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NFL 2019: Rams wary of pitfalls on road to title redemption

Thu Aug 22 12:08pm ET
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer

Players: Robert Woods, Blake Bortles, Malcolm Brown, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, Darrell Henderson

LOS ANGELES (AP) That 13-3 loss in the Super Bowl looms large over the Los Angeles Rams. Their high-scoring ascent to the NFL's elite over two thrilling seasons somehow culminated in one of the most lifeless offensive performances in big game history.

It's the last thing anybody expected from a team coached by Sean McVay, who masterminded the Rams' rise with innovative thinking at every turn - until Bill Belichick's sturdy old defense had an answer for everything.

The youngest NFL coach ever to win a playoff game thinks a whole lot more about the last one he lost. Redemption for McVay and quarterback Jared Goff starts next month when the Rams resume their championship chase.

''We can build on a lot of things going into this season, and what we've been able to do over the last couple of years in developing a foundation,'' McVay said. ''But our players know you earn it every day in this league. All we can do is learn from last year, but we've got to produce right now.''

The Rams have won 24 regular-season games, two division titles and an NFC championship in the brief time since McVay took over a franchise with 13 consecutive non-winning seasons. Los Angeles returns with many reasons to think it can stay on top, but enough potential concerns to keep players and coaches sharp.

''I think it just makes us that much more hungry,'' cornerback Marcus Peters said. ''We see exactly where we can be at if we just put our focus into getting better every day. Put the hard work in, and it will pay off for us.''

Clay Matthews didn't join his hometown team until a few months ago, so he'll carry nothing from that disappointment in Atlanta into this season. And from what he's seen of the Rams so far, the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker won't be surprised if he gets to play for his second championship ring this season.

''There's so much talent around here,'' Matthews said. ''There's just a level of talent that we should be able to put something together and do something special. I can't speak on behalf of any hangover or curse, or whatever you like to call it. But this team looks primed and ready to make another run at it.''

The Rams didn't add a wealth of proven veterans to their roster, but they also didn't lose a tremendous amount of talent. McVay and general manager Les Snead are counting on Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Andrew Whitworth to remain among the NFL's best at their respective jobs, and they plan to fill any gaps with coaching, effort and their veteran leadership.

''We're just excited to get going back to where we ended last year,'' Gurley said.

Here are more things to know about the Rams:

TIME TO GET PAID

Goff and Peters are likely playing to determine the largesse of their next contracts. Goff is in the fourth season of his five-year rookie deal. The Rams have repeatedly said they will sign him to a long-term contract, and his 19-for-38 performance in the Super Bowl didn't alter that plan. Peters is in the final year of his rookie deal, but said he never considered holding out.

NOT TURNOVER PRONE

Matthews and safety Eric Weddle joined the defense, but they're the only veteran newcomers likely to make an impact; another addition is backup quarterback Blake Bortles. The Rams also didn't make a first-round pick for the third straight year, but rookies including defensive back Taylor Rapp and nose tackle Greg Gaines could play early.

NEW LINE

The Rams are taking their biggest risk on the offensive line, where untested second-year pros Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen got the jobs of departed stalwarts Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. LA had remarkable line consistency for two years, but McVay seems supremely confident in the newcomers.

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Donald participated in his first training camp since 2016, no longer holding out to get the huge contract he finally received. The Rams will need the back-to-back AP Defensive Player of the Year in elite form from the start because he has lost the help of nose tackle Ndamukong Suh, who left as a free agent and essentially wasn't replaced. Donald's life of constant double-teams is unlikely to improve, but he's used to it.

KNEEDING HELP

The Rams haven't gone into detail about the condition of Gurley's knee, which limited him down the stretch and allowed the since-departed C.J. Anderson to revive his career. Gurley and the Rams actually might be better off if he isn't among the NFL's top five in touches this season, as he has been in each of the previous three years. Longtime backup Malcolm Brown should get more action, and Los Angeles used a third-round pick on Memphis' speedy Darrell Henderson to provide options for McVay. The Rams are determined to optimize Gurley's effectiveness in the final season before his four-year, $60 million contract extension begins.

Player Notes
Jalen Ramsey Oct 20 12:40pm ET

Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who will make his debut with the team in Week 7 against the Falcons, promised the Rams that he won't hold out next season in the last year of his contract even if the two sides don't agree to a long-term deal this offseason, according to league sources. However, all bets are off if Los Angeles uses the franchise tag on the All-Pro cornerback in the winter of 2021. The Rams sent two first-round picks to Jacksonville for Ramsey, so they expect him to immediately bolster their suspect secondary. The Rams would like to sign Ramsey but aren't in a rush and could also trade him if they can't reach a long-term deal. Ramsey's presence in LA's secondary bolsters them no doubt, but they're still a weak streamer this weekend against a strong Falcons offense.

From RotoBaller

Washington Redskins Oct 20 12:30pm ET

Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (hand, thigh) is inactive for Week 7 against the 49ers. You obviously shouldn't come close to trusting Washington's defense in fantasy this year, and having Norman out makes them an even weaker unit this weekend. Norman's absence is good news for San Francisco receiver Marquise Goodwin, but he'll still a shaky flex in fantasy because of a low target share this year and the fact that the 49ers probably won't need to pass all that much in this one.

From RotoBaller

Christian Kirk Oct 20 12:30pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (ankle) is active for Week 7 against the Giants, while wide receiver Christian Kirk (ankle) will miss his third straight game. Johnson was expected to play after getting in some practices this week. He should continue to be heavily involved in this improving offense in a great matchup against the Giants. Johnson is a strong RB1 choice. Chase Edmonds will remain a strong handcuff for Johnson owners, but he's a low-end flex as long as Johnson is active. With Kirk out again, Larry Fitzgerald has strong WR2 appeal. You can't really trust rookie Keesean Johnson, Damiere Byrd and Trent Sherfield behind him, though.

From RotoBaller

David Johnson Oct 20 12:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson (ankle, knee) is officially active for the team's Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Johnson should receive plenty of touches this week against the New York Giants and is a must-start option in all leagues.

From TheHuddle

Christian Kirk Oct 20 12:23pm ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) has been declared inactive for the team's Week 7 game.

From TheHuddle

Zay Jones Oct 20 12:20pm ET

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Zay Jones is a healthy inactive for Week 7 against the Packers. It's a surprise considering Tyrell Williams (foot) is also out, but it appears that Jones just hasn't mastered the offense yet after being acquired from the Bills last week. Also inactive are right tackle Trent Brown (calf) and wide receiver Dwayne Harris (ankle). With both Jones and Williams inactive, the Raiders are thin at the receiver position; expect rookie Hunter Renfrow, Trevor Davis and rookie Keelan Doss to work in three-receiver sets against a solid Green Bay defense. Oakland will lean heavily on running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller.

From RotoBaller

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Oct 20 12:20pm ET

Green Bay Packers wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) and Geronimo Allison (concussion) are both active for Week 7 against the Raiders after testing themselves in pre-game workouts. It's a bit of surprise that both are inactive, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn't complaining since he'll be without top receiver Davante Adams (toe) for the third straight game. MVS and Allison really haven't done much with Adams out, so they make for low-ceiling flex plays again this weekend, with MVS being the better target. Both receivers being active hurts the value of tight end Jimmy Graham, although he still has TE1 potential in this game. Rodgers remains a low-end QB1 until Adams returns. Allen Lazard and Jake Kumerow can now be avoided in DFS.

From RotoBaller

Todd Gurley Oct 20 12:20pm ET

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (thigh) is officially active for Week 7 against the Falcons after sitting out last week. He's back in the RB2 mix in a good matchup against the Falcons, especially since backup Malcolm Brown (ankle) is inactive. Gurley should have a decent workload in this one, but rookie Darrell Henderson will spell him. As a result, Henderson has some flex appeal in deeper leagues against a Falcons run defense that continues to get beat by running backs.

From RotoBaller

Geronimo Allison Oct 20 12:13pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Geronimo Allison (chest, concussion) is officially active for the team's Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Allison is a risky option since he did not practice much this week. He should still see a solid amount of targets during the game and can be a No. 3 receiver or flex option.

From TheHuddle

Dede Westbrook Oct 20 12:13pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook (shoulder) is officially active for the team's Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Westbrook should have a solid role in the passing game and will have a favorable matchup. He can be a No. 3 receiver or flex option in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Oct 20 12:13pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) is officially active for the team's Week 7 game.

Fantasy Spin: Valdes-Scantling likely will serve as the top option in the passing game for the Packers this week despite the injuries. He can be considered a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Devin Singletary Oct 20 12:10pm ET

Buffalo Bills rookie running back Devin Singletary (hamstring) is officially active for Week 7 against the Dolphins. The matchup against Miami is as good as it gets, which immediately puts Singletary on the RB3/flex map in his return to action this weekend. However, his ceiling is still somewhat low as long as he continues to play second fiddle to veteran Frank Gore in this backfield, which is expected to be the case yet again against the Dolphins. Singletary could see more run in the second half if the Bills are up big, though. With the rookie back in the fold, T.J. Yeldon is a healthy scratch.

From RotoBaller

Dede Westbrook Oct 20 12:10pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (shoulder) is officially active for Week 7 against the Bengals. Westbrook tested his shoulder before the game and will give it a go in a great matchup against a Cincinnati team that will be missing their top cornerbacks. D.J. Chark and Westbrook remain quarterback Gardner Minshew's favorite targets in the passing game. Westbrook will be at risk of an in-game setback, but you can leave him in your lineups as a WR3 this weekend with some upside in this particular matchup.

From RotoBaller

Dre Kirkpatrick Oct 20 12:03pm ET

Correcting a previous report, the Cincinnati Bengals have declared WR A.J. Green, DL Carlos Dunlap, OT Cordy Glenn, OG John Miller, CB William Jackson III, CB Dre Kirkpatrick and DE Carl Lawson inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Miami Dolphins Oct 20 12:00pm ET

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (knee) and safety Reshad Jones (chest) are both inactive for Week 7 against the Bills. In an already excellent matchup, the Bills passing game just got a boost with Miami's top cornerback being out. It'll mainly impact Buffalo's top wideout John Brown and quarterback Josh Allen, who are both in a good spot to produce big numbers this Sunday. You should obviously stay far away from the Dolphins Defense this year.

From RotoBaller

Clay Matthews Oct 20 11:53am ET

The Los Angeles Rams have declared RB Malcolm Brown, OG Jamil Demby, OG Austin Corbett, LB Bryce Hager, DL Greg Gaines, LB Kenny Young and LB Clay Matthews inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Christian Kirk Oct 20 11:53am ET

The Arizona Cardinals have declared LB Ramik Wilson, WR Christian Kirk, C Lamont Gaillard, RB D.J. Foster, DL Zach Allen, DL Michael Dogbe and DB Zeke Turner inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Sterling Shepard Oct 20 11:53am ET

The New York Giants have declared CB Corey Ballentine, QB Alex Tanney, TE Garrett Dickerson, WR Sterling Shepard, OG Chad Slade, DE Chris Peace and OL Eric Smith inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Vernon Davis Oct 20 11:53am ET

The Washington Redskins have declared CB Deshazor Everett, CB Josh Norman, SS Josh Harvey-Clemons, TE Vernon Davis, RB Chris Thompson, OG Wes Martin and QB Colt McCoy inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle

Marcus Sherels Oct 20 11:43am ET

The Minnesota Vikings have declared DL Armon Watts, CB Marcus Sherels, LB Ben Gedeon, DE Jalyn Holmes, C Brett Jones, OG Dru Samia and OL Olisaemeka Udoh inactive for Week 7.

From TheHuddle