Trevor Denton | Daily TrojanA year ago, the hapless Rams finished 4-12 in their first season back in Los Angeles. Worse than their record, the team was downright dreadful to watch. Under then-head coach Jeff Fisher, rookie quarterback Jared Goff threw more interceptions than touchdowns, while running back Todd Gurley was limited to a dismal 3.2 yards per carry, after ripping through the league as a rookie in 2015. The offense possessed plenty of talent, but the coaching staff had no idea how to use it. It was more frustrating than watching your grandparents try to use an iPad. But sometimes a coaching change can make all the difference. Before this season, 31-year-old Sean McVay was hired to re-energize the Rams’ dormant offense, and he somehow accomplished much more. The Rams led the league in scoring in 2017 (29.9 points per game), after finishing last in that category in 2016. Gurley ended his sophomore slump with a 2,093 total yard, MVP-worthy campaign, while Goff looked like a potential franchise quarterback. The Rams made leaps and bounds in 2017, but they’ve managed to get even better this off-season. After acquiring elite defensive backs Marcus Peters and Aquib Talib a couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles inked All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamakung Suh to a one-year, $14 million deal on Monday. Under venerated coordinator Wade Phillips, the Rams’ defense was already among the league’s best. Now it’s downright terrifying for opposing offenses. With Suh, Talib and Peters, the team has an elite defense to complement its historically prolific offense. Phillips will be able to place line up Suh alongside reigning Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, creating one of the best defensive fronts in history (at least in theory). Suh and Donald have similar skill sets — they can both stuff the run and also terrorize passers from the interior (the duo would have combined for 15.5 sacks in 2017), and both still have plenty of gas in the tank (Suh is 31, Donald is a spry 26). Being able to field both future Hall of Famers in the prime of their careers is borderline unfair. One of Suh’s major considerations when choosing a team in free agency, was going somewhere he could avoid being double-teamed every play. Therefore, it makes sense why he took a pay cut to join the Rams. By playing next to a fellow human wrecking crew in Donald, Suh will have a better chance of avoiding L.A. traffic than ever seeing a double-team from an opposing offensive line (NFC West quarterbacks Jimmy Garapolo’s and Russell Wilson’s lives just got a lot more complicated). Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh joined the Los Angeles Rams on Monday after spending three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.The Suh signing will understandably draw the most attention, but don’t underestimate the impact of Talib and Peters. Los Angeles fielded a middle of the pack secondary in 2017, giving up 217.2 yards per game through the air (12th in the league) and 54 completions over 20 yards (seventh most in the league). Their best defensive back Trumaine Johnson was set to become a free agent this offseason. Instead of resigning Johnson to a mega-deal, they let him walk and still managed to upgrade their secondary in stunning fashion. Talib is a 10-year veteran with five-straight Pro Bowl appearances, while Peters brings unmatched ball-hawking, upside at the position. He’s snagged an incredible 19 interceptions since joining the league in 2015, to go along with six forced fumbles and five recoveries. With Talib’s experience, you know exactly what you’re getting — with Peters, 25, the sky is the limit. The Rams are already having the best off-season of any team, but they may not even be finished just yet. Reports indicate L.A. could be in the runningmix to acquire Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of the best young players in the league. If that trade does indeed happen, all bets are off. The Rams would be fielding one of the most talented teams in league history, a year removed from finishing 11-5 and winning the NFC West by a wide margin. On paper, the team will be stacked with or without Beckham Jr. The only major question will be if McVay can handle so many polarizing personalities on one roster. Talib, Peters, Suh and Beckham Jr. (if they land him) are all controversial figures for different reasons. Having all four in the same locker room could be magical or destructive — just don’t expect much of a middle ground. Either way, the Rams enter the 2018 season as one of the most talented and exciting teams in recent memory. Not bad for a franchise that terribly fumbled its debut season in Los Angeles just two years ago. Trevor Denton is a sophomore majoring in journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “T-Time,” runs Wednesdays.
UEFA NATIONS LEAGUEAntoine Griezmann scored twice last night as France came from behind to claim a second UEFA Nations League victory and continue Germany’s abysmal run in 2018.The visitors were eyeing just their second competitive win of the year when Toni Kroos scored from the penalty spot after Presnel Kimpembe had handled. But Griezmann levelled for the world champions with a superb looping header from Lucas Hernandez’s cross.He then scored the winner from the spot after a foul on Blaise Matuidi.Didier Deschamps’ side remain unbeaten in the Nations League and top Group A1 with seven points from their three games. They are now unbeaten in 14 fixtures, including the seven that culminated in them lifting the World Cup in Russia this summer.In contrast, Germany are in a rut unlike any they have previously experienced.The result in Paris means they have now suffered six defeats in a calendar year for the first time and, following Saturday’s 3-0 humbling reversal in the Netherlands, have lost two consecutive competitive matches for the first time since 2000.It is sure to further increase the pressure on boss Joachim Low, who oversaw their group-stage exit at the World Cup and now faces the very real possibility of his country being relegated to League B of the Nations League.They are bottom of the group with just one point, having played a game more than the Netherlands.Low’s side were actually the better in Paris in the first half on Tuesday. Utilising the speed of the recalled Leroy Sane, they counter-attacked superbly and deservedly led when Kimpembe blocked the Manchester City winger’s cross with his hand and Kroos converted the resulting penalty.But for Hugo Lloris the lead would have been bigger at the break, with the Tottenham keeper showing awareness and speed to dive in and palm the ball away from the feet of Timo Werner in the box and then keep out Matthias Ginter’s low drive.But Low’s side could not maintain their efforts, allowing France, and Griezmann in particular, to demonstrate the resilience and world-class attacking ability that served them so well in Russia.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram