It's an exciting time to be a football fan in Los Angeles. The Chargers and Rams will be moving into their new shared stadium this season, both teams got new uniforms and made updates to their logos, and both will be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks. All this leads to a considerable amount of hype for two teams that missed the playoffs in disappointing fashion last season. The question is, which team has the best chance to bounce back?
The Rams arguably had the most lackluster season considering the talent on their roster and the fact that they had made a trip to the super bowl in the previous year. Inconsistency on the offensive line, which effected Jared Goff's performance, and Todd Gurley's declining production were key factors which contributed to a 9-7 record, one spot out of the playoffs. The Chargers were dealt a rough hand by the injury bug. A holdout from Melvin Gordon, and at times erratic quarterback play from Philip Rivers also got in their way of making a trip back to the playoffs. Although the Chargers fared worse than the Rams last season, posting a record of 5-11 earning them the last spot in the AFC West, it's their offseason moves that put them in a better position to bounce back.
The offseason is meant for improvement, as teams evaluate the talent they have and look to upgrade their roster through free agency or the draft. The Rams seemed to do the opposite of that. Cutting Todd Gurley left a gaping hole at running back and incurred more than $20 million in dead money. Although they could be seen as the "winners" of the Brandon Cooks trade, the return on investment - the Rams selected Florida WR Van Jefferson with the 57th pick given to them by the Texans - is not all too exciting. And they gave up a 2022 fourth. The Rams also lost LB Corey Littleton to free agency, which is baffling considering they have few proven starters at the inside linebacker position. Dante Fowler Jr. was also lost to free agency, but the Rams brought in Leonard Floyd who could be a fine replacement. The Rams also cut the most hated man in New Orleans, Nickel Robey-Coleman, who had been their most reliable corner prior to the Jalen Ramsey trade. Considering he only signed a fairly cheap 1 year, $1.3 million dollar deal with the Eagles, the Rams could and probably should have brought him back. I say should because at the moment the Rams have 4 corners on their roster. And while one of those 4 corners is Jalen Ramsey, the Rams had no first round pick in this year's draft and have no first round pick in 2021 thanks to that deal. They'll need to get creative in drafting and developing young talent.
The Chargers could also be criticized for letting their star running back, Melvin Gordon, sign with another team. However, his departure isn't as detrimental. Gordon signing with the Denver Broncos didn't cost the Chargers any money and the bolts have Austin Ekler, a player who has proven he can handle a heavy workload, to take his place. This offseason, the Chargers really only lost Gordon and gained a whole lot. Their o-line has been massively improved with the additions of Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga, both of whom should make life much easier for either Tyrod Taylor and first round pick Justin Herbert. The Chargers defense was already within the top ten in the league last season, even without Derwin James for more than half of it, and added more pieces that could nudge them into the top five. DT Linval Joseph improves the d-line and the addition of CB Chris Harris, Jr. makes the Chargers' secondary one of the best in the league. Considering how dominant the defense could be, whoever starts at quarterback (probably Taylor considering head coach Anthony Lynn is smitten with him) will just have to be a game manager and the Chargers will win games.
The division each team plays in can also be factored in when considering which LA team will have the better season. The NFC West is stacked - three of the four teams finished with a record above .500 last season and the Cardinals should be competitive - meaning the Rams will have their work cut out for them. Although the AFC West has a team named the Kansas City Chiefs in it, the other two teams are much less intimidating. Denver should be fairly competitive but not too much of a challenge, and the Raiders, well... they're the Raiders. Within their division, the Chargers can easily stay at or above .500 (2 wins against Las Vegas, one against Denver) while the Rams will have to really scratch and claw to win, regardless of where they are playing.
All things considered, the Chargers should be the better LA team this upcoming season. There are just too many question marks associated with this Rams team: Which version of Jared Goff will we get? Who's going to carry the load at running back? Will the offensive line be cohesive? Who's playing corner besides Jalen Ramsey? Who's playing inside linebacker? The only question I find myself asking regarding the Chargers is at the quarterback position. Granted, it is the most important position in all of football, but Tyrod Taylor has led a team to the playoffs before and I'm sure he or Justin Herbert can function as a game manager.