This week, Between The Hashmarks dives into the Los Angeles Rams’ sudden slump, revists the Eagles-Colts Carson Wentz blockbuster, and much more as tne NFL stretch run begins
Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead went all-in at the NFL trade deadline.
He might have watched his Super Bowl hand go bust as a result.
Since trading for Von Miller at the trade deadline and signing Odell Beckham Jr. nine days later, the Rams have lost three straight, falling from their perch atop the NFC to 7-4 and clinging to the No. 5 seed in less than a month.
“They have too many veteran players and made too many moves too quickly,” a league source told to FanSided. “A dream team doesn’t always lead to success.”
Snead’s Rams are the embodiment of a veteran roster, having not made a first-round pick since selecting Jared Goff No. 1 overall in 2017. After trading Goff for Matthew Stafford this offseason, and for Miller at the deadline, the Rams don’t own a first-round pick again until 2024.
Yeah, Snead pushed all his chips to the table to win a Super Bowl this season.
But, betting on a veteran roster and a quarterback, in Stafford, who has never won a playoff game may prove to be a foolish proposition for Los Angeles.
For all of the star power befitting of playing home games in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, it’s little wonder that as the calendar turns to December some of the Rams’ issues have suddenly started to strangle out a once-promising season.
“They’re too heavy in big-names and star players,” an AFC scout tells FanSided. “The problem is, their depth is lacking.”
Many believed Beckham would seamlessly step in and replace Robert Woods, who the scout called “instrumental to the Rams’ offensive success,” but Beckham’s growing pains in a new scheme after being thrown into Stafford’s arsenal have been immense.
There is hope, though, as Beckham rebounded from a disastrous debut against the Niners to catch five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown in Green Bay against the Packers on Sunday.
However, it is fair to wonder whether Snead’s aggressiveness altered the chemistry of a roster that arrived at the deadline 7-1. But, the general manager moving mountains to win a Super Bowl ring only deserves a portion of the blame for what is becoming a debacle in Tinsletown.
Sean McVay, who is largely seen as the NFL’s perpetual wunderkind, has guided his teams out of the NFC’s Wild Card Round only twice.
“McVay’s a part of their issues right now, too,” the scout says. “There’s no doubt he’s bought into his media image.”
Over the past four seasons, the Rams were 52-21 with Goff, but it was McVay who pushed for Stafford hoping to push the Rams to new heights this season.
Stafford, after starting the season with nine touchdowns to just one interception in a prolific month of September has as many touchdowns as interceptions during Los Angeles’ current three-game skid.
There’s time for the Rams, currently the No. 5 seed in the NFC to right the ship, but it’s about to get late in a hurry if Los Angeles doesn’t turn things around.
Following a get-right game at home against the Jaguars on Sunday, Los Angeles travels to the desert to take on the conference-leading Cardinals, hosts the Seahawks before a brutal back-to-back at Minnesota and the Ravens, and closes out the regular season at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
Los Angeles’ road home is the fifth-toughest among NFC teams, and Washington is the only team on that side of the bracket that would be in the playoffs if they began today with a more difficult strength of schedule than the Rams’ .500 remaining opponents.
It wouldn’t surprise if the Rams were one of the top two seeds by the time the season is done or has to go on the road wild card weekend to somewhere like Lambeau, or Dallas, or Tampa Bay where they would likely be underdogs in any of those matchups.
The Rams could always get hot, become this year’s Buccaneers, and win the Super Bowl in their own building this February. But, if they don’t, if Snead’s Rams don’t at least make it to Super Sunday for the second time under McVay, after all they’ve invested, it might be time for some serious soul-searching for the franchise from top to bottom.
Revisiting Eagles-Colts Carson Wentz blockbuster
It’s rare a trade winds up being a win for both franchises involved.
But, if there were ever a case, it’s February’s blockbuster that sent Carson Wentz from Philadelphia to the Indianapolis Colts and the Eagles a third-round pick in 2021 and conditional second-rounder in 2022.
Wentz, while playing behind one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines, is having the kind of season reminiscent of his MVP-caliber 2017 campaign, completing 62.8 percent of his passes for 2,790 yards with 21 touchdowns to just five interceptions.
“Watching Carson, he’s way more comfortable in that offense,” an NFC head coach tells FanSided, on the condition of anonymity to speak freely. “He has a strong running game and a great RPO package that suits his skill-set perfectly.”
There might not be a more telling juxtaposition of how valuable an offensive line is to a quarterback than Wentz’s rebound from the worst season of his career in 2020 in Philadelphia to his return to form in Indianapolis.
Last season, Wentz was an indecisive quarterback while playing behind seemingly a different offensive line combination each week. He passed for just 2,620 yards with 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and a career-low 72.8 passer rating in 12 starts before being benched for Jalen Hurts.
Reunited with Frank Reich, the architect of Wentz’s best season in Philadelphia, the 28-year-old looks like one of the top-15 quarterbacks in the league and has the Colts in the throes of the playoff race, currently one game out of the AFC’s seventh seed.
“Frank Reich’s influence is obvious, and a big help for Wentz,” an NFC North personnel executive tells FanSided. “But, Carson also has a better offensive line, Jonathan Taylor is a great running back, and he has quality receivers. He still throws a bad pick occasionally, but not quite as often. Whether he can stay healthy is going to be a big question for him.”
Meanwhile, there might not be anyone cheering louder for Wentz and the Colts’ success this season than Eagles general manager Howie Roseman, 650 miles away.
That’s because the conditional second-round pick Indianapolis sent Philadelphia becomes a first-round pick if Wentz plays in 70 percent of the Colts’ offensive snaps and Indianapolis makes the playoffs or if Wentz plays in 75 percent of the snaps. Wentz should cross that benchmark by the end of Week 15 against the New England Patriots.
Following this trade, few teams are better armed to make a run at any of the veteran quarterbacks expected to be available this offseason; Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers and possibly Derek Carr.
If the season ended today, Philadelphia would own picks No. 8, 9, and 14 (the Colts’ pick) in next spring’s NFL Draft to either invest in blue-chip talent to build around Jalen Hurts, or the more-likely option, pry away one of the proven veteran passers this offseason.
By trading Wentz, Philadelphia moved off an underachieving quarterback in dire need of a change of scenery in exchange for the opportunity to evaluate its future at the position and a significant chip to either trade for a quarterback of the future or build around one.
Likewise, the Colts invested a first- and third-round pick for a quarterback whose ceiling is likely as a top-10 passer.
In what is a rarity, both teams are significantly better and perhaps helped each of their futures exponentially by making this trade.
“Obviously we need to get DK the football. We called several plays for him. He had a sweet deep cross that he was gonna be wide open, maybe for a touchdown, that I had to move. . . . That was unfortunate. . . . We called some other stuff and they doubled him. We called two plays in a row for him and they doubled him on those. . . . He’s one of the best football players in the world. We got to get him the football. We got to find ways to do it.”
– Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, following Monday night’s 17-15 loss to the Washington Football Team
The issues in Seattle run much deeper than D.K. Metcalf only seeing four targets in a disastrous loss to Washington.
It might be time for an honest introspective between general manager John Schneider, head coach Pete Carroll, and quarterback Russell Wilson over the future of one of the most stable franchises of the past two decades.
Teams with legitimate postseason aspirations don’t lose to a team like Washington.
Wilson was particularly dreadful Monday night, erratic through much of the outing against the NFL’s 26th-ranked passing defense, culminating with a terrible interception on a two-point conversation with 15 seconds left that would have tied the game.
Seattle’s loss dropped it to 3-8, and for all intents and purposes, out of the NFC playoff race. It might have also ended an era.
WIlson, having missed three games with a broken finger, sits 27th in passing yards (1,811) and 23rd in passing touchdowns (12), despite having the league’s highest cap number at $32 million this season.
Meanwhile, Carroll has long operated a program that grates on players in a way that time spent in New England under taskmaster Bill Belichick does. But, the difference between tolerating Belichick who has won six rings to dealing with Carroll’s hyper-competitive daily existence, with just one Super Bowl ring won, is stark.
For the past several offseasons, there has been much haranging and handwringing over Wilson’s future.
Having failed to make it out of the NFC’s divisional round each of the past six seasons — and seemingly earmarked to miss the playoffs for the third time over that span — a breakup might be best for all parties involved.
The Seahawks traded their first-round pick in 2022 to the New York Jets in exchange for Jamal Adams, so they won’t even see the rebuilding benefits of what seems earmarked for a last-place finish in the NFC West.
Moving on from Wilson and recouping some of the lost draft capital may prove necessary to actually rebuild in the Emerald City.
Teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, and maybe even the New York Giants have multiple first-round picks and could be a Wilson away from turning the corner from rebuilding to contending.
All good things must one day come to an end, and if this season is any indication, the Carroll/Wilson era might have already run its course.
The 2022 NFL Draft has the chance to be very, very weird …
Following the Seahawks’ loss to Washington on Monday night, if the regular season ended today, this is how the top 10 would look next spring:
Detroit LionsHouston TexansJacksonville JaguarsNew York Jets (via Seattle Seahawks)New York JetsNew York GiantsNew York Giants (via Chicago Bears)Philadelphia EaglesPhiladelphia Eagles (via Miami Dolphins)Carolina Panthers
Not since 1992, when the Colts picked Steve Emtman and Quentin Coryatt No. 1 and No. 2 overall has a team owned consecutive picks in the top-10.
Dating back to 1960, there have never been three teams in a row owning back-to-back picks.
Similarly, if this is how the draft order shapes up, seven teams picking in the top 10 would be the fewest ever in the modern era. The closest comparison happened in 1979, with eight franchises in the aforementioned area.
Plenty of football remains, but this current draft order would be a historic anomaly and an opportunity for teams like the Jets, Giants, and Eagles to jumpstart their rebuilds. If it holds.