• skyesverd

The Oddest Rollout

I’m told that the National Football League is kicking off, and I’m going to actually make sure to turn on the TV, just in case they’re serious. It really seems like we’ve made it back to football, but what an odd walkup it has been.

Under normal circumstances, we would have already broke down glimpses of Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow taking snaps with the starters in Miami and Cincinnati. We would have already filled the bleachers under the sun at UC Irvine to see what Cam Akers will bring to the Rams offense now that Todd Gurley is gone. We would have watched four preseason games that would have only distorted our regular season predictions. Over 70,000 fans would have already become familiar with the amenities at SoFi Stadium, and the Rams rebrand would have already been mostly digested.

But this is 2020, and these are certainly not normal circumstances. Instead of mulling over the backend of the Rams roster, we having nightly dosages of playoff basketball pumped into our veins. We’re trying to squeeze in baseball games between our Zoom sessions. Our Twitter feeds are buzzing with calls for social reform as we plow toward an election where even methods of voting can’t be agreed upon. We’re riding a wave of change and uncertainty, but then around the corner comes an old sweetheart...Hello Week One!

You appear to be real.

These look like the L.A. Rams, only brighter.

There goes Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, and Robert Woods. Cooper Kupp and Michael Brockers are still in wearing the blue and gold sol. These familiar faces seem to mean a little more in a year like this. But can the old crew carve out a successful season from all the uncertainty of 2020?

Following free agent departures and a disappointing 2019, predictions of mediocrity have mostly been floated by pundits and pinheads alike. However last season’s 9-7 team would have nabbed a Wildcard in this year’s expanded playoff format, so the team may be a few Sam Sloman field goals from being back in contention if they can stay healthy(ish).

The Rams have some things working for them. It seems like Sean McVay’s offense started to click at the end of the year last season. Whether it was their patchwork offensive line, tight end Tyler Higbee, or Jared Goff himself, things seemed to take a turn for the better as the curtains began to lower down the stretch. It’s not to hard to imagine that the offense, with the additions of rookies Van Jefferson and Cam Akers, could look potent under the canopy at SoFi Stadium.

But there are question marks as well. The Rams have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and won’t have had a single preseason tune-up when the Dallas Cowboys roll into town for Sunday Night Football. Brandon Staley’s defense will be hoping that a largely unproven group of linebackers can pick up where departed free agents Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler left off. That will be a tall task. McVay and new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell are going to hope that their shaky line from a year ago continues to improve as it did late last season, when they were protected by more 12 personnel down the stretch.

We clearly know less than we normally would entering a season, but maybe that’s okay. In a season where Week 2 isn’t a certainty, maybe we should view each game as gravy, and enjoy it as such. We won’t get to tailgate this time around, but we will finally get an answer to how much a home crowd affects an outcome, which is kind of interesting. And to be honest, the NBA playoffs have been just fine without fans, it just took a minute to get used to. So enjoy the ride for what it is, one week at a time, and should the Rams somehow scrape their way to an empty fanless Super Bowl, make no mistake.

It’ll count!