Even a team like the Los Angeles Rams can be full of surprises.
While the NFL world knows how the Rams operate from nabbing big name free agents to igniting a high-powered passing offense, they’re capable of having some surprise elements — in the form of players we’re not fixated on.
And it’s those players who help comprise the Heavy on Rams five surprise predictions for the 2022 season as we’re a month away from training camp returning.
Here’s how it’s going to work: This is based off of who’s facing a big pay day, who will benefit more when on the field with a Pro Bowler and who has a great chance of shocking everyone statistically. Here are, in order of least surprising to most surprising, the five bold predictions, with the biggest stunner at No. 1.
No. 5: The Rams’ Leading Tackler Won’t be Bobby Wagner
Here’s the kind of presence Wagner will really have on the field: Teams are going to try to run away from his side. He’s commanded that type of respect over the years. But all this does is reward Jones with the possibility of his first 100-tackle season. Jones has already flashed his potential in 15 games with seven starts: 61 tackles, 36 solo stops, four pass deflections and two interceptions. And he delivered this sack during the Super Bowl:
But with Wagner in the twilight of his career, he’s going to fill Jones’ brain with his knowledge on how to consistently dominate. Don’t be shocked if Jones, not Wagner, leads the Rams in tackles…and earns his first Pro Bowl nomination.
No. 4: The Rams Will Have an Additional 80-Catch, 1,300-Yard WR. And it Won’t be OBJ
We’re a believer that Odell Beckham Jr. will eventually find his way back to the Rams once he’s healed and cleared to go. But someone will take advantage of his absence…and it’ll parlay into a breakout Pro Bowl caliber season.
It bodes well for Van Jefferson, especially with another season of having Matthew Stafford.
Consider this: Jefferson saw an increase across the board from his rookie season with Stafford at quarterback — a 31-catch, 582-yard and 5 touchdown buildup from his NFL debut. If Jefferson puts up a similar trajectory, here’s what his numbers will look like: 81 receptions, 1,384 yards and 11 touchdowns…all Pro Bowl caliber numbers. Not bad for someone not even considered a No. 2 option.
Oh, Jefferson gives the Rams and Stafford this kind of option when on the field: A deep threat.
Like Jones, Jefferson could be Pro Bowl material soon. He proved he can improve his numbers.
No. 3: The Rams’ Leader in Interceptions Won’t be Jalen Ramsey
But it’ll be someone who’s versatile enough to play the “star” spot that Ramsey mans on defense — and someone capable of becoming the No. 2 corner now that Darious Williams is with Ramsey’s Ex-NFL employer the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Robert Rochell is the pick to emerge as the Rams’ top ball-hawk.
The fourth rounder from 2021 has a great chance to step up in Williams’ place. And his versatility — having lined up in six different positions in high school — makes him ideal to be another “star” defender in Raheem Morris’ defense.
And, Ramsey hardly sees the football come his way. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey was targeted 72 times total through their 21 games (average of 3.4 targets per game). Rochell will likely get tested more when on the field…which could mean earning the title of best Rams ball-hawk.
No. 2: The Leading Receiver Won’t be Cooper Kupp
It’ll be hard for Kupp to duplicate or match his 2021 season. Teams are going to bracket him, put their fastest or best athlete motioning out with him or find ways to prevent a triple crown repeat.
And that’s where Allen Robinson comes in.
With Kupp commanding more attention moving forward, “A-Rob” has a great chance to recapture his Pro Bowl form and become the Rams’ red zone and first down threat. He already brings this needed element in the Ram offense: Making the tough, contested grabs.
A 90-catch season from Kupp is still a great campaign. But with the attention he’ll command, “A-Rob” could shark his way to the No. 1 option.
No. 1: Aaron Donald Won’t Lead the Rams’ DLs in Sacks
“A.D” is still a walking double-digit sack threat with that work ethic and hand arsenal at his disposal. But as Ram fans know, Donald often draws between four to six different hands on him.
Got a strong feeling Greg Gaines is due to lead this unit in sacks for 2022, especially in Gaines’ contract year.
Consider this: The moment starting nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day had to undergo season-ending chest surgery, Gaines began to show his pass rushing prowess from Halloween to the season finale. Half of those final 10 regular season games saw him get sacks. And pass rushing is his strongest suit. Just imagine what he could do in a full season next to “A.D.”
Gaines is capable of hitting eight sacks or higher. And with the trench attention Donald receives, Gaines has a high chance of leading this unit in sacks if Donald gets held up.