Rams and Chargers Look Forward to Next Season
Prospects are Bright after Both Teams Make Playoffs
February 14, 2019
The 2018 NFL season has ended, and it is time to do post-season exit interviews for both Los Angeles football teams. The Chargers and the Rams both had success in the regular season, with a combined 25-7 record during the season.
Both won playoff games on the road. Both were eliminated by the same opponent, the New England Patriots. For both the Chargers and the Rams, the Super Bowl Champion Patriots are the gold standard that they both most find a way to overcome.
The Patriots beat teams not because they are more talented. They beat them because they are more adaptable.
The Patriots never line up the same from game-to-game or even play-to-play. They did not start the same secondary for any of their three playoff games. Their defense is known for taking away what the offense does best.
Against the Rams in the Super Bowl, Patriot Head Coach Bill Belichick stated: "We just felt like we had to put something together that would neutralize the running game and their big-play play-action passes on early downs. That's really where they've killed people all year."
In holding the Rams to three points, the Pats used the same defensive concepts that the Detroit Lions had used in week 13 against the Rams. The Detroit line played in wide splits, with the inside linebackers blitzing in order to neutralize the outside zone running game that Todd Gurley normally executes so well. By getting to Gurley early in the play the Lions disrupted the look of the play, which impacted how well play-action could mirror it.
As Belichick said after the game, "We felt like if we make them drive it, make them earn it, similar to what the Lions did to them, to make them run a lot of plays and get them in third down we felt like we've have a chance to get them off the field on third down." Without the running game, the Rams were ineffective on offense, scoring only three points.
The Chargers had some success offensively against the Pats, but defensively could not stop the Patriots running game and short passing game. As Ram Head Coach Sean McVay said before the Super Bowl, "Really impressed with watching what they did against the Chargers, with how good and how complete the Chargers were as a team." The Chargers had a weakness at linebacker that they could not overcome, and the Patriots exploited it.
The Chargers and the Rams can match talent with the Patriots, now they need to be able to match wits. They need to be adaptable, more flexible. Getting back to the Super Bowl will not be easy for the Rams. The Rams only have four draft picks in the 2019 NFL draft, but will likely receive three compensatory picks. They do have about $30 million in salary cap space, but there are also several key free agents that need to be resigned.
Among the top free agents are defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, safety Lamarcus Joyner and offensive guard Roger Stafford. In the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks were a playoff team and the 49ers will get healthy, with the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. It is never gets easier to win in the NFL.
The Chargers are in better shape for the off-season than the Rams, with most of their good players under contract and all seven draft picks and a possible 7th round compensatory pick available. The challenge is the AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs have won three straight division titles and with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, they will be the favorite to win the division again.
The Denver Broncos have a good defense and the #10 pick in the draft. The Raiders are re-building and with three first round draft picks and four picks in the first 36 picks, they could get better quickly.
But it is the Patriots that continue to lead the field and with an estimated twelve draft picks, four of which will be compensatory picks in the 2019 NFL draft. With about $16 million in salary cap space, they will not be going away.