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49ers 2023 Opponent Preview: Los Angeles Rams

The countdown to training camp and the 2023 NFL regular season has begun with the league releasing report days for each of the 32 clubs. The San Francisco 49ers have set a rookie report day of July 18, and veterans are expected back in Santa Clara a week later on July 25.

As all 32 teams begin gearing up for training camp, is breaking down some of the key matchups of the upcoming season in this 2023 opponent preview series. We'll also hear directly from the opposition on their club's biggest offseason moves.

Up next, we are previewing the final of the 49ers NFC West opponents, the Los Angeles Rams. The 49ers are riding an eight-game regular season win streak versus their SoCal rivals headed into the 2023 season. San Francisco will travel to SoFi Stadium in Week 2 and then host the Rams at Levi's® Stadium to close out the regular season slate.

2022 Season Recap

The Los Angeles Rams entered the 2022 season as the defending Super Bowl LVI champions, but following a 2-1 start to the year, had season-ending injuries to several playmakers derail their hopes at back-to-back titles. The Rams missed the playoffs altogether in 2022 after going 5-12, marking the team's first losing record under head coach Sean McVay.

While the team would eventually lose starting quarterback Matthew Stafford (neck), former 2021 AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp (ankle) and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aaron Donald (ankle) to injury in the second half of the season, it was LA's offensive line that was hit by the injury bug first. Three offensive linemen Brian Allen, Kyren Williams and Joe Noteboom each sustained notable injuries in the team's home opener against the Buffalo Bills. Per SB Nation's NFL writer Blaine Grisak, the team had 12 different offensive configurations through the first 12 games of the season and utilized a total of 15 different players on the O-line.

Following a Week 3 win versus the Cardinals, the Rams lost eight of their next nine contests. With the fate of their season all but decided by Week 13, the team opted to place Stafford on the Injured Reserve list and shut him down for the rest of year. Donald was later ruled out for the final six games of the year and Kupp missed Weeks 11 to 18. According to Spotrac, LA finished with the fourth most players on Injured Reserve in 2022, behind the Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos.

The 49ers Week 8 win over the Rams at SoFi Stadium was a significant one for the red and gold, who were able to get back to .500 before heading into the Bye week. Their 31-14 win over the defending champs marked the start of a 12-game win streak for San Francisco, carrying them straight into the NFC Championship Game.

View game photos from the San Francisco 49ers Week 8 matchup vs. the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.

Key Offseason Additions

Drafted Players

  • OL Steve Avila
  • LB Byron Young
  • DL Kobie Turner
  • QB Stetson Bennett
  • LB Nick Hampton
  • OL Warren McCLendon
  • TE Davis Allen
  • WR Puka Nacua
  • CB Tre'vius Hodges-Tomlinson
  • LB Ochaun Mathis
  • RB Zach Evans
  • P Ethan Evans
  • S Jason Taylor II
  • DL Desjuan Johnson

Acquired and Retained Free Agents

  • QB Brett Rypien
  • TE Hunter Long
  • DL Marquise Copeland
  • C Coleman Shelton
  • DL Michale Hoecht
  • DB Shaun Jolly
  • LB Christian Rozeboom

Coaching Changes and Promotions

  • Assistant head coach: Jimmy Lake
  • Offensive coordinator: Mike LaFleur
  • Secondary coach: Chris Beake
  • Assistant defensive line coach: AC Carter
  • Outside linebackers coach: Joe Coniglio
  • Defensive assistant: Mike Harris
  • Defensive backs/pass game coordinator: Aubrey Pleasant
  • Inside linebackers/pass rush coordinator: Chris Shula
  • Offensive assistant: K.J. Black
  • Tight ends coach: Nick Caley
  • Assistant offensive line coach: Zak Kromer
  • Pass game specialist: Jake Peetz
  • Offensive line coach: Ryan Wendell
  • Running backs coach: Ron Gould
  • Special teams coordinator: Chase Blackburn

Hear From the Other Side

Get an insider's perspective as senior writer Stuart Jackson answered some questions regarding the club's offseason moves.

How would you assess the Rams approach to free agency? Despite some bigger losses on the defensive side of the ball, how important was it for LA to shore up the offense with Long and Shelton?

The Rams wanted to engineer a healthier salary cap situation for the future, so that meant losing several key contributors in all three phases this offseason like defensive back Jalen Ramsey, safety Nick Scott, kicker Matt Gay, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and linebacker Bobby Wagner in order to have more space and flexibility down the road. It hasn't totally prevented them from re-signing some of their own like offensive lineman Coleman Shelton and defensive lineman Marquise Copeland – both valuable pieces to their respective rotations – and also adding experienced players like running back Sony Michel and wide receivers Tyler Johnson and Demarcus Robinson, but it was certainly much different compared to what they did leading into, during, and even after their 2021 Super Bowl LVI-winning season. Shelton has been valuable because of his position flexibility – he can play center and both guard spots. As for Long, the Rams lost Kendall Blanton, Roger Carter Jr. and Jared Pinkney at tight end, so adding Long made sense. Long is also someone new tight ends coach Nick Caley is familiar with going back to the pre-draft process for the 2021 NFL Draft, when Caley interviewed Long multiple times when Caley was on the Patriots coaching staff.

What are your early impressions of the 2023 rookie class? Any early standouts during OTAs?

Regardless of where they were drafted, each member of the class is going to have the opportunity to compete for a role right away given the amount of roster turnover – between the 14 draft picks and players signed afterward, more than 40 new players were added. Second-round pick and guard Steve Avila was one of the early standouts because of how comfortable he looks on the interior. Another was fifth-round pick and wide receiver Puka Nacua, who was praised for his ability to translate what he learned in meetings onto the field and has a chance to earn a meaningful role in the wide receiver rotation.

Injuries cost Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald significant portions of their 2022 seasons. How have each looked in the offseason programming?

Stafford looks like the quarterback everyone saw in 2021 and didn't show any limitations. Donald said in early May that he's 100 percent healthy, and that was reflected in the portions of the offseason program he participated in (he had an excused absence from mandatory minicamp for family reasons). Kupp was still rehabbing his ankle injury from last season, but saw his workload pick up toward the end of the offseason program. Rams head coach Sean McVay said at the end of minicamp that he didn't expect any players to be limited when they report to training camp July 25.

The Rams/49ers games are some of the most exciting of the season because of the in-state and division rivalry these two teams have going. Considering that and the 49ers current regular season win streak vs. the Rams, what is the anticipation level for the Week 2 and Week 18 clashes between these two teams?

Considering Week 2 is the Rams 2023 home opener, the anticipation for that matchup is probably pretty high – as would be the case anytime two longtime rivals face off in one of their home openers. And late-season divisional games always carry added anticipation as well.

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