JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars.com senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2017 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Los Angeles Times NFL writer Sam Farmer on the Rams as they enter Sunday's game against the Jaguars at EverBank Field in Jacksonville…
Question: The Rams lost to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, 16-10. They are now 3-2 after a 3-1 start. How do the Rams see themselves? Where is this team entering Sunday?
Answer: Sunday was a step back. They had sort of a flashback. They wore their throwback uniforms and had sort of a throwback offense to last year in the second half. They were sort of grasping at straws. They couldn't consistently move the ball. They couldn't get [running back Todd] Gurley engaged the way they had in the first four games. Buy they're one of the surprising stories to me in the NFL – Sunday notwithstanding. They've completely revamped their offense with a lot of the same personnel. They've added three good receivers in Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and rookie Cooper Kupp, who is surprisingly good. Gurley was consistently hit in the backfield last season. He seldom did anything beyond getting two or three yards on a carry. This year they have done a lot of wheel routes and middle screens. He has been way more effective. He's rediscovered the game he had as a rookie.
Q: And of course second-year quarterback Jared Goff is a major story …
A: Jared Goff is a completely different quarterback [than he was as a rookie].He's playing with confidence. He has a command of the offense. He's really good when plays break down about finding the right receivers and getting yardage. He has a surprisingly strong arm, which you don't really see when he's practicing. It's not like he has a whip when he's practicing, but there were a few times Sunday when he hummed it. You can see some of the things the Rams saw when they made the biggest trade in history to get to No. 1 to select him [in the 2016 NFL Draft].
Q: Is the offense all new Head Coach Sean McVay? Is that too easy?
A: Not only have you seen how good McVay is, but it underscores just how bad they were last year – and how poorly coached they were last year, especially offensively. There was no rhyme or reason last year to their offense. The predictability was they would be in second and long, then run a slant pattern that was occasionally effective. It was like they stumbled upon the end zone last year. Now, it really feels like there's a rhythm and cadence to the offense, and they're using the weapons they have. The line has been really effective. On the flip side, the defense has been slow to get up to speed. That's kind of surprising because that's where a lot of their talent is – and they were pretty effective last season until they were just running on fumes as a team and the defense broke down. But defensively in the last few weeks they've stepped up when they needed to and they've slammed the door on teams. They did it on the 49ers and the Cowboys, but they have given up a lot of yards and had some breakdowns. They were better Sunday.
Q: There's a feeling from afar that this 3-2 start could be the start of something long-term for the Rams. Does it feel that way from up close?
A: There are the seeds of a start. They're starting to pour a foundation. They got out a little bit over their skis, I think, with this heady win at Dallas [in Week 4]. Sunday was sort of a reality check and you realized, 'Hey, the Seahawks still control this division.' The Seahawks came and won in a critical game in L.A. Really, Sunday was the first meaningful game in Los Angeles aside from the ceremonial games; this had something to do with the division and their place in the world. But it does feel like there's a different buzz to this team … like, 'Wow, maybe they can operate with this offensive line and maybe they can move the ball with these receivers and maybe Todd Gurley is more than a one-hit wonder from his rookie year.' The biggest of them is maybe they have something in Goff we didn't see last season.
Q: The Rams are 21 games into their return to Los Angeles. Is the franchise settling in there again?
A: L.A. is a very difficult market. We knew it was a difficult market before the teams [Rams and Chargers] came here. I think it has been surprising to the NFL and surprising to the teams just how difficult it is to capture the attention of the fans. You don't see a lot of people walking around with Rams T-Shirts or Rams hats – and you certainly don't see Chargers stuff. You'll see grocery store promotions, but it's hard to get noticed on the L.A. landscape – particularly when USC is doing well, when the Dodgers are in the [baseball] postseason and the Lakers are starting out with Lonzo Ball Mania. This is probably the only market in the nation where the NFL teams have to do a soft shoe to get the media's attention – or win. But winning means going deep in the playoffs or winning a Super Bowl. The Rams were coming off a big win at Dallas, but there were a lot of Seahawks fans at the game Sunday.
Q: Is Sunday against the Jaguars big for the Rams?
A: It's huge. If you look at last year, this is when it all fell apart. They got to 3-1 last year, lost at home to Buffalo, then they hit the road and during that stretch they lost 11 out of 12. The bottom dropped out. They need to avoid that and show they actually have made progress and that probably means finishing 8-8 or better.
Q: Does this feel like a team capable of that to you?
Q: They're absolutely more solid than last year; the offense has a pulse. Last year set such a low standard that it would be hard to be worse than last year. If there is a flicker of light from the offense, which there has been, then it's by definition a better team. We'll have to see. They had the big win on the road at Dallas and they won at San Francisco. They've got some confidence. That's different than last year.