Few teams are positioned as well heading into the 2022 season as the Los Angeles Rams are. The defending Super Bowl champions once again buoyed their litany of elite playmakers with a future Hall of Famer on defense and a wide receiver just one season removed from back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons.
Meanwhile, they recently extended their two best players as they look to be the first team to win consecutive Super Bowls since the 2003-04 New England Patriots.
QB: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
In his first year under Sean McVay, Stafford thrived to a degree he hadn’t approached since the early days of his career. He ranked third in passing yards and second in passing touchdowns as he guided the Rams to an NFC West title. His connection with his wide receivers, in particular Cooper Kupp, was lethal for defenses all year long.
One area in which his game did suffer was turnovers – he threw the most interceptions in the league last season, tied with Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence who helmed one of the most inept units in the league. Stafford in particular wasn’t sharp to close the regular season, throwing a combined seven interceptions in his last three starts, while he threw two more in the Super Bowl.
RB: Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson Jr., Kyren Williams, Jake Funk, Buddy Howell, Raymond Calais
The Rams running game looked drastically different than expected for much of 2021 as Akers tore his Achilles tendon last July. In his stead, Henderson started 10 games and performed admirably, rushing for near 700 yards and five touchdowns on 4.6 yards per attempt.
The Rams’ running game was truly elevated near the end of 2021 thanks to Sony Michel, who departed for Miami in free agency. Akers was able to impressively recover from his injury in time for the playoffs but failed to top 55 rushing yards as it was clear much of his explosiveness was sapped.
The Rams drafted Williams in the fifth round this year and he projects as a versatile player for them; he rushed for over 1,000 yards each of his past two seasons at Notre Dame while catching a combined 77 passes. Neither Funk nor Howell saw more than five carries in 2021.
WR: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson II, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Brandon Powell, Landen Akers, Warren Jackson, J.J. Koski, Lance McCutcheon,
Kupp demonstrated incredible chemistry in his first season with Stafford at the helm as he captured the first receiving triple crown (leading the league in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns) since Steve Smith in 2005.
The 2021 Offensive Player of the Year has firmly placed his name in the discussion of the best wideout in the NFL, and recently signed a three-year, $80 million contract extension that ties him to the Rams through 2026. In 21 games – regular and postseason combined – Kupp had over 90 receiving yards in 19 of them and at least one touchdown in 14 of them, including six scores in four playoff games.
Robinson comes over from Chicago as he put up the worst season of his career in 2021, recording career lows in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Los Angeles is counting on a bounce-back season from him in a new scheme and with a much more talented quarterback on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.
Jefferson proved to be a dynamic big-play threat and a great third wide receiver; look for another jump from him in his third season, especially if Robinson falters. 2021 second-round pick had an unremarkable first half of 2021 before going on IR and was outplayed by 2021 seventh-round pick Skowronek.
TE: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris, Kyle Markway, Roger Carter
Higbee’s eye-opening run at the end of the 2019 season (43 catches for 522 yards in just five games) is a distant memory, as he barely cleared that yardage output in 15 games last season. He remains an average tight end with upside, which does have value in a league where many teams lack even an average tight end.
Behind him, Blanton did score a touchdown in a divisional playoff win against Tampa Bay and start in the Super Bowl but hasn’t done anything else of note. Hopkins and Harris have yet to live up to their billing as fourth-round picks in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
OL: Joe Noteboom, David Edwards, Brian Allen, Bobby Evans, Rob Havenstein, Chandler Brewer, Tremayne Anchrum Jr., Coleman Shelton, Logan Bruss, AJ Jackson, Max Pircher, Jack Snyder, Jeremiah Kolone, Adrian Ealy, AJ Arcuri
The Rams suffered their biggest offseason loss on the offensive line as ageless left tackle Andrew Whitworth retired on top and left the Rams with a gaping hole on Stafford’s blindside. Noteboom projects to be the starting left tackle as of now and has started 17 games in four seasons (nine of which were at left guard). Los Angeles hopes that sitting behind Whitworth has taught him enough to be at least a non-liability at the position.
Edwards was a serviceable guard in 2021, while Evans and third-round pick Bruss will compete to take over for Austin Corbett who left for the Panthers in free agency. Havenstein is a great right tackle and will be the leader of this unit moving forward.
Allen has been a good center for the Rams and earned a three-year, $18 million deal in free agency from the team. The Rams allowed the seventh-fewest sacks in the league in 2021 and finishing anywhere near that in 2022 will be a win for this team.
DL: Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, Earnest Brown IV, Bobby Brown III, Michael Hoecht, Chris Garrett, Daniel Hardy, Brayden Thomas, Marquise Copeland, Elijah Garcia, Jonah Williams, Anthony Hines III, Benton Whitley
Donald is, quite simply, the best player in football. No defensive player had even impacted the game as much as he does from the interior and his proficiency at breaking through even triple teams keeps quarterbacks, offensive linemen, opposing coaches, front offices, and even waterboys up at night. The Rams recently restructured his contract to make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history as the All-World defensive tackle is set to earn $95 million through the 2024 season.
Gaines has developed nicely on the interior and registered 4.5 sacks last year. He has taken full advantage of playing next to Donald and will be a crucial piece of this unit in 2022. Robinson rounds out an impressive cast of defensive tackles on this roster and gives the Rams a fearsome trio of interior linemen.
On the outside, Floyd proved his 2020 wasn’t a fluke as he racked up 9.5 sacks and formed an elite pass-rushing duo with Donald. Hollins projects as the other starting outside linebacker but Lewis will push him for playing time.
LB: Bobby Wagner, Ernest Jones, Travin Howard, Jake Hummel, Christian Rozeboom
Long-time Seattle Seahawk and future Hall of Famer Wagner returned to the city where he was born and signed with the Rams after his release from the Emerald City. He will be 32 before the season starts but still showed that he can play at a high level, racking up 170 combined tackles (a career-high) and earning a second-team All-Pro selection.
He signed a five-year contract worth up to $65 million and gives Los Angeles a bonafide star on every level of defense. 2021 third-round pick Jones started seven games for the Rams in his rookie year and made some impressive plays; he projects to take one of the biggest steps forward of anyone on this side of the ball.
Howard has just two career starts through two seasons and is representative of the minimal depth the team has at inside linebacker, an issue exacerbated by the departure of Troy Reeder who started 10 games for the team in 2021.
CB: Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Robert Rochell, David Long Jr., Derrion Kendrick, Grant Haley, Decobie Durant, Duron Lowe, Dont’e Deayon, Caesar Dancy-Willilams, Blake Countess, TJ Carter, Tyler Hall
Following suit with Donald and Wagner, Ramsey is one of the top cornerbacks in the league and has the ability to take any receiver out of the game. He tied his career-high for interceptions last season and remains at the top of his game. Across from him is where question marks lie and one of the weak spots on this defense is. Darious Williams, a UDFA success story, signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Jaguars after playing nearly 80% of snaps for the Rams in 2021.
Long and Deayon both played over 40% of snaps last year and were the top in-house options at outside cornerback until the Rams reunited with Hill by sending the Browns a 2023 fifth-round pick for him. He played for the Rams from 2016-2020 and provides a veteran presence.
Rochell did draw five starts last year and recorded an interception but is yet to develop as a corner that can be trusted. Durant is a rookie fourth-round pick and a very intriguing slot cornerback prospect, while Kendrick is an athletic outside cornerback with questionable technique that shouldn’t see the field much as a rookie.
S: Taylor Rapp, Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, Nick Scott, Russ Yeast, Quentin Lake, Jairon McVea, Jake Gervase, Dan Isom
Rapp started every game for the Rams in 2021 and followed up a solid 2020 with another solid, if unspectacular, season. He tied Ramsey for the team lead in interceptions and started every game. Fuller had a very productive year with 113 total tackles and solid coverage throughout, but a broken foot kept him out of the postseason and was a big loss for the Rams. Scott played 35% of defensive snaps for the Rams in 2021 and forms uninspiring depth at the safety position along with Burgess.