Yesterday I wrote about how the Rams’ Greg Robinson is still struggling, and how he has this year to #fixit or the Rams will need to hit the reset button.
The Rams OL has also rendered star RB Todd Gurley an afterthought, even though Gurley has seen the most 8+ fronts in football:
From @MattHarmon_BYB and the guys at https://t.co/9DsMb6alO6 with #NextGenStats: # of runs vs 8+ man boxes: pic.twitter.com/Wz3yeMb5ob— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) October 4, 2016
Today, Pro Football Focus released their OL rankings through four weeks, and it’s no surprise that the Rams are at or near the bottom. What is surprising to me, though, is that two of the other top NFC teams are also at the bottom:
The combined record of these three NFC teams is 10-2, with the Vikings having a perfect 4-0 record despite losing starting QB Teddy Bridgewater and RB Adrian Peterson. They make up for it with suffocating defense, strong coaching and the surprisingly good play of former Ram QB Sam Bradford. So far, Bradford has been a top 5 QB for the Vikings, and TE Kyle Rudolph has emerged as a top threat.
The Seahawks (3-1), despite losing to the Rams in week 2, benefit from the comeback of TE Jimmy Graham, the strong play of RB Christine Michael and the accurate downfield throwing of QB Russell Wilson. Their defense continues to embarrass opponents on a weekly basis (the Rams did not score a TD to win, remember?)
So, how are the Rams getting away with subpar OL play, and still winning games? The short answer is that the offense is just doing enough with QB Case Keenum not making (many) mistakes and the THREAT of Gurley and WR Tavon Austin. And, the defense and special teams are not making backbreaking errors late in games, such as missed tackles, blown assignments and missed/blocked field goals, things that haunted them previously.
Although Gurley and Austin are no shows on the stat sheets, the offense uses them as a pivot to get other players space. Kenny Britt, Lance Kendricks and Brian Quick are all on their way to career years.
Todd Gurley has only rushed for 13 yards — but Brian Quick, Kenny Britt and Lance Kendricks have six catches for 142 yards and a TD.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) October 2, 2016
Lance Kendricks already has more than half as many yards (128) as he had in all of last year (245).— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) October 3, 2016
2016 Rams— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 3, 2016
Tavon Austin: 159 yards on 35 targets
Brian Quick: 153 yards on 14 targets
Kenny Britt: 281 yards on 26 targets
Kenny Britt already has half the number of receptions (18) he had in all of last year (36).— TurfShowTimes (@TurfShowTimes) October 3, 2016
These three teams are built very similarly, from the defense out. They are all run by defensive-minded head coaches, with stout defensive fronts and run-oriented offenses. This marginalizes the play of the OL, and hides their limitations.
The point differentials between the teams is also interesting. The Vikings are at +38, Seahawks at +25, and Rams at... -13. Obviously the 28-0 death knell at the hands of San Francisco impacted that, but it’s not something you usually see for a first-place team. The Rams’ offense has scored 63 points, the second fewest in the NFC (behind the Bears). Outside the division, the Rams will have to score more than 16 points per game to have a chance to win.
If the OL play continues, can the Rams find a way to keep winning? Is this sustainable? Hopefully, because winning forgives everything.