We’ve heard the hot topic questions involving the Los Angeles Rams for the past month now as we near the 17-game gauntlet.
Can Matthew Stafford become the league’s first 6,000-yard passer?
Will Aaron Donald shatter the the NFL single-season sack record?
And, is Eric Dickerson’s record rushing season at stake (which Dickerson responded to on Twitter on Wednesday, September 8, in a social media shot directed toward the man who predicted the record to fall Rich Eisen)?
After compiling everything, plus with the “Rams House” returning to SoFi Stadium this Sunday night, I think it’s time to deliver final projections from the statistical side of things. Here’s what I’m predicting for each position group.
Quarterbacks: Stafford Will Break Records
- Stafford: 5,905 yards, 58 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions.
I’m not calling for the new QB1 to surpass 6,000 yards. However, my belief is Stafford will shatter Kurt Warner’s franchise record 4,830-yard mark which has stood for 20 years. Plus his single-season TD pass record of 41 he had during the Rams’ title run of 1999.
Stafford is only facing six games against top 10 pass defenses a year ago. But he and the Rams will have nine games against units that ranked 20th or worse from 2020 – all the more reason why I predict this: He’ll end up as the team’s first-ever 5K passer, plus surpass his own career-best mark of 5,038 yards in 2011.
Running Backs: Michel Will Take Over
- Sony Michel: 1,125 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns, 17 catches, 1 receiving touchdown.
- Darrell Henderson: 720 yards, 7 touchdowns, 16 catches.
- Jake Funk: 255 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Henderson will get his carries and yards. But the Michel trade, plus Henderson’s past durability concerns, all point to the former New England Patriot leading the team in rushing. The run game will also get tested early in September. Two early opponents the Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers feature top five run defenses from 2020. Funk could be a goal line option as the third back.
Receivers: Three 1,000-yard WR’s
- Robert Woods: 97 catches, 1,200 yards, 14 touchdowns.
- Cooper Kupp: 90 catches, 1,195 yards, 13 touchdowns.
- DeSean Jackson: 63 catches, 1,175 yards, 8 touchdowns.
- Van Jefferson: 60 catches, 895 yards, 7 touchdowns.
- Tutu Atwell: 50 catches, 535 yards, 6 touchdowns.
The receiving duo of Woods/Kupp should have another 90-catch campaign with the upgrade behind center. Meanwhile, I’m calling for Jackson to recapture his WFT form by averaging 18.65 yards a reception. Jefferson and Atwell should also get a fair amount of touches.
Tight Ends: TE1 to be Used Less as a Blocker
- Tyler Higbee: 53 catches, 552 yards, 4 touchdowns.
- Jacob Harris: 44 catches, 353 yards, 6 touchdowns.
Higbee will still likely be asked to block. But a new QB should mean a numbers climb from a year ago. The new guy Harris will be a valuable option inside the opposing 20-yard line. I wouldn’t rule him out on third and longs either.
Defensive Line: Record Will Fall
- Donald: 48 tackles, 32 solo, 23 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries.
- Sebastian Joseph-Day: 56 tackles, 40 solo tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles.
- A’Shawn Robinson: 34 tackles, 16 solo, 3 sacks
- Bobby Brown III: 21 tackles, 9 solo, 2 sacks
- Greg Gaines: 18 tackles, 7 solo
Yup, I’m projecting 30-year-old Donald to break the sack record. My reasons: 10 of the Rams’ games are against offensive lines that surrendered 35 sacks or more and, Michael Strahan was 30 when he broke the sack record in 2001. Also, Joseph-Day and Robinson changing their workout regimens benefits Donald across the line.
Linebackers: Will a Second Edge Rusher Step up?
- Leonard Floyd: 60 tackles, 34 solo, 11 sacks.
- Justin Hollins: 31 tackles, 19 solo, 5 sacks.
- Kenny Young: 70 tackles, 41 solo.
- Troy Reeder: 64 tackles, 38 solo.
- Ernest Jones: 55 tackles, 22 solo.
- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 25 tackles, 14 solo, 4 sacks.
- Chris Garrett: 21 tackles, 8 solo, 3 sacks.
- Travin Howard: 24 tackles, 7 solo, 1 sack, interception.
Outside of Floyd, finding an extra edge rusher here remains a question mark. Inside, the third rounder Jones could make an immediate push for starter especially after a strong preseason. When healthy, this is an athletic unit.
Cornerbacks: Contract Year Leads to Career Year
- Jalen Ramsey: 49 tackles, 37 solo, 3 interceptions.
- Darious Williams: 53 tackles, 39 solo, 5 interceptions.
- David Long: 22 tackles, 11 solo, 2 interceptions.
- Robert Rochell: 17 tackles, 8 solo, interception.
Ramsey once again enters another year where he won’t be targeted as much, the usual case when you’ve established yourself as a top two shutdown CB. That means another spike in numbers for CB2 Williams, especially with him entering his contract year. Best believe he’ll be playing for a richer deal. Long and Rochell combine for three picks at Troy Hill’s old spot.
Safeties: ‘Captain Fuller’ to Earn new nod
- Jordan Fuller: 86 tackles, 66 solo, 7 interceptions.
- Taylor Rapp: 64 tackles, 34 solo, 3 interceptions.
- Terrell Burgess: 46 tackles, 31 solo, 2 interceptions.
- Nick Scott: 32 tackles, 12 solo, interception.
The nod I’m giving Fuller? Pro Bowler. He’s ascended so much under new defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and the Rams that signs point to a Pro Bowl year with continued development. Rapp can hold off Burgess is he stays healthy. Scott could also play more safety than special teams but time will tell.
Special Teams: Rookie Will Deliver
- Atwell: 435 return yards, 2 touchdowns.
The second rounder Atwell will get his touches. And that includes punts and kicks.