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Column: It’s never too early to say ‘I told you so’ about Rams

Los Angeles Times columnist LZ Granderson talked with Les Snead, General Manager of the Los Angeles Rams, about the team’s hot start and how he and the players are dealing with covid and social issues this year.

General manager Les Snead is too classy and experienced to brag about his team’s 2-0 start but thankfully I’m none of those things so I’ll do it for him: Nah nuh nah nah nah, told you the Rams weren’t gonna suck.

Yes, it’s early.

Yes, the Rams started 3-0 last season but eventually missed the playoffs.

Yes, the team’s two wins came against the NFC East, a division so rich in mediocrity that if it were a condiment, mayo would be ranked above it on the flavor depth chart.

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Nevertheless, CBS Sports thought the Rams would have an 0-2 start; NFL.com had them starting 1-1; and FiveThirtyEight has already adjusted its 9-7 preseason prediction to 10-6.

Again, it is early but there is one thing that should be abundantly clear — a name drain should not be conflated with a talent drain. Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Aqib Talib, Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews are all outstanding players with incredible resumes. But if we’re being completely honest, none of them had a 2019 for the ages.

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So instead of considering what Snead was going to bring in, many football aficionados were fixated on what departed. They looked at the 9-7 record from a year ago. They looked at the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and much-improved Arizona Cardinals within the division. They looked at everything except for the fact that the man who constructed a team that won two consecutive divisions and lifted expectations was still there. For example, Micah Kiser, the team’s leading tackler with 22, was a fifth-round pick. Jordan Fuller, the second leader in that category with 17, was a sixth rounder.

“It is kind of cool to maybe outwit Las Vegas to date,” Snead said in regard to the betting lines that couched his squad as underdogs in both games. “In sports, predetermined offseason narratives are often based on information everyone has from a previous season … but they may lack some of the information that team insiders have.

“Everything we did was with the intent to improve what we put on film and in the standings in 2019. It was to play better down in and down out, get back to who we were in [2017] and [2018]. … We’ll see how the standings fall when it’s all said and done.”

Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the Rams ranked fifth in yards per game and are averaging 28.5 points per outing, which is eighth in the league. In 2018, the season they reached the Super Bowl, the team was second in both categories.

That’s not a complete return to the offensive punch that garnered comparisons to “The Greatest Show on Turf” but the defense is giving up an average of 18 points per game, fourth-best in the league. In 2018, the 24 points per game they gave up ranked 20th.

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Snead said while Gurley was a special player, coach Sean McVay and his staff have figured out ways to maximize the roster to minimize the damage of losing a player who was an MVP candidate two years ago. And oh, by the way, contrary to popular belief, Jared Goff is looking like a franchise quarterback and not just McVay’s puppet.

“The goal of any organization is to have a really good coaching staff and mix them with a really good QB and other skill players and let them go do their thing,” Snead said.

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There’s no denying Goff continues to be dogged by the perception he needs more help than his contemporaries. BetMGM still believes the Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott has a better chance of winning MVP despite losing to Goff and the Rams in Week 1, and the off season’s most popular bet is on the Bills’ Josh Allen. The Action Network recently tweeted the MVP odds of 13 players, and Goff wasn’t on it despite his crisp play and the team’s early success. Perhaps a win Sunday changes things.

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“[Buffalo has] definitely done a nice job building and have broken through these last couple of years and can definitely contend and be a factor,” Snead said. “That’s going to be a tough game, tough opponent. That’ll be a fun one.”

As far as going 3-0 for a second consecutive year and ultimately returning to the playoffs …

“There’s a lot of lessons from last year to apply,” Snead said. “The best way to apply them is to keep the focus just Buffalo and not focus on the 13 [games] after that. If we do what we do, sticking to what we do best, fine tuning what we do best, adjusting to what the weekly enemy is going to give us in-game and then after game because the rest of the opponents are going to try to copy some of it.

“You have to stay who you are and stay ahead of the curve and be disciplined … what ends up being a very fast but long 17 weeks will end up taking care of itself.”

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Translation: We don’t suck. We won’t suck. And we’re going to enjoy watching the naysayers backpedal over the course of the season.

OK, he didn’t say all of that, but that’s what I heard. Not because I’m hard of hearing but because I remember what the doubters were saying about the Rams heading into the season. Goff had regressed. McVay had been figured out. Snead was cap strapped and low on options. A whole lot of talk of the Rams’ demise.

So far, that’s all it is — talk.


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