Better, worse or the same? A look at the Rams' changes on offense

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Better, worse or the same?

That's the question facing the Los Angeles Rams as they attempt to bounce back from an inconsistent 9-7 season that kept them from a third consecutive playoff appearance.

Unlike the past two years, the Rams offseason transactions did not draw overwhelming excitement, as their most notable moves included running back Todd Gurley's release and the decision to trade receiver Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans.

So now, with free agency mostly in the rearview, and the NFL draft complete, it's time to look at the Rams' roster to determine if, based on personnel changes, they improved this offseason.

Let's start with the offense.


Additions: None

Losses: Blake Bortles (Unsigned)

These guys are back: Jared Goff, John Wolford

Better, worse or the same: Worse

This designation has nothing to do with Goff, but reflects the backup situation. Goff has never missed a start since he was promoted 10 games into his rookie season (with the exception of Week 17 of 2017, when coach Sean McVay rested starters). However, last season the experienced Bortles -- who once helped the Jacksonville Jaguars to an AFC Championship Game appearance -- provided insurance that the Rams' season could sustain a Goff injury.

An undrafted free agent in 2018 from Wake Forest, Wolford has never played in a regular-season NFL game.

"We love Jared," McVay said this offseason. "And there's a lot of upside to a John Wolford."

In four preseason games last year, Wolford completed 25 of 44 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns. He spent the season on the practice squad.

Running backs

Additions: Cam Akers (Second-round pick)

Losses: Todd Gurley (Atlanta Falcons)

These guys are back: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, John Kelly

Better, worse or the same: Worse

Gurley's production declined last season, but he remained an above-average back who commanded respect from opposing defenses as a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Henderson, Akers and Brown do not stoke that same fear in a defense. At least not yet.

Henderson played in 8% of the offensive snaps as a rookie. He flashed in a Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers when he rushed 22 and 14 yards on consecutive carries. But it's to be determined whether Henderson is a feature back.

Akers could provide a strong presence between the tackles, but growing pains are expected after the rookie missed on-field instruction because of the virtual offseason program.

A sixth-year pro, Brown provides experience and is dependable -- he rushed for a career-high five touchdowns last season. But expect the young backs to be featured after the Rams recently invested in them with early draft picks.

"What we wanted to do was get a group that we felt really good about," McVay said. "This enables us to say, 'We're not necessarily committed to any approach, it's a feel for the flow of the game.' But you'd like everybody to create a role for themselves, and we'll see what ends up happening then."


Additions: Van Jefferson (Second-round pick), Greg Dortch (Two-year, $1.5 deal)

Losses: Brandin Cooks (Houston Texans)

These guys are back: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster

Better, worse or the same: Same

Cooks' speed and ability to stretch a defense is a considerable loss. However, last season Cooks and Goff never established a consistent connection, as Cooks caught 42 passes for 583 yards and two touchdowns.

Reynolds and Jefferson can provide a fresh look.

A fourth-round pick in 2017, Reynolds served mostly as a backup the past three seasons, but filled in as a starter when needed. In 48 games, Reynolds caught 61 passes for 832 yards and seven touchdowns. The Rams expect that he will, or at least play a significantly increased role, this season.

"He's a guy that we have a lot of confidence in," McVay said. "We would not have made the move on Brandin Cooks if had not been for the confidence that we have in Josh Reynolds."

McVay touts Jefferson's ability to separate and catch the ball and ranks him among the best receivers in a loaded draft class. After the virtual offseason program, it's uncertain exactly how the rookie will fit into the offense, but his versatility will be key.

"Van really provides the opportunity to play all three spots," McVay said. "He's a really polished route runner."

Woods and Cooks return after 1,000-plus receiving yard seasons in 2019.

Tight ends

Additions: Brycen Hopkins (Fourth-round pick)

Losses: None

These guys are back: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt, Kendall Blanton

Better, worse or the same: Better

Watch for McVay's offense to utilize two tight ends more often after the Rams found late-season success last year in 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends).

Higbee proved himself as a playmaker in the final five games of 2019, when he caught 43 passes for 522 yards.

Everett, entering the final season of his rookie contract, has played well at times, but also is an inconsistent presence. Last season, he caught 37 passes for 408 yards and two touchdowns.

When Hopkins remained available in the fourth round of the draft, the Rams could not pass on the opportunity to select the Purdue product. As a senior last season, Hopkins caught 61 passes for 830 yards and seven touchdowns.

"We really like our tight end room right now," Rams general manager Les Snead said. "But we had him highly rated and felt like he could come in and carve out a role early."

With Cooks gone, watch for the tight ends to play an increased role in the passing game.

Offensive line

Additions: Tremayne Anchrum Jr. (Seventh-round pick)

Losses: None

These guys are back: Andrew Whitworth (Three-year, $30 million deal), Austin Blythe (One-year, $3.9 million deal), Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Austin Corbett, David Edwards, Bobby Evans, Chandler Brewer, Jamil Demby, Coleman Shelton

Better, worse or the same: Same

The line did not undergo any personnel changes this offseason, with the exception of Anchrum's addition.

Snead and McVay expressed optimism in the group's ability to continue its development following last season's injuries (starters Noteboom, Allen and Havenstein were sidelined) and growing pains.

"We felt confident that if we continue grooming and developing these players, they'd have a chance to become a really solid offensive line," Snead said.

The challenge will be finding the correct combination of five starters after each position shuffled in 2019, with exception of Whitworth at left tackle.

Havenstein and Evans will compete at right tackle, and Evans also could play inside. It's uncertain if Blythe will remain at center, or if Allen will resume the role. Noteboom, Corbett and Edwards also will compete for a guard spot.