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Los Angeles Rams 2023 NFL Season Preview: Will Rams Return to Form?

Oct 16, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald (99) during an NFL game against the Carolina Panthers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Mike Martz takes a deep dive into the Los Angeles Rams

>> READ: Rams Fantasy Football Preview

Rams Team Preview

Los Angeles Rams Cam Akers

What To Know: Offense

The biggest factor for this Rams offense will be whether or not they are able to stay healthy. For coach Sean McVay, everything functions around the offensive line, and they can't have those guys practicing in sweatpants all year. They need them in pads and healthy.

Last season, the Rams had more offensive line combinations than any other team, and they weren't really good to begin with.

They drafted Steve Avila to shore up that unit. He's what you'd call a "phone booth" player — a big, physical blocker who is better in small, tight areas of the blocking scheme.

It would also help if Los Angeles could get steady production from Cam Akers in the running game to help take a bit of the sting out of pass-blocking and to put the Rams’ defense in a more advantageous position.

They picked up DeMarcus Robinson to pair with Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson and Tyler Higbee as pass-catchers for quarterback Matthew Stafford. This can be a dangerous group, especially from the inside. I don't think anybody in the history of the league has done a better job than they've done with these option routes inside. In the slots, you just can't cover them.

Still, everything hinges on the offensive line. And if that group can stay healthy, the Rams could be in for an offensive rebirth this year.

What To Know: Defense

Los Angeles is very young and inexperienced on defense.

The Rams lost five defensive starters this offseason, including linebacker Bobby Wagner. How do you replace those guys? It's going to be hard for Los Angeles to compete this season with all the young players they've been forced to bring in for financial reasons. All the starters and backups in the secondary have two years or fewer of experience.

Though the Rams recently picked up veteran cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and will return star Aaron Donald, this could still end up looking something like a college all-star team.

Ultimately, this means they'll need a huge year from Donald. They need to roll him in and out of the game to keep him fresh. They can't leave him on the field the entire game. He just loses his effectiveness.

This team will need some of its young edge rushers to step up and be effective to ensure Donald isn't facing an endless series of double teams. In the past, the Rams have been good about moving Donald around to get him different matchups and avoid overwhelming protection, and they'll need some talent on the edges to make that strategy effective.

Overall, the group is young and green. Young players don't use their speed when they're confused. They're slow to react, and that's where you really get hurt. As the weeks go on, with more experience, these young players will adjust to the speed of the game, and they'll contribute and get better.

Offensively, if they can stay healthy, they will be very good. Defensively, it's a long road. If the Rams could be a middle-of-the-pack defense, that would be outrageously good.

Biggest Off-Field Storyline

The Rams brought in Mike LaFleur this offseason as their new offensive coordinator. It was a brilliant move by McVay, who just had too much on his shoulders.

It will be wise to have a new mind to bounce ideas off of, especially someone who is familiar with the San Francisco 49ers' system. Before his stint as offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, LaFleur was the passing game coordinator in San Francisco. The 49ers always seem to beat McVay's Rams.

LaFleur can come in and have a different perspective on things and carry some of the load — the day-to-day stuff that McVay is normally involved with.

This move will be extremely beneficial to McVay, the offense and the entire Rams organization in the long run.

Breakout Player Prediction

Akers is a player who could be primed to break out. The Rams need to put him in a position to put games away, riding him to the sunset.  This needs to happen for this offense to succeed, and Akers is ready to make it happen.

Akers has struggled recently in his career, but he is simply too good of a player for that to continue forever. The Rams know what they have in him when he's on. So if anyone will have a breakout season, Akers is a good bet.

Moves the Rams Could Make

This team filled in a lot of the blanks on defense with rookies, undrafted free agents and young contributors. If the Rams can add some veteran talent, it could help their chances next season.

On offense, the thing that always scares me about this team is the health of their line. With so many young backups on the offensive line and that group's propensity to suffer injuries, the Rams could stand to add some veteran talent to that group.

2023 Season Expectations

If the Rams can finish the year with a .500 record, it would be a great year for them. Offensively, they might be better than a .500 team. I just don't know how the defense will hold up with CB Jalen Ramsey and Wagner moving on.

But I do like this team. They're one of the better-coached teams in the league. We're going to find out just how well McVay can motivate his guys, get them up to speed and make that transition back to a winning culture.

Some really young players will be put in a spot where they need to play at a high level. When you do that, there are both good and bad surprises, but there's not going to be a lot of consistency to it, which will hurt Los Angeles' ability to win games.

Other Previews

NFC East: DAL | NYG  | PHI | WAS

AFC East: BUF | MIA | NE  | NYJ

NFC North: GB | CHI | DET | MIN

AFC North: PIT | CLE | BAL | CIN 

AFC West: KC | LAC | LV | DEN

NFC West: SF | SEA | ARI

NFC South: TB | CAR | NO | ATL 

AFC South: JAX | TEN | HOU | IND  

Mike Martz is a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator, most notably for the St. Louis Rams. He was the OC for the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense in 1999 when they won Super Bowl XXXIV. As head coach, he led the Rams to two division titles and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVI.