Jared Goff a good bet to be starting quarterback when Rams open season

Projecting the Los Angeles Rams' starters for their Sept. 12 opener against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football:


Quarterback (Jared Goff): The Rams will take their time in naming him the starter, but they didn't give up six premium picks to move from No. 15 to No. 1 for Goff to watch Case Keenum from the sideline. It's possible Goff won't come along quickly enough and Keenum will hold the job early but Goff will get his chances to earn it in camp.

Running back (Todd Gurley): Gurley isn't just the starter, he's the focal point of the offense. And with a full offseason under his belt, Gurley is healthy and poised to build on a debut season in which he was named offensive rookie of the year.

Fullback (Cory Harkey): After re-signing as a free agent this offseason, Harkey's dual role as fullback and tight end should continue.

Receiver (Kenny Britt): Britt has been the Rams' leading receiver in each of the two seasons he has been with the team, but he and the Rams would like to see those numbers increase above the 748 yards he posted two years ago.

Receiver (Tavon Austin): Rams coach Jeff Fisher has proclaimed that the team's revamped passing attack will allow Austin to double his catches from last season, which would put him at 104. That seems too optimistic, but new passing-game coordinator Mike Groh has big plans for Austin in 2016.

Tight end (Lance Kendricks): The Rams released Jared Cook in the offseason and gave Kendricks a lucrative contract extension two years ago. He's clearly the team's primary option at tight end, and they'd like him to exceed the modest production of his past two seasons.

Left tackle (Greg Robinson): Perhaps the most important player on the offense, Robinson simply must take a step forward in 2016. The Rams believe the light started to come on in the final few games of 2015, but Robinson must be consistent and cut down on penalties to reach the lofty expectations that go with being the No. 2 overall pick in 2014.

Left guard (Rodger Saffold): Fully recovered from a second shoulder surgery last season, Saffold thinks he's due for some injury luck. If he gets it, he can be a productive guard. If not, this could be his last season with the franchise.

Center (Tim Barnes): A year ago, Barnes was in a three-way battle for this job. Now, he's the incumbent after starting all 16 games and re-signing in the offseason.

Right guard (Jamon Brown): This was Brown's job before he suffered a season-ending leg injury, so we'll assume he gets first crack at the position, but he'll have competition from Cody Wichmann and Garrett Reynolds.

Right tackle (Rob Havenstein): So long as Havenstein stays healthy (which has been questionable at times early in his career), this is his job for the foreseeable future.


Left defensive end (William Hayes): Hayes has essentially been the starter for most of the past two seasons with Chris Long battling injuries. Now that Long has departed, this is Hayes' job on a more permanent basis. He'll try to build on the 21.5 sacks he has posted over the past four seasons.

Left defensive tackle (Aaron Donald): The best interior pass-rusher in the NFL still believes he can become better. He has 20 sacks in his first two seasons and should be a legitimate contender for defensive player of the year for years to come.

Right defensive tackle (Michael Brockers): It's a big year for Brockers, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. He does all the dirty work in the middle of this line, but a bit more production would go a long way in landing him a long-term deal.

Right defensive end (Robert Quinn): Quinn has a lot to prove coming off a back surgery that cost him half of last season, but he's eager to return to the form that saw him post 40 sacks over the three seasons before the injury.

Weakside linebacker (Mark Barron): Barron stepped in here last season because of injuries and went on to lead the team in tackles. After signing a big contract in the offseason, Barron must show he can hold up at his new position for all 16 games.

Middle linebacker (Alec Ogletree): The Rams let James Laurinaitis go in free agency in order to make Ogletree the centerpiece of their linebacking corps. The responsibilities will increase but Ogletree spent three seasons learning from Laurinaitis so he should be able to adjust well.

Strongside linebacker (Akeem Ayers): As the designated linebacker to come off the field in sub packages, Ayers didn't play as much as others in 2015 and didn't produce much when he did -- except for the second meeting with Seattle. Entering the final season of his deal, the Rams could keep their eyes open for potential long-term solutions at this spot.

Left cornerback (Trumaine Johnson): Johnson will play this season under the franchise tag and could really cash in with another big season, but he'll also be tested more as he ascends to the No. 1 corner role following the departure of Janoris Jenkins in free agency.

Right cornerback (E.J. Gaines): There will be competition here from Coty Sensabaugh and Marcus Roberson, but Gaines looks to be coming back healthy from the foot injury that cost him all of last season, and he's determined to reclaim his starting job.

Strong safety (T.J. McDonald): A shoulder injury and an arrest didn't help McDonald much in the offseason or as he heads toward the final year of his rookie contract. However, he's still expected to be a leader for this defense whenever he returns.

Free safety (Cody Davis): After losing Rodney McLeod in free agency, the Rams are hopeful that another late-round or undrafted gem will be able to step into his role. Davis has followed a similar path to McLeod and will get heavy competition from Christian Bryant and possibly others.


Kicker (Greg Zuerlein): Despite the insistence that Zuerlein would get a strong challenge for his job in camp, the Rams only added an undrafted rookie, which allows Zuerlein to get one more shot to be more consistent.

Punter (Johnny Hekker): The best punter in the league looks to add a third Pro Bowl berth in 2016.

Long-snapper (Jake McQuaide): You never hear much about McQuaide's consistently strong performance, which is a good thing at his position.

Punt returner (Tavon Austin): The victim of some bad penalties that have cost him big returns, Austin will look to have at least one punt-return touchdown for the fourth consecutive season.

Kick returner (Benny Cunningham): Although Cunningham doesn't have breakaway speed, he has averaged nearly 28 yards per return over the past two seasons.