Chargers 3 Toughest Matchups in 2018
By Jason Gilder
Los Angeles Rams, Week 3
The first regular season rendition of the battle of Los Angeles is sure to be on the radar of football fans both inside and outside Southern California. Both squads are coming into training camp with an abundance of talent.
But for the Chargers sake, it’s a good thing this tilt is in the first quarter of the season because the Rams are stacked on both sides of the ball. The reigning NFC West champions have a roster that is top-heavy and deep, while also possessing an offensive wizard on the sideline in head coach Sean McVay.
The Rams offense is coming off a stellar 2017 season that saw them average a league-high 29.6 points-per-game. Last year was a resurgence of sorts for star running back Todd Gurley. After a disappointing second season in 2016, the former Georgia Bulldog exploded for 1,305 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, which was paired with 788 receiving yards off a team-high 64 receptions for six more scores.
Gurley’s 19 total touchdowns were an NFL best, and he displayed his versatility as both an elite runner and viable pass-catcher, making him one of the top dual threat backs in the NFL.
Gurley was not the only playmaker contributing in the passing attack.
In his rookie season, wide receiver Cooper Kupp led the team in receiving yards with 896. He and fellow wideout Robert Woods hauled in five touchdown catches. Even though their touchdown reception leader, Sammy Watkins, departed for Kansas City, the Rams got a major upgrade at the position with the addition of Brandin Cooks. The Stockton, California native has rattled off three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons, including 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017 with the New England Patriots.
The well-balanced success of L.A.’s offense would not have been rounded if quarterback Jared Goff did not make drastic improvements from his rookie campaign. After a dreadful debut season for Goff, the 6-foot-4 passer quickly evaporated those memories by tossing 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in year two. His 100.5 passer rating was fifth in the NFL.
While the offense took most of the spotlight in 2017, the additions to the Rams’ defense this offseason will make life miserable for any NFL offense.
The defensive unit already boasted defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who had 11 sacks last year. But the firepower added to this unit is scary, as cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh were acquired in the offseason.
Peters has been one of the NFL’s premier shutdown corners since entering the league in 2015 by racking 19 interceptions in 45 games. Talib has also been a difference maker in the secondary for both the Denver Broncos and Patriots in recent seasons.
As for Suh, the Portland, Oregon native has been a menace on the interior throughout his entire career.
With the offense and defense looking stacked this year, the Chargers should be prepared to play their toughest match in Week 3.