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49ers 2019 opponent preview: Los Angeles Rams

It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents for 2019. Today it’s the Los Angeles Rams.

In the words of Ric Flair, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Right now, the Rams are that man, err “team” to beat if the 49ers want to ascend the mountain top.

Things are a bit different than 2018. The Rams are coming off not just a brutal Super Bowl loss, but one where the New England Patriots defense exposed the offense. Jared Goff looked ordinary, no one could do much of anything, and the Rams defense couldn’t stop Tom Brady.

When the Patriots do this, teams take notice. Does this mean the 49ers can shut down the Rams? Time will tell, but a possible blueprint may have been released as the Super Bowl went on.

The Rams also have to feel for that bad draft in 2018. It wasn’t necessarily bad as it was underwhelming. Across all picks from the 2018 class, there is not a single start among them. It’s hard to start when you have spent all that money on free agents, but that money won’t last forever and the Rams will have to look to their draft investments if they wish to remain competitive.

But this is all speculation. The Rams are the class of the NFC, and until someone, 49ers or anyone else says otherwize, they will remain there. Let’s take a look at their offseason.

Draft picks

Round 2: Taylor Rapp (S)
Round 3: Darrell Henderson (RB)
Round 3: David Long (CB)
Round 3: Bobby Evans (OT)
Round 4: Greg Gaines (DT)
Round 5: David Edwards (OT)
Round 7: Nick Scott (S)
Round 7: Dakota Allen (ILB)

Notable free agent acquisitions

Eric Weddle (S)
Blake Bortles (QB)
Clay Matthews III (OLB)

Already we have improvement. The Rams picked in the second round instead of the third round. The wheeled and dealed away until walking away with eight picks. Taylor Rapp has his issues. Some thought he may be available for the 49ers should they trade back. The Rams getting him when they did is great value. Considering the Rams lost LaMarcus Joyner to free agency, he could be the replacement they need. Rapp is going to need a bit of development though and will be having some growing pains as he is starting on the field.

The development of Todd Gurley’s injury makes the Darrell Henderson pick less of a head-scratcher and more of an understanding that Gurley’s days as a dominant bellcow are over. There won’t be a 50/50 split, but expect to see Gurley’s carries decrease a bit so he can stay healthy into a hopeful postseason.

The rest of the picks offers quantity but I wonder about the quality of it. Bobby Evans could be good? I’m not sure. Going down that list it seems like a dartboard of things that might or might not stick. We’ve seen Trent Baalke do this time and time again, to disastrous results. Perhaps the Rams can have a different outcome.

Free agency netted them Blake Bortles, who is a lackluster starting quarterback, but serviceable as a backup. It’s a one-year deal for a straight $1,000,000 so if he stinks the place up for whatever the reason, he won’t cost them anything. Then again, as we all learned last year, when you lose your starting quarterback, unless if you’re the Philadelphia Eagles, you’re screwed.

Then there’s Clay Matthews. A decent addition, but also one that is a bit long in the tooth. he should help out the linebacking unit. Well, as long as he doesn’t get flagged for roughing the passer.

Way too early gambling line

Rams -8.5

The matchups

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: It’s not that the 49ers would lose, but how they lose. In Los Angeles, I don’t see the 49ers winning this game, however they should be in the game. This won’t be like 2018 where they got a plethora of points after the Rams beat them black and blue and decided to bring in the second team to toy with them. The 49ers should be able to stay within 10 points through the whole game until some late fourth quarter shenanigans puts things out of reach.

It’s when the Rams come to San Francisco that things get interesting. First of all, the Rams very well could start losing games this year, and if they do, that’s a locker room that could become volatile really quick. I said in 2018 that they would sweep the 49ers, even if the 49ers had a full, healthy roster. I also said then that 2019 would bring change thanks to the 49ers not gambling draft picks and salary cap money on a single year. The 49ers have a roster the very well can make the series 50/50. If the Rams sweep again, it’s not going to be by blowouts, but close games. 49ers should win this at Levi’s though.

Also, remember, New England may have provided some blueprint the 49ers could use. That’s not to say it’s successful, but it’s a copycat league when one team finds a way to stop a team, others copy.

Look to the future here. The 49ers are on a hopeful upswing while the Rams are clawing to keep what they had from the 2018 team still going. If that 2018 draft is any indication, things could go for a downswing real quick as we’ve seen with the 49ers and their 2012 draft. It’s not going to be sudden, but things could begin to crack this year with the Rams not having adequately prepared players and depth to overcome injuries. When players leave in free agency after 2019, and there’s a few of them such as Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Michael Brockers and Dante Fowler Jr. to name a few,that’s when we really see how this works out.

But if we live in the now, the 49ers got a win in them for 2019. If not, they are going to look a helluva lot better against the Rams than they have the last two years.

Well, before backups come onto the field for either side.