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Know Your Enemy: Rams and Cardinals

Bonus Know Your Enemy continues and moves into the NFC West. Let’s start part 1 of the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams had a disappointing 9-7 season following a Super Bowl loss the previous year. Sean McVay is still the HC but lost some of his shine as Goff and the Rams offense took a step back. Kevin O’Connell is the new OC and Brandon Staley takes over at DC after the Rams got rid of Wade Phillip. Rams beat the Bears last year and will play Chicago again this year in Los Angeles.

Strengths

Passing Game

Jared Goff had a down-year but the Rams should still have a strong passing game with McVay at the helm. Goff had a 86.5 rating with 4,638 yards 22 TDs and 16 interceptions. He must get back to 2018 form (101.1 rating) for the Rams to have a chance in a tough NFC West.

Los Angeles has plenty of weapons despite cutting Brandin Cooks (583 yards and 2 TDs) due to cap and concussion reasons. Cooper Kupp had 1,161 yards and 10 TDs in 2019 in a big year back from a knee injury. Robert Woods added 1,134 yards but only 2 TDs. Tyler Higbee produced at tight end with 734 yards and 3 TDs. Rams only have Josh Reyolds in the slot and added Van Jefferson in Round 2 of the draft. Gerlad Everett added 400 yards as the 2nd tight end and Brycen Hopkins was drafted at TE in Round 4.

Offensive Line

The Rams offensive line is still a strength with Andre Whitworth returning. He is still a good LT but slipped a bit in 2019 from elite to good. Austin Corbett was added in a trade from the Browns to revive his career at LG. Brian Allen is a good center going into year 3 and Austin Blythe has been a road grader RG in the run game. Finally, Rob Havenstein is a solid right tackle for years for Los Angeles. Some depth with 3rd round picks from prior years in Bobby Evans and Joseph Noteboom but injuries could hurt them here.

The Rams will need to keep Goff clean so he can improve from a down year. The run game will look much different as Los Angeles cut Todd Gurley (Falcons) due to his bad contract and knee problems. Rams are rolling with Malcolm Brown, 2019 3rd round pick Darrell Henderson and 2020 2nd round pick in Cam Akers. Rams have some young talent here on much cheaper deals. They should still be a good running team.

Defensive Line and Pass Rush

The Rams defensive line is strong led by Aaron Donald. Donald is an elite DT and will continue to be disruptor in 2020. Michael Brockers is a great run defender (who almost signed with the Ravens) and the Rams added former Lion A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson had a down year in 2019 with Detroit but had success in 2018. He should provide some run defense at least for his new team.

Leonard Floyd was also added in free agency from the Bears to bring a pass rush (replacing Clay Matthews cut). Terrell Lewis was drafted in Round 3 out of Alabama to try and spark the pass rush as well. Samson Ebukam will need to step up as well.

Secondary

Jalen Ramsey was a big addition for them but they still need to sign him long-term after giving up a 1st for him. Troy Hill is an average CB but Taylor Rapp and John Johnson are two good young safeties. Terrell Burgess was also added at safety in Round 3 of the draft. David Long is a 3rd round 2019 pick they hope becomes a good nickel. It’s a young secondary but with Ramsey and good safeties it should have success if there is a pass rush.

Weakness

LB

The Rams lost coverage LG Corey Littleton in free agency (Raiders). 2018 5th round pick Micah Kiser, rookie Terrell Lewis, Ebukam (Will LB), Leonard Floyd and two 7th round picks from 2018 will be the LB crew. This looks like a pretty weak group for run defense and coverage for the Rams.

Overall

Rams get a new stadium and will be an interesting team in 2019. Can they get back to 2018 form in a very tough NFC West. They will be tough game for the Bears in Los Angeles in Week 7.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals showed some flashes in 2019 as Kyler Murray developed as a rookie. Kliff Kingsbury is the HC and calls the plays and Vance Joseph is the DC. Arizona tied Detroit with a great comeback in the 4th Quarter down by double digits. Lions called a time out on the game winning play to allow the Cardinals to tie the game later. The Lions will travel to Arizona again in Week 3 in 2020. Arizona was 5-10-1 in 2019.

Strengths

Passing Game

Kyler Murray looked solid in year 1 (87.4 rating) and the Cardinals added DeAndre Hopkins for him in a crazy trade with Houston. Hopkins is one of the best WRs in the game and gives the Cardinals a big weapons boost. Larry Fitzgerald returns for one more year after 804 yards and 4 TDs in 2019. Christian Kirk is solid as well with 709 yards and 3 TDs in 13 games in 2019. Murray and Klingsbury have some good weapons for 2020.

Run Game

Kenyan Drake was traded to the Cardinals mid-year in 2019. Drake is on the transition tag and notched 642 yards at 5.2 YPC in 2019. Murray is rushing threat with 500 yards as well. David Johnson was terrible (3.7 YPC) and got shipped to the Texans in that crazy trade. Drake, Chase Edmonds and rookie 7th round pick Eno Benjamin should be a strong run game for the Cardinals.

LB

Chandler Jones is a beast pass rusher with 19 sacks in 2019. The Cardinals added do-everything extremely athletic LB Isisiah Simmons in Round 1 of the draft. Simmons will solve their biggest weakness of covering tight ends. Jordan Hicks is a good ILB that can provide run defense and some coverage. Devon Kennard provides pass rush LB coming from Detroit in a JACK role. De’Vondre Campbell is a thumper added from the Falcons. The Cardinals have good LBs and can put first round bust Hasaan Reddick on the bench.

Could be Strength or Weakness

Secondary

Patrick Peterson is still an elite CB. Robert Alford was hurt all 2019 and the Cardinals hope 2019 2nd round pick Byron Murphy develops in year 2. Budda Baker is an absolute missile at strong safety but Jalen Thompson will struggle at free safety. This can be a good secondary if Alford gets healthy and Murphy develops.

Defensive Line

Jordan Phillips was a nice free agent nose tackle addition from Buffalo that can stop the run and provide pass rush. Zach Allen showed flashes as a rookie in 2019 and veteran Corey Peters are solid ends. Leki Fotu was a nice addition in Round 4 of the draft at nose tackle. Johnathan Bullard is poor depth at DE.

Weakness

Offensive Line

DJ Humphries finally had a decent season and got a big contract at LT this offseason. Marcus Gilbert had a down year and will battle 3rd round pick Josh Jones for the spot at RT. Mason Cole, Justin Pugh and JR Sweezy is an average interior but not terrible.

Overall

Lions at Cardinal will be a tough game. The Lions and Cardinals both improved greatly but now Murray is more developed with Hopkins added. Shoot-out likely.