(CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Rams come into the 202o season with something to prove. And so do the their Week 1 opponent, the Dallas Cowboys. The Rams managed a disappointing 9-7 mark, missing the playoffs following their Super Bowl appearance in 2018. The Cowboys are coming off an 8-8 campaign that also saw them miss the playoffs despite high aspirations.
Both teams will be looking to get back on track in their Week 1 opener in Los Angeles. With preseason canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, this will be their first in-game action of the season. And even that won’t be quite what either team is used to. Fans won’t be in attendance for the opening of SoFi Stadium, home of the Rams and the Los Angles Chargers. The piped-in fan noise won’t disguise the fact that this won’t be a typical game.
The Rams will be looking to bounce back and made some changes they hope will help return them to the playoffs. According to CBS Dallas sports anchor Bill Jones, “the Rams coming off a disappointing year last year with a lot of changes, not only on the field but also on their coaching staff. Wade Phillips no longer the defensive coordinator for Sean McVay. Thirty-seven-year-old Brandon Staley is their new defensive coordinator. But they run a three-four defense, like one Wade Phillips did.”
John Fassel has also been replaced at special teams coordinator by John Bonamego. And John O’Connell was hired as offensive coordinator. On field, the Rams return many key pieces. Jared Goff turned in a strong season in terms of passing yards (4,638), though enough of that didn’t translate into points. Similar yardage to 2018 yielded 10 fewer passing touchdowns from the prior year.
And that certainly wasn’t enough to pick up the slack for a lackluster running game. The team averaged under four yards per carry. Todd Gurley has since moved on to the Atlanta Falcons, and rookie Cam Akers will carry the load, along with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson. Their success will depend on one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, which doesn’t project to be much better this season.
The Cowboys made a few significant changes of their own in the off-season. Former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy now leads the team, with a revamped coaching staff under him. Gone is stellar cornerback Byron Jones, who signed a big deal with the Miami Dolphins. Also gone (again) is future Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten, who is now with the Las Vegas Raiders.
McCarthy will still have plenty of weapons on offense. Dak Prescott is playing under the franchise tag this year and will be looking to once again prove his worth, as if last season’s 4,902-yard, 30-touchdown showing wasn’t enough. An already stacked offense, featuring running back Ezekiel Elliot and wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, now welcomes rookie CeeDee Lamb out of Oklahoma. The key to continued success may still be the relationship between McCarthy and Prescott.
According to Jones, “so much emphasis on the Cowboys and their offense, with their drafting of CeeDee Lamb, the wide receiver in the first round, to go along with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring game. Jared Goff, like Carson Wentz, going into his fifth year. Of course, in that same draft was Dak Prescott. He’s got a lot to prove playing on a franchise tag this year.”
What that will mean on the field remains to be seen. But according to Jones, the opener will be a close one. “I think the Cowboys are going to win the game,” says Jones. “And I think it’s going to come down to a late field goal by former Ram Greg Zuerlein, who is now with the Cowboys. I’ll call it 34-31, Cowboys win in Los Angeles’s new SoFi Stadium.”