On Wednesday in his post-practice press conference, Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator Rob Boras fielded a question regarding whether or not he agreed with Head Coach Jeff Fisher that the offense, despite any statistical evidence, was improving:
I think we’re getting better. Obviously we need consistency across the board, but I think we’re seeing glimpses of it. Again, the stat that’s critical is winning football games and we have to make sure we’re doing our part so we can win. I do think – I don’t think, I know – the offense is improving.
The stat that’s critical is winning football games and we have to make sure we’re doing our part so we can win.
This line stood out to me.
It’s a hard one to argue. If the Rams were sitting at 5-0 right now, despite their ability to consistently get the offense clicking, folks would probably be talking more about the team’s potential, rather than it’s limitations. And the limitations, save for injuries on the defensive side of the ball, are primarily linked to his offense.
But the second part of Boras’ statement is where he loses me as a fan, because the Rams had the potential to be undefeated through five weeks. They failed to score a single point against the lowly San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football in Week 1, and they floundered when they had scoring opportunities last week at home against the Bills scoring only one touchdown in four red zone appearances.
Last week’s game against the Bills wasn’t an anomaly in regards to being able to punch it in when inside their opponent's 20-yard line. Through the first five weeks of the season according to Football Outsiders, the Rams rank 28th in touchdowns per red zone visit (.444).
A deeper dive into FBO’s drive stats further highlight that the offense, despite Boras’ relative certainty of improvement, has a long way to go. Half of the drive stats provided on this weekly feature display the Rams as a Bottom-5 team:
I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that a lot of these numbers are a result of the Rams’ inability to get RB Todd Gurley going.
Having your offense’s best player mentioned early in the season for statistics like this...
According to @pfref, Todd Gurley is first RB in NFL history with 80+ carries in his team's first 4 games and YPC under 2.75 (2.63).— Cody Swartz (@cbswartz5) October 3, 2016
Todd Gurley is averaging 0.44 yards before contact this season, lowest among qualified RBs (min 40 attempts)— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) October 12, 2016
...probably aren’t nearly as frustrating for the fan as they are for the player. But the fact remains that it needs to be fixed, and there’s no indication it - putrid blocking - is going to be. But there’s certainly a correlation between Gurley's inability to find success through five weeks and the numbers highlighted above.
Last season, when Gurley caught fire, we witnessed big chunk plays where he’s hurdling would-be tacklers in the open field on his way to a likely 100-yard performance. In 2016, he’s managed to break off a run of 10+ yards only 7 times, and has yet to eclipse 20. From a Toxic Differential (rushing) standpoint, the Rams rank dead last in the NFL (-14), having only 8 plays of 10+ rushing yards, giving up 22 (five of which were to LeSean McCoy in Week 5).
To his credit, Boras’ offense has been relatively impressive through the air though, when it comes to stacking up the number of big plays with some of the league’s more high-powered offenses. The Rams are 4th in the NFL in passing Toxic Differential, with 13 plays of 25+ yards, having allowed only 8. The 13 pass plays are tied for 2nd in the NFL with the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Washington Redskins.
Big plays, while exhilarating, don’t necessarily equate to points though. And as Boras points out, the offense needs to do their part if they’re going to continue to remain above .500 and, ultimately, compete for a playoff berth. But doing their part means more than a few splash plays to Kenny Britt or Brian Quick, and clinging to a winning record along the way...or while it lasts. If the Rams fail to take care of business on the road in Detroit, or “at home” in London, there will be no winning record to mask the deficiencies of his offense.
Quite simply, the Rams need to start sustaining drives and finding a way to get in the end zone; especially given the injuries suffered on defense. And Boras, specifically, is culpable if they do not. A pair of offensive coordinators, Greg Roman and Marc Trestman, have already lost their jobs for not getting enough out of their offenses early in the year.
Of the 18 offensive drive stats featured on Football Outsiders, the Rams rank in the top half of the league (16th) in only one category: field goals per drive. And that, to me, is more an indication of the special teams unit doing their part.
K Greg Zuerlein is doing his part to keep the Rams in games. What is OC Rob Boras doing?