10 Rams to watch in Super Bowl LIII, starting with the coach

WEEI
January 28, 2019 - 4:32 pm
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By Mateo Aycardi

The Los Angeles Rams are all that stand between Tom Brady and Super Bowl No. 6.

With that in mind, let's break down the 10 Rams the Patriots must fear the most.

1. Sean McVay

The Rams wouldn't even be in a position to capture their first Super Bowl since 1999 without McVay.

The youngest head coach ever to lead his team to the Super Bowl, the 33-year-old  has been a rock for a Rams organization traditionally lacking leadership.

Jeff Fisher's departure left Los Angeles in disarray, but McVay has posted a .750 winning percentage in two seasons while also elevating the play of players like quarterback Jared Goff.

There might be some clear differences between Belichick and McVay when it comes to style and experience, but their football IQs and creativity will dictate who prevails in Atlanta.

2. Aaron Donald

Containing the entire Los Angeles front four might not be realistic, which means the one player they must key on is the All-Pro defensive tackle.

A behemoth on the inside, Donald has provided the Rams with a consistent threat alongside Ndamukong Suh and Dante Fowler Jr. Opposing offenses can be overwhelmed by Suh and Donald, as doubling either will immediately leave mismatches and blown coverages in other areas.

Although he did manage to rack up two tackles for a loss in the NFC title game against the Saints, Donald's biggest asset is his ability to disrupt the offense line and create opportunities for his teammates. He holds Pro Football Focus records galore, garnering 106 quarterback pressures in 2018.

Good luck with that one, Dante Scarnecchia.

3. Ndamukong Suh

One of the reasons the Rams have enjoyed success in the postseason is Suh. His fierce play and cutthroat attitude have been a major building block for one of the most terrifying defensive lines in the league. And while his stats might not jump off the page, his impact on the game is unquestionable.

While New England prioritizes getting the ball out as quickly and efficiently as possible to counter the Rams' aggressive approach, it'll be an arduous task to keep Suh and the rest of the front four at bay.

4. Todd Gurley

Prior to his disastrous performance against the Saints (4 carries, 10 yards, 1 TD), Gurley had been one of the best running backs in the league.

But rumors have circulated that Gurley may have been hurt and therefore unable to make a significant impact in New Orleans. If that's the case, the extended rest and motivation for a championship might bring out the best in him, which would not be ideal for the Patriots.

"He didn't have a lot of opportunities to play much better," McVay told the Sporting News. "I think that's where I've got ownership in that as well and the great thing about it is he'll get a chance to make a big-time contribution and have a big-time role in our game against the Patriots."

5. Jared Goff

There has been much debate as to how deserving the Rams truly were of a Super Bowl appearance after a relatively obvious pass interference non-call late in their contest vs the New Orleans. But you have to credit Goff.

He delivered in one of the biggest games of his life, guiding an offense with little run-game impact to a quality win to reach the big dance. Goff threw for 297 yards while doing just enough to come away with a victory -- even leading the game winning drive after a Drew Brees' interception in OT.

"We feel like he certainly has been one of the best quarterbacks in this league," McVay told reporters. "And I wouldn't want anyone else leading this football team."

6. Brandin Cooks

The Patriots are all-too familiar with the speedy Cooks.

During his time with New England, Cooks was an underrated player with a great attitude and a great understanding of the game. But during his time with Los Angeles, Cooks has cemented himself as a reliable weapon for Goff and McVay.

Cooks' 1,204 receiving yards have come at a great time for the Rams, while his catch percentage has also increased by 11 percent according to 12up Sports. His 107 receiving yards in the Rams close victory over New Orleans can only further boost his confidence heading into Sunday.

7. Dante Fowler Jr.

Since coming to the Rams in a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fowler has been a tremendous asset for the front four.

With both Donald and Suh disrupting the inside, Fowler has been free to prey on favorable matchups as the third option in the bunch. This has led to some tremendous game-altering plays -- as Drew Brees can attest.

As if taking care of both Donald and Suh wasn't enough, the Patriots will have to keep a close eye on Fowler and his athletic capabilities.

8. Greg Zuerlein

Zuerlein has been a huge asset, and McVay's trust in him during the most pivotal moment of the season will surely give the seven-year vet considerable confidence. Over the past three games, the special teams weapon has gone 9-for-10 on field goals, including a 57-yarder in  overtime to beat the Saints and send the Rams to Atlanta.

If the Patriots want to contain him, they must do so by limiting his opportunities to see the field.

9. Cory Littleton

Cory Littleton's production has gone completely under the radar for some odd reason.

The 6-foot-3, 228-pound linebacker has been playing some of his best football of the year, garnering 16 solo tackles in his last two games. And although he amassed a tremendous 125 tackles on the year, Littleton's ability to drop into coverage will also be an arduous task for New England to handle.

With an opportunity to get a big payday once he hits free agency this offseason, Littleton will surely be motivated to leave his mark on the field on Sunday.

10. JoJo Natson Jr.

Special teams are sure to be a priority for Belichick come Sunday.

Natson's athletic abilities make him one of the most dynamic players on the field, and his four punt returns of 20-plus yards were outstanding. With the speed and agility to keep the Patriots on their toes, Natson will require added attention.

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