The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Report date: July 26 for rookies; July 28 for veterans
Where: Irvine, Calif.
1. Can Todd Gurley get back to being Todd Gurley?
There is no way around it: Todd Gurley was atrocious last season. After busting out for over 1,100 yards and 10 scores in just 13 games as a rookie, the talented running back saw his production plummet last year. Averaging a measly 3.2 yards per carry (tied for second-worst in the NFL) and failing to consistently break tackles, he failed to record a single 100-yard game. Gurley — who earned offensive rookie of the year honors in 2015 — is too good to endure another season that bad, but expecting him to be elite again may be a tall order. The Rams are still dealing with the pitfalls of Jared Goff’s learning curve. Then again, a revamped offensive line — led by prized left tackle acquisition Andrew Whitworth — could make life easier for the 22-year-old.
2. Will Sean McVay give Jared Goff a boost?
At 30 years old, McVay became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. A big reason he was hired was to help Goff develop. Known as an offensive guru, he helped Kirk Cousins achieve early success in Washington. McVay was calling plays then, showcasing his aggressive nature. Goff — the top pick in the 2016 draft — displayed zero comprehension of the L.A. offense last year and his stunted development became the laughingstock of pro football. He never found comfort under center, nor was he able to make proper reads. Ultimately, McVay’s success rate will come down to whether or not he can create an offense that Goff is capable of a) understanding and b) running. And right now at least, that seems easier said than done for a four-win football team.
3. What is the deal with Aaron Donald’s contract?
Perhaps the best defense player in pro football, Donald remans two years away from hitting the free-agency market. With a base salary of less than $9 million for those two years, Donald wants a restructured deal. The first-team All-Pro defensive tackle is just 26 years old and in prime position to enjoy his best season yet. With support from teammates — Michael Brockers says to “pay the man” — the Rams front office has a lot to think about. On one hand, they want to show they are willing to take care of their guys. On the other, it’s not common for a team to offer an extension with two years remaining on a player’s rookie deal. Donald — who plays both the pass and run very well — is a special talent, and this is not a situation the Rams want to play around with.
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