Despite talent influx, Jared Goff remains most important Ram

Jared Goff's second year was an epic turnaround, but the Rams will need more to take another step in a crowded NFC. AP Photo/John Froschauer

To take a big step this season in a crowded NFC, the Rams will be counting on several new faces as well as last season’s stars. Here are five players who are integral in making that happen:

Jared Goff: The Rams have added a lot of star power over the offseason, but they will only go as far as Goff takes them. The former No. 1 overall pick made impressive strides as a second-year quarterback, enough that he earned an invite to the Pro Bowl. The best thing Goff did in 2017 was limit interceptions (his interception rate was fifth-lowest in the NFL). Goff needs to continue to go through his progressions and make sound decisions. He also needs to be more accurate on deep throws and do a better job of holding on to the football in the pocket.

Aaron Donald: The NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year led the league with 91 total pressures even though (A) interior lineman traditionally face constant double-teams and (B) Donald held out all summer in search of an elusive pay increase. Everything the Rams will do on defense will begin up front with Donald, quite possibly the game’s best player -- period. But first he’ll have to show up. Donald did not take part in the offseason program and is once again determined to stay away from the Rams until they reward him with a lucrative contract extension.

Todd Gurley II: The Rams ran exactly 1,000 offensive plays last season, and Gurley had the ball in his hands for 343 of them. Those 343 touches ranked third in the NFL, even though Gurley rested for the final regular-season contest. His 2,093 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns, meanwhile, were unrivaled. The reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year will probably take on a similar workload this year, while serving as the backbone of Sean McVay’s offense.

Whitworth/Saffold/Sullivan: Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan -- the starting left tackle, left guard and center, respectively -- have combined to play in 22,427 snaps throughout 418 games. That’s a lot of mileage. Neither missed a game due to health reasons last year, which led to an impressive turnaround for the entire offensive line. The depth behind them remains shaky, so the Rams are hoping for similar durability.

Talib/Peters: The Rams gutted their linebacking core in an effort to beef up their secondary, because guys who excel at man coverage and take advantage of the turnover opportunities from an effective pass rush are staples of a Wade Phillips defense. Enter Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, who have combined for 53 interceptions. Talib is 32, and the Kansas City Chiefs deemed Peters expendable. So, questions surround them.