a pre-season NFL game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, August 20, 2016. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News) Photo courtesy of photos.dailynews.com
Don’t get me wrong; these Rams aren’t exactly the Bad News Bears of football as they have some legitimate talent on both sides of the ball, led by Todd Gurley, who being the NFL’s reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year is projected to be a superstar is the kind of player that these Rams can build around – and are going to.
As well as Aaron Donald on defense, as the defensive tackle won the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2014 and is the guy that Fisher is going to build his team around on that side of the ball.
Although he showed his potential in spurts, Jared Goff, the overall #1 pick, has shown that he is not quite ready to play on any kind of regular basis, which is why he has been deactivated for the opener against the 49ers.
And which is why Case Keenum will start; while he isn’t exactly Cam Newton or Tom Brady, he has decent enough ability and will do for now.
At least until Goff is ready.
In other words, the word that best describes these Rams this season and probably the next couple of seasons is…
Running back Aaron Green (#30) and quarterback Sean Mannion (#14), who beat out Jared Goff for the backup QB job this preseason. Photo courtesy of newsday.com
This is a young team that, despite Fisher’s proclamations on the HBO series “Hard Knocks”, should not be expected to achieve anything spectacular on the field as far as a lot of wins.
It’s a team that will still be on the “learning how to win in the NFL” mode, a team that has good potential and will grow thanks to Gurley, Donald, Goff, and whoever else they draft as their high round picks have so far paid good dividends.
But for now, my official prediction for this reborn L.A. team is…
A season in which they will go 8-8 and finish in third place in the NFC West (again), which will be a sign of progress and reason to celebrate at this point in the Rams’ development.
I don’t see the Rams making the playoffs this year, but if they continue to develop the way I think they can, I wouldn’t vote against them making the postseason in a couple of years, especially if Goff develops as expected.
My one big hope for this Rams’ faithful is that they don’t act like the typical SoCal fan and jump off the bandwagon when the team loses a few games.
Patience and loyalty is needed for this bunch as while they won’t be awful, it would be most foolish for anyone to buy Super Bowl tickets – or playoff tickets for that matter – for the next few years.
However, for now there’s only one more thing to say:
WELCOME HOME, LOS ANGELES RAMS!
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HAS MISSED YOU – AND WE’RE SO HAPPY TO HAVE YOU BACK!
The Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders and mascot during the Los Angeles Rams All-Access Gala event in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, on Thursday, June 16, 2016. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News) Photo courtesy of photos.dailynews.com