Record: 7-9, 3rd in NFC West, 15th overall draft pick The Rams had another middle of the road and largely disappointing season under Jeff Fisher. A Week 1 overtime win against the Seahawks was the highpoint of their season but it was quickly followed up with disappointing losses to Washington and a 12-6 defeat to Pittsburgh that was comfortably the worst day for the Rams offense all year. It wasn’t an easy schedule for the Rams though. They had 9 games against eventual playoff teams which will take it’s toll on even the best teams. Once again they were very competitive in the NFC West, going 4-2 against their division rivals including taking both games against Seattle. But that can only make it more disappointing for fans. St. Louis, as they were, always put in good performances against their NFC West rivals only to capitulate to teams outside of their division. This was Jeff Fisher’s 4th losing season in his 4 years with the team. The Rams franchise hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, maybe a change of scenery for 2016 is what they need. Offense: There’s no doubt that the best thing, by far, about the St. Louis offense was Todd Gurley. Despite missing 3 games at the start of the season the 10th overall pick of the 2015 draft finished 3rd in total rushing yards for the season (1,106) and had an incredible 4.8 yards per carry while getting inconsistent blocking and having almost no passing game to help take linebackers off the field. Between injury and poor performance the Rams had 3 different QB’s take the field for them. Nick Foles never showed a glimmer of the form he had in 2013 and finished the year with a career low completion percentage (56.4) and a 7:10 TD:INT ratio in his 9 games. Case Keenum came in for a stretch and performed better, completing at 60% and only throwing 1 interception but it was barely acceptable QB play in the grand scheme of things. The offensive line was improved from years past. Greg Robinson, last year’s 2nd overall pick, improved at left tackle and the line was book ended well at right tackle with rookie Rob Havenstein. The interior was always an issue though, between injuries and spotty performances the Rams never really settled on a pair of guards, which only makes Todd Gurley’s rushing performance more impressive. Tavon Austin was finally used somewhat creatively by the Rams, they worked him into space well from wide receiver, lined him up in the backfield from time to time and got him the ball on some jet sweeps as well. He finished the year with 907 yards from scrimmage on 104 touches and found the endzone 9 times while also being a dangerous punt returner again. But with the poor quarterback play it was a year to forget for most of the St. Louis receivers. Defense: There is only one place to start when discussing the Rams defense: Aaron Donald. Donald was a monster in 2015. He finished the year with 11 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and 37 QB hits. Those last 2 were streets ahead of any other out-and-out defensive tackle in football. There was a very good argument to be made that Donald had a more impressive season that JJ Watt as well, given that all those stats were amassed exclusively from the interior of the defense. Donald was all the more important to the Rams defense due to Robert Quinn battling injuries all year. It wasn’t just Donald who caused havoc though. Michael Brockers and Nick Fairley played well next to him and William Hayes filled in admirably on the edge. The Rams defensive line has long been their strength and it was again. In their 2 wins against Seattle they sacked Russell Wilson 10 times! The rest of the Rams defense was very hit and miss. Injuries kept Alec Ogletree off the field but Mark Barron, nominally a safety, was moved to weak outside linebacker and ended up as the teams leading tackler. TJ McDonald continued to be a very useful player at strong safety and the likes of LeMarcus Joyner and Trumaine Johnson had solid years at cornerback. The Rams defense ended up playing against the toughest slate of opposing offenses anyone had in 2015 and yet they held opponents to just 20.6 points a game and were a top 10 defense by Football Outsiders DVOA. Given all the injuries they had it’s not hard to think they could have been a truly dominant force if their starters had been around all year. Rookie Class: Obviously Todd Gurley is the headline here. Teams are less and less willing to select running backs high on draft day or pay them big money, but Gurley looks like a worthwhile exception. Havenstein was a solid player as well and should be a starter for years to come for the Rams. The rest of their draft class are projects. We saw some of Jamon Brown and Andrew Donnal in the guard spots but they are definitely works in progress. The same can be said of Sean Mannion who came on in relief against Cincinnati and didn’t do much. Overall: Another season of mid-table mediocrity for the Rams. Which is an improvement on their recent history and yet disappointing. The team seem to have stagnated under Jeff Fisher and until they find a productive Quarterback or an inventive head coach they are stuck trying to win games without having to score more than 20 points. They were a very watchable team thanks to Gurley’s insane runs, Tavon Austin’s versatility and Aaron Donald’s brilliance but that’s little consolation to supporters, who once again saw their team put up great performances against their division rivals only to flounder against the rest of the league. That used to be enough to compete in the division but while San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle have all pulled themselves up over the last 5 or 6 years and altered the perception of the NFC West the Rams remain a largely forgettable franchise in the grander scheme of the NFL.
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