Top preview for each NFC West team in minicamp

What to watch for as the NFL season approaches

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

As the NFL offseason continues to roll on and the regular season quickly approaches, teams will head to training camp and begin their real practice and preparation. Camp for each team will include new faces in both the roster and coaching staff as well as new strategies and philosophies to implement with hopes of a successful campaign in the upcoming season. All of the changes and other storylines from the offseason now become a reality as players begin to report to the team facilities.

The NFC West is a division with four very solid teams heading into this season. All of them have expectations this year to at least making the playoffs and high hopes of a deep run with aspirations of a Super Bowl. There were plenty of headlines surrounding all four of these teams throughout the offseason. Let’s take a look at each team and the key storylines as they head to training camp.

Seattle Seahawks

After an excellent season including twelve wins and a playoff appearance, one would think that the Seahawks would be positive and optimistic heading into the offseason. Unfortunately for them, this was not the case for their superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. He was reportedly very unhappy with the organization and its decision-making processes. In particular, he felt that he was not being included enough in major decisions such as game strategy and personnel changes. He was upset by this, and so much so that there were heavy rumors going around that he wanted to be traded away from Seattle.

Luckily for the Seahawks, they were able to get together with Wilson and hash out their issues. It appears that he is satisfied with whatever conclusion was reached behind closed doors and is now ready to get to work. Wilson is easily a top-five quarterback in the entire NFL and with the weapons available to him on their offensive roster, the Seahawks are a very dangerous team and a true contender in the NFC Conference.

This offense is absolutely loaded and one of the best in the league on paper. The real question is going to be their defense. They were poor last year and didn’t do much to improve on that side of the ball. In the 2020 season, they ranked 11th worst in total yards allowed per game with 380.6 and 2nd worst in passing yards allowed per game with 285. They will need to be better than that but as long as Russell Wilson is playing quarterback with the offensive weapons he has at his disposal, the Seahawks have a shot to win any game.

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams made the biggest move in the entire NFL offseason when they traded away Jared Goff and draft picks in exchange for Matthew Stafford. It is uncommon for a team as successful as the Rams have been over the last few seasons to make such a sudden change at quarterback but that’s exactly what they did. Goff was not bad for the Rams last season but he definitely wasn’t great either. His 3952 passing yards ranked 14th and his 20 touchdown passes ranked 19th, which are both acceptable but not exactly impressive. The bigger problem was his 13 interceptions which was the second-highest total in the NFL.

Goff played to a total QBR of 58.5 which ranked an uninspiring 23rd in the league. The Rams are a very good team at every other position group besides quarterback and even had the number one ranked defense last season. They believe that with an upgrade at quarterback they would become a real Super Bowl contender. This is why they traded for Stafford, a quarterback who is seven years older than Goff. They are fully committed to being a win-now team and sold off their future to prove it.

It’s going to be very interesting to see how Stafford does with his new team. He has spent his entire career with the Detroit Lions so far but now has the luxury of a better roster and coaching staff than he’s ever had before. His talent has never been a question and he has a bunch of excellent seasons to demonstrate that. The only thing missing from his career has been sustained winning and postseason success. The Rams are taking a gamble that his shortcomings were simply a product of being a stud on a bad team and that he will shine bright in a more favorable situation.

Arizona Cardinals

After finishing the 2020 season at an even 8-8 record and just barely missing out on the playoffs, the Cardinals are approaching this upcoming season with a ton of optimism. They appear to have found their quarterback with young star Kyler Murray, who is one of the best dual threats in the entire NFL. He has developed nicely so far and there is good reason to believe that with another year of experience he will be an even better player this upcoming year. The organization is fully committed to his growth and has made sure to surround him with as many weapons as possible.

The biggest thing they did for Murray was trade for DeAndre Hopkins last season, who is a top-three wide receiver in the league. They continued to improve the offensive weapons this offseason by acquiring wide receiver AJ Green and running back James Conner. The Cardinals were already the 6th ranked offense last year averaging 384.6 yards per game and with these new additions to compliment the growth of Murray, they can climb even higher than that.

Another huge addition to this team for the upcoming season is veteran pass rusher JJ Watt. He will definitely help them on the defensive side, which they do need, but it’s his leadership that may be his most valuable asset. Everything is trending in the right direction for Arizona and they should be feeling very excited heading to camp this year. Watch out for the Cardinals because they could be the biggest sleeper in the NFL.

San Francisco 49ers

It’s sometimes easy to forget that the 49ers are just one season removed from a Super Bowl appearance. In fact, if not for one missed throw by Jimmy Garoppolo they probably would have won that game. Unfortunately, he missed almost all of last year due to injury, playing in just six games. This has been an ongoing problem for Garoppolo. He just can’t seem to stay healthy and even when he is, his statistics are not at all jaw-dropping anyway. It seems like the 49ers have seen enough because they decided to trade all the way up to the third pick in the NFL Draft to select quarterback Trey Lance.

Lance is an incredible athlete with a ton of potential. He is a very exciting prospect but he just doesn’t have much experience even at the college level. Most scouts believe that he will blossom into a star but there’s no telling how long that process could take. That makes the quarterback situation in San Francisco a very interesting one. It’s likely that they will start the season with Garoppolo but at any time they could make the switch to Lance. This is one of the most intriguing storylines in the league, especially considering the potential of the 49ers team as a whole.

When they won the NFC Conference just two seasons ago, they had arguably the best defense in the entire NFL. The large majority of that unit will be back and healthy for the 2021 season. They also have one of the best rushing attacks in the league under the Kyle Shanahan system and solid offensive weapons across the board as well. All of these factors combined to make the 49ers a fascinating team with a wide spectrum of expectations. Mostly depending on how the quarterback scenario plays out, they may not be better than their 6 wins last year but could potentially be a Super Bowl team like they were two years ago.

Reflecting on the Jalen Ramsey trade: who won?

Which team received more value?

By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)

It has now been two seasons since the Jacksonville Jaguars traded away their superstar cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for a package of draft picks. Now that those draft picks have all turned into selected players, it’s time to reflect back on the trade. There is a ton of value in draft picks, especially ones in the first round, for a rebuilding team like the Jags, while the Rams were a team built to win now and were seeking a finishing piece to help them make a potential Super Bowl run. The Rams could only make this move by sacrificing some of their future, so did they win the trade, or did the Jags make the better investment?

The Case for the Rams

The Rams decided to make a bold move when they acquired Ramsey by trading away their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks as well as one fourth-rounder. They believed it was worth it because they felt he would bring their defense to the next level and make them more of a championship-caliber team. They weren’t wrong about what they were getting with Ramsey as he has been outstanding since arriving on the team and has greatly improved their defense as a whole. Individually, Ramsey has been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, as demonstrated by his two Pro Bowl selections as well as one All-Pro.

More importantly than the individual honors, Ramsey has contributed to making the Rams defense one of the top units in the NFL. In his first season with the team in 2019, the Rams were ranked in the top half of the league in most defensive categories including total yards allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game. In 2020 they made a big leap to being the best defense in the NFL, leading the entire league in yards allowed per game, passing yards allowed per game, and points allowed per game. The Rams goal was to significantly improve their defense, and acquiring Ramsey helped them to achieve that and more.

The Case for the Jags

Committing to a full rebuild, the Jags were looking for ways to acquire more draft picks. They were willing to sacrifice what they had in the short term for potential long-term benefits, as they should. At the time of the trade, Ramsey was still only 24 years old so he was definitely young enough to be a part of their future. On the other hand, he was clearly their most valuable asset who would bring the highest return in the trade market. So they decided to deal him to the Rams and received a solid package of two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder in return.

Picks are crucial to a rebuild, but the real value is what players those picks turn into. For the Jags, the three players that they selected with the draft picks they received from the Rams were K’Lavon Chaisson, Travis Etienne, and Jordan Smith. Chaisson was relatively unimpressive in his first season with the Jags but he still has plenty of time to prove his worth. Etienne is an electric prospect while Smith was a mid-round value pick, but they are both rookies so it’s still unknown how they will perform at the pro level.

The Verdict

While it’s impossible to determine exactly what the Jags got from this trade, it’s extremely clear that the Rams accomplished what they set out to do when they acquired Ramsey. They wanted to improve their defense, and they did so in a huge way by being ranked the top defense in the NFL last season. Ramsey has been one of the key reasons for their success, and he is on the very short list of best cornerbacks in the league. It is possible for the verdict to change in the future, depending on what the three Jags players turn into, but at this current time, it’s safe to say that the Rams clearly won this trade.

How the Arizona Cardinals will win the NFC West

Arizona will win the NFC West in 2021

By: Gladys Louise Tyler

The 8-8 Arizona Cardinals were in the playoff hunt for part of the 2020 season. This is true even though head coach Kliff Kingsbury was 3-9 against the NFC West, including a 0-4 record against Sean McVay’s Los Angeles Rams. 

The Cardinals started 2-0 in the West, only to end on a four-game losing streak in the division. 

They were 5-2 before ending the season on a 3-6 bender.

There were a few reasons for the losing streak:

  1. Wide receiver Christian Kirk looked the part of the number two wide receiver until the final eight games. In the last eight, he managed a paltry 22 receptions, 234 yards, and zero touchdowns.
  2. Quarterback Kyler Murray got injured in Week 11 against the Seattle Seahawks. After that, the offense scores 30 plus points only once the rest of the season.
  3. Linebacker Chandler Jones incurred a bicep injury in Week 5.  He ended his season with 11 total tackles and one sack. Without Jones, the Cardinals’ defense gave up close to 28 points a game on the road.

There is also the possibility that Kingsbury’s offensive prowess is over-rated, but that could be an overstatement as the offense worked for the first half of the season.

But this year the Cardinals will not only reverse their fortunes within their division, but win the NFC West outright.

At first glance, it seems like an improbable statement. The NFC West is the most competitive division in the NFL. But it is possible, and here is why:

QUARTERBACK KYLER MURRAY

Murray showed improvement until his Week 11 injury. He finished the season with a completion percentage that was 2.8% better than the previous year.  He threw for six more touchdowns and had 40 more rushing attempts.  The rushing attempts elevated his rushing touchdowns by seven compared to last year. 

WIDE RECEIVER DEANDRE HOPKINS

There is no doubt the addition of Hopkins boosted the offense. Hopkins finished the season with a career-high 71.9% catch rate.  He was targeted 160 times and had six touchdowns.

This being his second year with Murray should make the pairing that much more formidable and the duo should put up huge numbers in 2021. 

ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION

This might be the most important reason the Cardinals are set to win the division this year.  Their free agency acquisitions are more of a “win-now” mentality than let’s rebuild for the future.

Although they lost both Patrick Peterson and Kenyan Drake in free agency, they gained players (who, if they remain healthy) will help them win now.

  • Running back James Conner
  • Wide receiver AJ Green
  • Defensive end JJ Watt
  • Cornerback Malcolm Butler
  • Kicker Matt Prater

And yes, the NFC West did make some splash acquisitions. The Los Angeles Rams acquired quarterback Matthew Stafford for the win-now mentality.  The San Francisco 49ers obtained Trey Lance for the future, and well, the Seattle Seahawks attempted to upgrade their defense, with cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desire and defensive end Aldon Smith. 

THE SCHEDULE

Depending on your “go-to” source, the Cardinals either have the fourth most difficult schedule or the 13th.  If you go by the Cbssports.com strength of schedule, the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks will face a harder schedule than the Cardinals. 

CARDINALS 2021 SCHEDULE

WEEK 1 @ TENNESSEE TITANS

WEEK 2 v MINNESOTA VIKINGS

WEEK 3 @ JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

WEEK 4 @ LOS ANGELES RAMS

WEEK 5 v SAN FRANCISCO NINERS

WEEK 6 @ CLEVELAND BROWNS

WEEK 7 v HOUSTON TEXANS

WEEK 8 v GREEN BAY PACKERS

WEEK 9 @ SAN FRANCISCO NINERS

WEEK 10 v CAROLINA PANTHERS

WEEK 11 @ SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

WEEK 12—NOV 28 BYE WEEK

WEEK 13 @ CHICAGO  BEARS

WEEK 14 v LOS ANGELES RAMS

WEEK 15 @ DETROIT LIONS

WEEK 16 v INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

WEEK 17 @ DALLAS COWBOYS

WEEK 18 v SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

WINNING THE NFC WEST

This is Kingsbury show me year.  His team has to improve against the West foes, including the zero wins against the Rams.  The Niners will have the slew of players that were injured back; the question remains it Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo under center this season.  The Seahawks are, well, the Seahawks, doing little to appease quarterback Russell Wilson’s concerns; they remain who we thought they were until proven otherwise.

The path through the NFC West appears to go through California.  If the Cardinals can break even with their NFC West rivals, there is no reason they cannot overtake the NFC West championship belt (and if there isn’t one, there should be).

 

Sean McVay vs Kyle Shanahan: Which coach is better?

Which NFC West coach is the better football mind?

By: Chris Thomas

When NFL teams are going through the process of hiring a new head coach, they look to hire a head coach that could become what Sean McVay has been for the Los Angeles Rams and Kyle Shanahan for the San Fransisco 49ers. Both McVay and Shanahan have a lot in common. Not only do they coach teams in the NFC West, but they are also young offensive gurus that are both from the Jon Gruden coaching tree and already considered two of the league’s best head coaches. Since the two of them have so much in common and play with each other twice a year they are constantly compared. Both have been head coaches of their respective teams since 2017 so the leagues have been exposed to both coaches in action for a couple of seasons.

If the two were compared who is considered who would be considered the better coach. There are multiple categories that could be compared between both coaches that will dictate who is the better coach. Here is the comparison of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan.

Success before landing a head coaching job

Even before McVay and Shanahan were head coaches they were both considered two great young offensive minds. Here is a recap of what they did before they landed their current positions.

McVay started with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an offensive assistant for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. After four seasons as an assistant coach in Washington, he became the team’s offensive coordinator in 2014 replacing Kyle Shanahan.

During McVay’s first year as the team’s offensive coordinator Washington was around the middle of the league in every offensive category but was below average in every category except total yards, passing yards, and rushing touchdowns. That is solid considering the inconsistency they had at quarterback with Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy starting games throughout the season.

In year two as Washington’s offensive coordinator, the team’s offense took a leap forward. Washington was able to win the NFC East with a 9-7 record and improve to become a top-15 offense in almost all offensive categories. Their offense was led by the combination of quarterback Kirk Cousins (who was the team’s full-time starting quarterback) and tight end Jordan Reed.

During the 2016 season, McVay appeared to have a great grip on his offense. They finished the year 8-7-1 but had Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson finish the year with over 1,000+ receiving yards and three touchdowns each. Also, Jamison Crowder had 847 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Kirk Cousins had a career-high 4,917 yards and made the Pro Bowl. This offensive performance helped McVay get hired as the youngest head coach in NFL history.

Similar to McVay, Shannon started his NFL coaching career as an Offensive quality control coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004. He had a lot more years of experience in the NFL and as an offensive coordinator before landing his opportunity with the 49ers.

After two seasons as the Houston Texan’s wide receiver and quarterback coach Shanahan was promoted to Texan’s offensive coordinator in 2008. They finished with a top-10 passing offense and top-15 rushing attack. The following season they finished in the top-10 in the league in points scored, total yards, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. Matt Schaub made the Pro Bowl that season after throwing 4,770 yards and 29 touchdowns.

Shanahan then spent the next four seasons in Washington as their offensive coordinator. He coached Washington to be a top-10 passing offense with an aging Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman under center. The next season was not so fruitful as the team had a 5-11 record with Grossman as the full time starter. Washington’s offense in 2011 was near the bottom of the league in almost every category. But the following season in 2012 was one of the most dynamic that Shanahan has ever coached. Shanahan’s offense, that featured second overall pick Robert Griffin III under center and sixth round pick rookie Alfred Morris leading the team in carries, got Washington to 10-6 and into the playoffs. Their rushing attack in 2012 was first in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns, and third in rushing attempts in the league. Alfred Morris had a break out year with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. Also Griffin III rushed for 815 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2013 Washington did not perform as well as they did the year before, but managed to maintain a near elite rushing attack. Morris followed up his outstanding rookie season with 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns.

During the 2014 season Shanahan spent the year with the Cleveland Browns. Shanahan was dealing with a team with bellow average talent with a few young pieces that needed some development as well. So his team did not produce at the level that he would have liked. In specific offensive stats Cleveland was all over the spectrum as far as production compared to the rest of the league. But overall Cleveland finished near the bottom of the league.

After resigning in Cleveland, Shanahan spent the next two seasons in Atlanta. The Falcons finished with a top-10 passing offense in 2015 in Shanahan’s offense. Atlanta had three Pro Bowlers on the offensive side of the ball that season including Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman. The next season the Atlanta Falcons had one of (if not) the best offenses in the entire league. They finished first in the league in points. Atlanta also was second in the league in total yards and passing touchdowns. They were also third in the league in passing yards and rushing touchdowns. The Falcons rushing attack finished as the fifth-ranked in the league in rushing yards. Matt Ryan had the best season of his career being named First Team All-Pro and league MVP after throwing for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns. Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones were once again named Pro Bowlers after finishing the year with over 1,400+ scrimmage yards each.

Winner: Kyle Shanahan

Coaching Tree

Since both McVay and Shanahan have been highly regarded head coaches since 2017 organizations have poached assistants from their staff to bring a similar playing style and impact to their teams. If a coaching staff keeps losing assistant coaches every year that means that staff is able to produce consistent success and that the head coach is considered a good teacher to his assistants. Here are their former assistants who have gotten promotions on other rosters.

During McVay’s first season as the Rams head coach his offensive coordinator was Matt LaFleur. Shortly later LaFleur became the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. LaFleur has had one the best starts to a coaching career in NFL history posting a 26-6 record with two NFC Championship appearances.

Zac Taylor, who formerly the Rams quarterback coach in 2018, was hired as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019. Even though Taylor has not had great success in his first two seasons as a head coach, it is meaningful that he went straight from quarterback coach to head coach after coaching under McVay.

Even though he is technically a part of Vic Fangio’s coaching tree, Brandon Staley’s hiring as the Los Angeles Charger’s head coach should be considered another plus or Sean McVay. After letting go of Wade Phillips in 2020, the Rams hired Denver Bronco’s outside linebacker coach Brandon Staley to fill their void at defensive coordinator. In his first season in the role, Staley’s defense was the best in the league and earned him an NFL head coaching job despite a lack of overall coaching experience.

Shane Waldron has never been a NFL head coach, but was an assistant coach on McVay’s staff for four years who has earned a promotion this past offseason. After being the teams passing game coordinator for three seasons Waldron was just hired as the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator this offseason.

The only members of Kyle Shanahan’s coaching tree who were promoted to a higher role on a different team are Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur. This offseason the New York Jets hired Robert Saleh to be the team’s head coach after being the 49ers defensive coordinator for the past four seasons. Saleh is considered one of the best defensive coaches in the league and a great culture guy to have in the locker room. Saleh brought over 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur to be the team’s offensive coordinator.

Winner: Sean McVay

Offensive Production throughout the years

Both coaches’ careers have been defined by their offensive success. So when comparing both coaches it is extremely important to consider the exact production of their offenses since they became head coaches.

During Sean McVay’s first season with the Rams, they had a top-10 offense. They were tenth in the league in total yards (5,784 yards) and led the league in points scored (averaged 29.9 per game). That season the Rams were tenth in passing yards (3,831 yards) and sixth in passing touchdowns (28). They also finished the year eighth in rushing yards (1,953) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (17). Second-year quarterback Jared Goff was named a Pro Bowler that season. Running back Todd Gurley was named a First-Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler.

In 2018 the Rams offense was in the conversation for best in the league. They finished second in both total yards (6,738) and points scored (32.9 per game). Los Angeles was fifth in the league in passing yards (4,507) and eighth in the league in passing touchdowns (32). They also finished the year with the third-most rushing yards (2,231) and second in the league in rushing touchdowns (23). Jared Goff was named to the Pro Bowl for the second year in a row. Also, Todd Gurley was named First Team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler for the second straight year.

The next year the Rams offense was not as dominant as they were in the prior two seasons. Los Angeles did have the seventh most total yards in the league (5,998) and eleventh in points scored (24.6 per game). They finished in the top-5 once again in passing yards with the fourth-most in the league (4,499) but finished 19th in passing touchdowns (22) that season. They also finished near the bottom of the league in rushing yards ranking 26th in the league (1,499). But the Rams did finish fourth in the league in rushing touchdowns (20). They did not have a single offensive Pro Bowler that season.

This year the Rams offense was solid but not as flashy as it had been in previous years. They finished just outside the top-ten in total yards (6,032) and 22nd in points (18.5 per game). The Rams were 13th in the league in passing yards (4,014) and 26th in passing touchdowns (20). Their running game did improve as they finished tenth in the league in both rushing yards (1,460) and touchdowns (19). For the second straight year the Rams did not have an offensive Pro Bowler.

Kyle Shanahan did not have outstanding offensive numbers during his first season with the 49ers. They finished 12th in the league in total yards (5,587) and 20th in the league in points (20.7 per game). San Fransisco had the ninth-most passing yards (3,925) in the league despite having three different starting quarterbacks throughout the season in C.J. Beathard, Brian Hoyer, and Jimmy Garoppolo. But they also finished 28th in the league in passing touchdowns (15). The 49ers finished 21st in the league in rushing yards (1,662) and seventh in the league in rushing touchdowns (15). The only Pro Bowler out of the 49ers skill players that season was fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

His year did not go very well either offensively since starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was limited to three games due to injury. They finished 16th in the league in total yards (5,769) and 21st i the league in total points (21.3). Despite having backup quarterback play throughout the season they finished 15th in the league in passing yards (3,867) and 17th in passing touchdowns (26). The 49ers rushing attack was okay that season as well after finishing the year 13th in rushing yards (1,902) and 30th in rushing touchdowns (7). Second-year tight end George Kittle and fullback Kyle Juszczyk were the only 49ers Pro Bowl position players.

In 2019 the 49ers offense was one of the most dangerous in the league. They finished the year fourth in total yards (6,097) and second in total points (29.9 per game). San Fransisco had a solid passing offense finishing 13th in passing yards (3,792) and tenth in passing touchdowns (28). Their running attack is what made them so dominant. The 49ers were second in the league in rushing yards (2,305) and led the league in rushing touchdowns (23). Despite how well the 49ers played they only had two Pro Bowlers in George Kittle and Kyle Juszczyk. But Kittle was also named first-team All-Pro after breaking the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season (now currently held by Travis Kelce).

This past season the 49ers offense came back to earth and was okay. This was due to all the major injures the 49ers suffered across their roster. They finished 15th in the league in total yards (5,922) and 21st in the league in total points (23.5). The 49ers were 12th in the league in passing yards (4,033) and 19th in the league in passing touchdowns (25) even though they had three starting quarterbacks throughout the season in Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, and Nick Mullens. Their running attack was dynamic for a backfield that suffered multiple injuries throughout the season. They finished 15th in the league in rushing yards (1,889) and tenth in rushing touchdowns (19). Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was the 49ers only Pro Bowler this past season.

Winner: Sean McVay

Elevating Player Production

An important part of evaluating coaching is paying attention to how the coach’s scheme or coaching has positively impacted the players. A great coach should be able to elevate the play of a disappointing player or a late round draft pick. Here are examples of offensive players who played better once they played for Sean McVay’s Rams or Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers.

The Los Angeles Rams front office has always surrounded Sean McVay with premier talent. So it is hard to pick out many players that were impacted by McVay’s coaching. However, two players who made huge jumps once they played for McVay in Los Angeles were wide receiver Robert Woods and quarterback Jared Goff. Before signing with the Rams in 2017, Woods had never broken 700 receiving yards or six touchdowns in Buffalo. He was widely regarded as a bust, considering he was a former second-round pick who was supposed to eventually become the Bills top receiver. But since joining Los Angeles, Woods has two seasons with over 1,100 receiving yards and three seasons with 5+ receiving touchdowns. McVay has turned Woods into a number one receiving option for the Rams. While during Jared Goff’s rookie season he lost all seven starts, averaged 155.6 passing yards per game, and threw five touchdowns to seven interceptions. He did not look great at all. McVay turned that quarterback into a two-time Pro Bowler during the next two seasons. Even though Goff was never dynamic, he was a fantastic distributor who knew how to use the weapons around him.

Kyle Shanahan on the other hand has multiple examples of players who have flourished and played at their highest level under him. He turned fifth-round pick tight end George Kittle into one of the best weapons in the NFL. Kittle is without a doubt the 49er’s number one receiving option and has had two 1,000+ yard receiving seasons in the past three years. Shanahan has also gotten great production out of undrafted free-agent running backs. He turned Raheem Mostert, who was cut by six different teams, into a borderline Pro Bowl-caliber running back. Shanahan has also gotten outstanding production out of former undrafted free agent Jeff Wilson Jr. who has eleven rushing touchdowns in the past two seasons. On the offensive line former first-round pick Laken Tomlinson struggled during his first few seasons in Detroit but has established himself as an important piece of the 49er’s offensive line the past couple of years. Shanahan has also gotten great production out of former Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens who has developed into a solid backup.

Winner: Kyle Shanahan

Head to Head Record versus opposing coach

Since Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay are both head coaches in the NFC West it is important to note how they have performed against each other. They have played each other eight times over the last four seasons. In head-to-head action against each other Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers have beaten Sean McVay’s Rams five times out of the eight games they have played. San Fransisco has won the last four times they have played Los Angeles. The 49ers averaged 27 points a game when playing the Rams since 2017. While the Rams have averaged 28.8 points per game against the 49ers during that span.

Winner: Kyle Shanahan

Team Record since 2017

Not only the head to head record of both Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay be considered, but the overall record is very important when determining who has been the better head coach.

Since being named the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, Sean McVay has a 43-21 regular-season record. That is the fourth-best record in the NFL during that span. They also have two division titles in the last four seasons.

Kyle Shanahan has not had fantastic success overall during the regular season since entering the league. He is below .500 with a 29-35 record which is the 18th best during the league in that span. They have finished with the second worst record in the league twice under Shanahan. But San Fransisco did win the division in 2019-20.

Winner: Sean McVay

Playoff Success

A huge factor in this decision is how both teams have performed in the playoffs also will determine whether Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay has the upper hand. Since Sean McVay has become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams they have been to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. While Kyle Shanahan has only brought the San 49ers to the playoffs once in his first four seasons in the league. Both have made it to the Super Bowl but both fell short.

In 2017 the Rams made the playoffs in McVay’s first season. But fell short losing in the Wild Card round the Atlanta Falcons 26-13. The following season the Rams had a bye in the wild card round and beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-22 in the Divisional round. The next week Los Angeles beat the New Orleans Saints in a controversial game in overtime 26-23. But their offense failed to show up during the Super Bowl when they lost 13-3 to the New England Patriots. After missing the playoffs in 2019, the Rams made the playoffs this year. In the Wild Card round the Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks at home 30-20. But they fell short of the NFC Championship game when they lost to the Green Bay Packers 32-17 in Green Bay.

The 49ers were the number one seed during the 2019-20 season. They had a bye in the first round and beat the red hot Minnesota Vikings 27-10 behind a dominant running game in the Divisional round. The next week San Fransisco demolished the Green Bay Packers defeating them in the NFC Championship 37-20. Running back Raheem Mostert rushed for 220 yards and four touchdowns during that game. But the 49ers just fell short of a Super Bowl victory losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20.

Winner: Kyle Shanahan

Overall Winner

When comparing important factors of both Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan’s coaching career the clear-cut winner is Kyle Shanahan. Despite not having the great overall team success, Shanahan is outstanding at elevating players and getting high levels of production out of players who may be backups for a different team. His multiple years as an offensive coordinator prepared him very well for his head coaching job and has him looking like a veteran coach despite only having the job for four seasons. That veteran experience has shown up in the film room because he has done well against division rivals like Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams since becoming the 49ers head coach. In 2019 Shanahan showed that when his team is healthy that his offense could be as dominant as any in the NFL despite not having premier talent at every position.

Does Aaron Donald have a chance to be the greatest defensive player of all time?

By: Chris Thomas

Since the (at the time St. Louis) Los Angeles Rams selected Aaron Donald out of Pitt with the 13th overall pick in 2014, he has dominated the NFL. During that span, Donald has been arguably the best defensive player in the entire league. More recently Donald has passed fellow 2014 draft prospect Khalil Mack and has entered a category of his own. Despite being double and triple-teamed on every snap Donald still puts up outrageous numbers every season that could enter him into the greatest of all-time category.

In seven seasons Donald has enough career accolades for him to be a get voted into the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. Those accolades include being a three-time Defensive Player of the Year winner (2017,2018, 2020), six-time First-Team All-Pro (2015-20), seven-time Pro Bowler (2014-20), Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014, and unanimous 2010’s All-Decade team.

Those accolades are well deserved after the outstanding numbers Donald has put up during his career. Over the course of seven seasons, Donalds has 85.5 sack, 357 tackles, and 19 forced fumbles. Has 20.5 sacks in 2018 are the seventh most a player has had in a single season and the most by an interior defensive lineman in a single season.

Since Donald has that impressive of a resume it begs the question can he be the greatest defensive player in the history of the NFL when it is all said and done? Here is why that answer could be yes!

Who else is considered the Greatest Defensive Player of All Time?

First In order to put Donald in the conversation, it is important to acknowledge who else is in that category of player who could be the greatest defensive player of all time. There are a couple of players at each position who could be considered.

The greatest defensive ends of all time include Bruce Smith, Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Gino Marchetti, and J.J. Watt. Not including Donald, the greatest defensive tackle’s of all time include Bob Lilly, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, Merlin Olsen, and Randy White. Factoring both inside and outside linebackers the greatest players to play either of those positions include Lawerence Taylor, Ray Lewis, Derrick Thomas, and Dick Butkus. The cornerbacks that could be considered the greatest defensive player of all time are Deion Sanders, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Rod Woodson, and Charles Woodson. Finally the greatest safeties to ever play in the NFL include Ed Reed, Ronnie Lott, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, and Paul Krause.

How the rest of Aaron Donald’s career could look like before he retires?

Before Aaron Donald enters the GOAT conversation he will have to play a majority or the entirety of his career. Seven seasons into his career, Donald appears to be at the peak of his career and could play another ten seasons or close to it. If Donald did have a 17-year career he projects to be at or near the top in a majority of defensive categories. There would likely be some kind of decline towards the end of his career, but if he doesn’t decline too much Donald could have 207.5 sacks, 867 tackles, and 46 forced fumbles. If he were to put up those numbers Donald would be the all-time leader in sacks, 24th in tackles (first among defensive tackles), and fifth all-time in forced fumbles. He would likely double the career accolades he already has which would not only break the tie with J.J. Watt and Lawerence Taylor with three AP Defensive Player of the Year awards and double that record with six. On top of that, he would tie the all-time record for most Pro Bowl selections with 14 and have the most First-Team All-Pro selections of all time with 12 (current record held by Jerry Rice and Jim Otto with 10)

Comparing Aaron Donald’s career with the other all time greats

If Donald continues to be a force on the interior of defensive lines at the level he has been at, there is no doubt he will hold multiple NFL career records. Taking into consideration the players of the defensive side of the ball he will be better than will give him the lead for greatest defensive player of all time. Donald can have more career sacks than Bruce Smith and have more defensive player of the year awards than Lawerence Taylor.

Taking into consideration the records he will have broken with the awards he could finish his career with, Donald will be the greatest defensive player to ever play in the NFL.

Dream Draft Targets for LA Rams

Which positions will the LA Rams bolster in the NFL Draft?

by Michael Obermuller

If you were wondering whether or not the Los Angeles Rams have a first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — they don’t. In fact, the franchise that has not had a first round selection since drafting Jared Goff in 2016 is not scheduled to have another until 2024.

Rams general manager Les Snead has preferred trading his first rounders for proven NFL talent, which has had mixed results over the years. His most recent decision to acquire quarterback Matthew Stafford actually reversed a previous deal he made to move up for Goff in 2016 (a mistake that would normally get a GM fired), but the Rams sustained success has lengthened the leash on Snead’s strange tenure.

Now that the Goff era has met its end in LA, we all finally get to see what Sean McVay can do with a top 15 quarterback talent. Here are the other major ins and outs that the Rams have made so far this offseason.

Re-SignedAdditionsLossesUnsigned
Leonard Floyd, EDGEMatthew Stafford, QBJared Goff, QBBlake Bortles, QB
DeSean Jackson, WRJohn Johnson, S
Devlin Hodges, QBSamson Ebukam, EDGE
Austin Blythe, C
Troy Hill, CB
Michael Brockers, DT
Gerald Everett, TE
Josh Reynolds, WR

As you can see, the cap-stretched Rams franchise has not had much flexibility in free agency after their recent trades for stars like Stafford and Jalen Ramsey. Necessary extensions for Aaron Donald, Robert Woods and others have not helped either. That all makes the NFL Draft crucial for Los Angeles, and they’ll have six picks to hit on from rounds two through seven (headliners are one second and two thirds).

With holes on the roster and not much money left to fill them, what areas should the Rams target with their top picks in 2021? Here are a few dream prospects for LAR in rounds two and three at positions of need.

3. Nick Bolton, ILB (Missouri)

Some analysts have Nick Bolton falling to the third or fourth round due to his 2020 season, while others rave about his consistency as a run-stopper and tackler at Missouri. Pro Football Focus has him as the second-highest graded linebacker behind Micah Parsons the past two seasons, so the potential is there so long as the pro-fit is right. I believe it could be in Los Angeles.

The Rams need an inside linebacker that does nothing but tackle, and Bolton totaled 198 of those during his Junior and Sophomore campaigns combined. During those two seasons, 16.5 of those stops were for a loss, with an added three sacks and three turnovers forced (two interceptions). Considering the Rams have been cycling through sub-par inside backers like Micah Kiser, Kenny Young and Troy Reeder for years now, Bolton could be an asset that immediately steps into a major role on this defense.

2. Creed Humphrey, C (Oklahoma)

With the departure of center Austin Blythe in free agency, Snead is left with a glaring problem at the heart of his offensive line. Brian Allen could be slated to start in 2021, but the former fourth round pick has yet to prove he can perform at the NFL level (58.6 PFF grade in 563 snaps in 2019). LAR needs to draft it’s center of the future, and that could be Oklahoma Sooner Creed Humphrey.

The 2020 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year did not allow a sack on 401 passing plays. His intelligence and toughness help project him as a prospect that should go somewhere from rounds two to four, and his durability marks another trait for the Rams to rely on (compared to a talent like Landon Dickerson out of Alabama).

1. Aaron Robinson, CB (UCF)

Assuming no trades occur, the Rams first selection in 2021 will be at No. 57 overall, and they should really consider using this pick on a versatile defensive back like Aaron Robinson. The UCF product generally lined up in the slot in college, but scouts think he could play outside if need be. He’s a 5’11” press-corner that thrives at in your face man-to-man coverage, and his intensity should get him some looks in the second round (15 pass breakups the past two seasons).

Robinson would slot in behind Ramsey and Darious Williams in 2021, as the Rams nickel CB (replacing Troy Hill). His style is similar to the All-Pro CB1 in LA, and Ramsey could even assist in the development of the rookie as a mentor of sorts. It’s possible Robinson may not make it to No. 57, but some other similar options at interior corner or CB/S hybrid include names like Asante Samuel Jr., Jevon Holland and Shaun Wade.

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