Ram’s big questions: everything seems to be lining up

Jamon Brown
The Rams including offensive guard Jamon Brown, center, take the field prior to a preseaspm game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 25.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Rams start the season with Super Bowl buzz, a team with talent and experience to challenge the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings and others for NFC supremacy.

Last season’s 11-5 record and a flurry of star acquisitions during the offseason have put the Rams in the conversation.

Now they must prove they are worthy of the hype.

It all looks great on paper.


And yet ...

Here are a few questions facing the Rams:

Is Sean McVay a one-hit wonder?

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that after winning 11 games in his first season, the youngest coach in modern NFL history could one day be the winningest.


But McVay, 32, must prove his fast start was no fluke.

McVay showed last season that he can handle dual head coach/play-calling duties. He elevated quarterback Jared Goff’s performance and helped running back Todd Gurley amass more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and score a league-best 19 touchdowns.

The Rams upgraded the roster with star players such as receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

McVay must show he can continue to inspire and motivate a team expected to win.

Can Jared Goff take the next step?

Goff, with help from McVay, erased the doubts that followed him after a tough rookie season under a different staff.

He passed for 28 touchdowns, with only seven interceptions, and participated in the Pro Bowl in place of injured Carson Wentz.

With a year of experience in McVay’s offense, Goff looked comfortable during training camp and appears poised for greater improvement.


Now he needs to demonstrate he can win close games in the fourth quarter.

Can the Rams depend on their linebacker corps?

No real answers were provided during the preseason.

Mark Barron, coming off shoulder and heel surgeries, did not play a training camp or preseason snap. Third-year pro Cory Littleton, the defensive signal-caller, has been only a spot starter. Second-year pro Samson Ebukam will start as an edge rusher.

Matt Longacre returned from back surgery and a biceps issue and could be a starting outside linebacker. Dominique Easley, a career defensive lineman, returned from knee surgery and could rotate with Longacre.

Rookie Micah Kiser provides depth on the inside and rookie Justin Lawler shows promise outside.

Rookie Ogbonnia Okoronkwo’s recovery from foot surgery has been much slower than anticipated.

Are the tight ends viable weapons?


Second-year pro Gerald Everett suffered a shoulder injury early in training camp, slowing his opportunity to make a big jump during the preseason.

Tyler Higbee is more confident in the second year in McVay’s system. Now he needs to produce.

Temarrick Hemingway showed promise during offseason workouts but struggled during training camp and did not make the 53-man roster. Johnny Mundt caught the ball consistently and will be the third tight end.

Is Greg Zuerlein back to his 2017 form?

The NFL’s scoring leader appears fully recovered from late-season back surgery that forced him to sit out two games and the wild-card playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Zuerlein kicked a 63-yard field goal during training camp and several from beyond 55 yards.

And the player known as Legatron, Greg the Leg and Mr. Automatic did it with ease.

Zuerlein’s first field-goal attempt during the preseason, from 48 yards, missed wide right, but he came back and converted two other attempts.

Will the locker room be large enough for the new personalities?

Cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh arrive with resumes that include suspensions and fines.

All have big personalities, which defensive coordinator Wade Phillips welcomes and embraces.

The Rams’ locker room was a happy place in 2017.

The team did not suffer consecutive regular-season defeats.

If things go sideways this season, it will be on McVay and team leaders to keep everyone on point.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein

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