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What We Learned about the LA Rams: Week 8

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Picking through perfection, and pondering the future of the Rams.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Rams Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line isn’t always going to be impregnable. In fact, for the second time in three games, there was consistent heat applied to quarterback Jared Goff. It was actually interesting to watch Goff in the first half and consider how the new Goff would have faired behind the subpar protection from his rookie season in 2016. Goff, as always, showed toughness and resilience, but the timing of the passing game seemed off at times. The Packers had the happy combo of good coverage and good pressure, leaving us considering arrival times of chickens and eggs, and which came first. Frankly, the whole opening half felt like the twilight zone, right down to the play calling, which lacked its signature jet sweep action and screen passes alike.

So the Rams rode running back Todd Gurley, who is really hard to keep down for an entire game. Unlike the 2016 version of Todd, Gurley now runs full-bore ahead, even when there isn’t much ground to be gained. Gurley obviously has a knack for cashing in touchdowns and gliding downfield behind great zone blocking schemes, but just as importantly, Gurley is becoming a player who can continuously put pressure on a defense to make plays and maintain discipline.

Fans and pundits often debate how to distribute credit for the Rams offensive success; with Sean McVay, Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and the offensive line, all getting tall props. The Rams receivers are also often recognized as a group, but it’s interesting to consider the role that Cooper Kupp has assumed, particularly when watching the offense in his absence over the last two games. The Rams scored plenty against the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers without Kupp, but they seemed to lack the rhythm and force that they displayed against the Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings earlier in the season. Kupp has clearly improved upon a strong rookie season, and has become Jared Goff’s security blanket. If he can return to the lineup this week against the New Orleans Saints, then the offense may end up firing on all cylinders again.

On the other side of the ball, we are now halfway through the season so it is fair to begin taking inventory. Entering the season, there were plenty of question marks regarding the Rams unproven fleet of linebackers. So far, Cory Littleton has been a hit. Samson Ebukam has been decent, but far from an impact pass rusher, and perhaps would be better suited to be the team’s Edge 2. Whether due to injuries or pedigree, Matt Longacre has seemed like more of a serviceable backup than a starter. Ramik Wilson has played well, but with Mark Barron back he didn’t receive any defensive snaps against Green Bay.

Then there’s the secondary. According to Pro Football Focus, John Johnson III is currently having the second best season of any safety in the NFL. Lamarcus Joyner has played decently, though he hasn’t as many impact plays as we might have expected from him. It will be interesting to see what the Rams do regarding Joyner when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. Any decision regarding the underperforming Marcus Peters can be put off until a larger sample size is collected, since the Rams already have picked up his 5th year option. Regarding the secondary, any conclusions would probably best be put off until Aqib Talib returns, since the unit seemed pretty tough when they were all on the field together in the beginning of the season.