LOS ANGELES -- The optimist sees the 2017 Los Angeles Rams like this: Good on defense, good on special teams, and now it's just a matter of how quickly they can fix the offense.
Sean McVay, the rookie head coach who was brought in for that very task, isn't ready to set expectations.
"It sounds cliché -- I think the expectation is that we're just going to continue to try to get better every single day," McVay said last Thursday, the day after the conclusion of his offseason program. "I know this, in terms of the predictions, things like that, we don't really talk about it. But when you talk about the time, the effort that you put into each week, your expectation is to try to win that game."
The short answer: Nobody really knows how much better this unit can be with one offseason.
There's way too much ground to make up.
The Rams were dead last in the NFL in yards each of the past two years, but their struggles are even deeper and more pronounced than that. They have finished within the bottom 10 in yards per game each of the past 10 years. During that 10-year stretch, they didn't have a Pro Bowl quarterback and only had two 1,000-yard receivers -- Torry Holt in 2007 and Kenny Britt in 2016. Using its DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) metric, Football Outsiders has the 2016 Rams as the fourth-worst offense in the past 30 years.
McVay has since cleared the decks.
Only six of those expected to start the 2017 season were starters on offense during the stretch run last season. That includes quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick from 2016 who must be given a real chance; running back Todd Gurley, the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015; left guard Rodger Saffold, by far the Rams' best offensive lineman last season; receiver Tavon Austin, who might have a one-year tryout with this new coaching staff; and linemen Rob Havenstein and Jamon Brown, each transitioning to new positions on the right side.
At left tackle, the Rams swapped Greg Robinson for Andrew Whitworth. At center, Tim Barnes was replaced by John Sullivan. At receiver, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will essentially take the place of Britt and Brian Quick. At tight end, Tyler Higbee seems primed to absorb the targets that were once directed at Lance Kendricks.
"I don’t necessarily know if it was about kind of changing the structure of the entire offense," McVay said, "but more evaluating the pieces and then figuring out what's the best way to put it together."
Regardless, it will be a largely different group implementing an entirely different philosophy.
McVay was able to elevate quarterback Kirk Cousins while serving as the offensive coordinator and play-caller in Washington these past two seasons. He will call plays for the Rams, too, and has spoken constantly about being able to marry the run and the pass, something he wasn't really able to accomplish in his prior gig. It's even more important now because McVay wants to take a lot of the pressure off Goff, who's still only 22 years old.
The Rams' offense should be better, but it's impossible to know by how much.
"To say how our offense affects what we'll be able to do as a team, it's hard to say," McVay said. "And there's so many things that change from year to year. But I think when you look at what's been done in the past, we're optimistic that we're improving as a team."