In the year of mind-blowing offensive innovation, Sean McVay was looking like, equal parts, Bill Walsh and Dougie Houser. At certain points during the 2018 season, the Rams looked simply unbeatable, but on the biggest stage Sean McVay ran face first into Bill Belichick. Since then the conversation surrounding the Rams is the dreaded Super Bowl hangover.
Super Bowl Hangover Cures For Sean McVay
Some Super Bowl losing teams fall off the face of the earth. Some teams remain in contention but the chips never again fall just right. While there have been several teams that have lost a Super Bowl, only to return the next season, there has been only one to return to the Super Bowl and win. The New England Patriots lost to the Eagles in 2017 then beat the Rams in 2018.
Expectations are now higher than ever before on Sean McVay. Rams fans have seen the mountaintop and expect their fearless leader to lead them back. In order to do so, Sean McVay must utilize a few tried and true hangover cures.
Super Bowl Hangover Cure
Most of the Rams offseason focused on addressing the defense and a shake-up was fitting given the underperformance of last seasons squad. With that being said, the effect of injuries to Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley showed the need for depth on offense. They certainly addressed the depth in the backfield, drafting Darrell Henderson and re-signing Malcolm Brown.
With Kupp recently approved to practice, the receiving corps is back, looking lethal.
The addition of Blake Bortles ensures that if Goff goes down they will have a capable game manager under center. Which is more than enough for McVay to work with.
With the skill position depth seemingly addressed, the offensive line’s standing is tenuous. The Rams lost two starters and Andrew Whitworth is not getting any younger. It looks as if, 2018 fourth-rounder Brian Allen, is the frontrunner to replace veteran stalwart John Sullivan. Pro Football Focus ranked the LA line 13th this year, dropping seven spots from 2018.
Hair Of The Dog
Sean McVay should get even more Sean McVay-ie. He must continue to innovate. His inexperience showed as Bill Belichick out schemed the Rams. What was working all season, stopped working when New England figured out how to chip away at strengths and exploit weaknesses.
On offense, the Patriots effectively slowed the Rams potent edge rush with a seven-man protection scheme and shut down LA’s rushing game by regularly clogging the line with five or more defenders.
This season will reveal if McVay is a true genius or just a one-trick pony. Watch how McVay will use the three running backs to set up play-action passes to create space 10 to 20 yards downfield. In 2018, the Rams used play-action very effectively. Look for more evolution in how they create confusion with multiple backs, run-pass options, fake WR reverses and tight end movement.
Also, how they protect Goff throughout the season will also show how McVay is evolving and improving this season. Watch for more outside zone formations to move the pocket and keep pressure off Goff.
The Super Bowl hangover is chiefly a symptom of team members losing motivation. Forgetting how hard the long journey was last year. In fact, the Rams road to the big game will be even harder than 2018. They play seven games against last year’s playoff teams. In addition to that, they twice face a healthy 49ers team and the surging Cleveland Browns.
McVay has never been accused of lacking passion. The Rams have a guy on staff whose job on Sundays is to wrangle McVay on the sidelines. That sense of urgency and intensity will have to transfer to each and every member of the team. Swapping veteran defenders, Ndamukong Suh and Clay Matthews looks more and more like a culture shift toward leadership and “every down” intensity. Suh never stepped up into that position and Matthews seems eager to do so.