1.) Jared Goff had one of the worst rookie seasons in recent memory, but I've been hearing some positive reviews this month. Is there still hope that he can be a franchise quarterback?
Hope? Absolutely. He's still just 22-years old with seven NFL starts. Proclaiming anything as an absolute for Goff right now is far too presumptuous. The problem is the baseline that was set in 2016.
Jared Goff could improve by a large margin and still be a bottom 5 QB. That's hardly going to be an inspiring outcome for Rams fans if that's where we're headed. Anything above that would be pretty miraculous on the part of the Rams' new coaching staff led by new Head Coach Sean McVay. Anything below that and the Rams could be looking for stronger competition in 2018 than what backup QB Sean Mannion offers.
That being said, he definitely looked good last weekend against the Raiders, though the degree of difficulty was low. The Raiders defense is hardly a strong unit, and most of Goff's work was underneath. Goff only made two difficult throws but never pressed the risk factor. Things won't come as easy throughout the season so the question becomes one of when the need to up the risk factor presents itself how he will perform.
There's no denying that this season presents a crucial challenge for Goff. We'll have to see when we get to regular season action if he can step up and turn those hopes into reality.
2.) Aaron Donald has shown no signs that I have seen of returning to the team anytime soon. Do you expect he will be back and playing by week 1? if not week 1, when?
So the only hard deadline we can be certain of is that he'll show up by Week 10. He can't miss more than eight games or the Rams' contractual rights to him would extend another year.
The real problem is that we're at this point in the first place. The Rams doled out contract extensions to both OLB Robert Quinn and WR Tavon Austin heading into their fourth years, so there's precedent for the Rams not forcing valued first-round picks to play out their full rookie contract into fifth-year extensions and franchise tags as some fans are hoping the Rams do with Donald.
He's going to hit market value above $20m/year and he's playing for less than $9m over the next two seasons. Essentially, he's looking for a way to make up that $31m difference. How the Rams get there at this point, I'm not sure. They've had plenty of time to reach a resolution and we're at the point where there's just not a lot of action from either side.
So I expect Donald back at November at the latest, but it's just troubling that we're in this position in the first place.
3.) Jeff Fisher was one of the worst coaches in the NFL. How does the new regime look a few weeks out from the start of the season?
Well, the grass is always greener. Coming off the heels of 2016 in which the Rams went 4-12 with the worst offense in the NFL, nearly any coaching staff is going to look "better" in comparison.
I'm bullish on McVay and his staff, though obviously, I'll cop to a bias as a fan. And I'm eager to see how he can turn things around over the next few years. I think there is a bit of cognitive dissonance from a large population of Rams fans who know first-year head coaches aren't under any pressure to turn things around in Year 1 but still expect it to happen in 2017. But clearly, McVay and Co. are being aided by the sheer juxtaposition against their predecessors.
Cognitive dissonance and juxtaposition! Just your average football talk between two dudes!
4.) The Rams were the worst offense in football by DVOA, but they have added some pretty substantial receiving talent. Do you think that they crawl out of the bottom third of the league?
Oh man. That's tough. I mean the answer is clearly "yes", but I'm not sure of when.
The Rams' offense has been in the bottom third of the league since 2006. You could make the argument they had the worst offense in 2009 and 2015. There is no argument that they were the worst offense in 2011 and 2016. So there's just a ton of variables in the air that makes it hard to project where this offense is headed, especially early on.
Part of what's going to be interesting with the offense is how different it might be from September to December. Not only do you have rookies and second-year players all over the place, but even some of the veterans are first-year Rams like WR Sammy Watkins, WR Robert Woods, LT Andrew Whitworth and C John Sullivan.
So as much as I'd like to buy into the idea that the Rams escape that bottom-third tier in the first year under McVay, I think there are just so many moving pieces to put anything into that right now.
Here's hoping against the odds, though.
5.) The Rams beat the Chargers to Los Angeles by a year, so we are much earlier in the relocation fall out process. How are Rams fans feeling about the franchise a year after the move?
Well, You've got a couple different groups of fans. You've got old fans like me who have followed the team from Los Angels to St. Louis and back. Clearly, the relocation didn't affect our attention. You've also got old LA fans who turned on the team when they moved and have rekindled their fandom in the last 20 months. And then you've just got newer fans (a much smaller population compared to other franchises) who aren't really put off by a very tumultuous 30-year history since the mid-80s. They're just looking for some kind of validation that they're not getting from the product in recent years.
So there's a schism between those fans who care about the football and those who care about the location. Those kinds of schisms get papered over when the team is winning. Not so much when it's not.
In a decade? The fans from St. Louis who either no longer follow the team or follow them out of spite will have moved on for the most part. The fans who use the Rams as a prism for their pride in the city of Los Angeles will have had too much football to simply play that angle. For now, though, there are still deep divides for the Rams to try to traverse. Last year didn't help. A stadium in 2020 will be the first real test of whether or not they have sealed shut those divides. That they're betting on the youngest coach in NFL history tells you how big of a bet this is.
If nothing else, it's going to make for a very, very interesting franchise over the next few years.