On Saturday, the Oakland Raiders head down to LA to face the Rams. In a preview of a Week One matchup, the Raiders will see their former LA neighbor. FPC Rams Managing Editor Andrew Kelly sat down and discussed issues related to his team. Plus, he gives insight on players to watch.
- The Rams are dealing with a similar superstar holdout in Aaron Donald. How does it differ? What resolution do you see? What can the Raiders learn from the Rams/Donald issue?
The key difference between the Donald holdout and the Mack holdout is the Rams have an open dialogue with their star defender. Meanwhile, as of a report I read recently, the Raiders have not spoken with Mack since February. While both defenders seem to be asking for a salary per year that is just not feasible for a defender, I feel as though the Rams are doing a much better job of making progress with Donald and ensuring that he is feeling heard. Rams head coach Sean McVay has remained in contact with Donald, not to discuss contract matters, but just to ensure that Donald is aware how important he is to the team and how bad they want him back in the building.
- The Rams added veterans in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh. Each has a reputation for temperament issues. How will the coaching staff handle them? Moreover, what problems do you envision occurring?
Many Rams fans feel that bringing together players with personalities that caused issues in the past could be an issue for this young Rams team. However, I do not believe this will be a problem. The Rams, both this year and last, have bought into Sean McVay’s new culture and are embodying his “we not me” mentality. Sure, that all looks good on a t-shirt, but can the players really pull it off? I believe so for one key reason, winning in the NFL solves all problems and all signs indicate that the Rams will do plenty of that. However, I do see potential issues popping up with egos clashing. If this Rams experiment were to fail as we have seen all around all four major sports. When so many stars come together and do not find success, egos take over.
- Which rookie should the Raiders expect to flash big play ability?
The Raiders should be on the lookout for Rams running back John Kelly. Drafted out of Tennessee this season, it looked as though the Rams might have found their third-down back of the future behind star Todd Gurley. Well-rounded with the ability to run the ball, catch out of the backfield, and block in passing situations, Kelly was everything the Rams were looking for. Fast forward to an ugly preseason week one performance for the Rams and Kelly was the lone bright spot, averaging nearly six yards per carry and breaking loose on a 40-yard scamper at one point. Kelly also caught the ball out of the backfield twice for a total of 14 yards, and I feel he could be potentially dangerous in the screen game if McVay is willing to cut him loose.
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- Jared Goff enters 2018 armed with a playoff appearance, talent, and a sound offensive scheme. What three aspects of his game do you believe he should work on to improve?
I think one thing that Goff needs to improve on is being consistently great. Last season I would say he was, for the most part, consistently good. Also, he did a good job taking care of the ball and making the plays need to win. However, in order to make the next step, he needs to start making great plays on a regular basis. For instance, making tougher throws into tighter windows for bigger gains. In addition, Goff could definitely stand to improve to throw on the run.
While this is not a key part of the Rams offense, it is important for all quarterbacks to still be able to make big plays after escaping the pocket. Plus, it would certainly be nice for McVay to have that ability for Goff in his back pocket. Finally, I think Goff needs to learn to take the keys to the offense. For most of last season, McVay would talk him through most of the offensive signal-calling. Until the headset cutoff with ten seconds left on the play clock, Goff listened. This season, it would be nice to see Goff know what McVay is thinking before he even says it. I expect that of him entering his third season in the pros.
- When Jeff Fisher departed, the organization looked a mess. How did they clean up so quickly and what do you envision for their 2018 season?
I think a common misconception about the Rams under Jeff Fisher is that their personnel were as bad as the coaching. That was not the case. The Rams had plenty of talent. However, an inept coaching staff that made their team appears to be much more of a “mess” than they actually were. That 4-12 Rams team had 2017 OPOY Todd Gurley, DPOY Aaron Donald, and Pro Bowl quarterback Jared Goff. However, Gurley was stuck in a “high school” offense. Goff did not even start at the beginning of the year.
They cleaned up so quickly by getting a coaching staff that could actually manage their personnel. Additionally, they made moves to fill the holes in their roster, and, most importantly, nurture Goff into a high-level NFL quarterback. I predict a very strong showing for the Rams this season and I think the organization does as well. All of the chips are in this season. Now they must get Donald back in the building and make a push for a Super Bowl.