The Los Angeles Rams overcame a slow start on Monday night to pull away from the Oakland Raiders capped by an electric pick six from one Marcus Peters. On Saturday, Sean wrote about five key players to keep an eye on during Week 1. Here’s a look at how they performed.
HC Sean McVay said Donald wouldn’t be on a snap count. He certainly wasn’t playing on 66 snaps or 89% of the Rams’ defensive downs. Was he the Earth-shattering, unblockable force we’ve come to know and love? Not quite. He did get to QB Derek Carr once, but was whistled for a marginal roughing the passer when he went low. The rest of the time, he was too busy getting held to register much on the stat sheet. His pressure up the middle was key on the inexplicable INT from Carr to LB Cory Littleton, and Oakland Pro Bowl OG Kelechi Osemele had his hands full (of jersey) all night long.
Starting in place of suspended RG Jamon Brown, OL Austin Blythe once again proved that he’s a really steady and versatile backup. Along with LT Andrew Whitworth, LG Roger Saffold and RT Rob Havenstein, he was named to the PFF Team of the Week with a strong 87.0 rating (whatever that means). He wasn’t officially credited with allowing any pressures, though it appeared a DT did slip through to pressure QB Jared Goff (who missed a wide open Cooper Kupp). Sure, the Raiders aren’t exactly running the Steel Curtain out there, but certainly the question is no longer “Can Blythe play?” but “Is Blythe better than Brown?” Stay tuned.
On Saturday, TST’s Sean Wilkinson wrote:
“Special Teams coordinator John Fassel is one of the best in the business, so I expect Cooper to have a level head on Monday, but it’s worth watching to see if there are any residual nerves from his errors at the end of last season.”
My vote is yes: there were some residual nerves. He was fine, returning 3 kickoffs for a 25 yard average and 2 punts for just 6 apiece, but when he fielded a ball he could have let go for an extra 5-6 yards, he took what I’d call an unnecessary risk, and was also injured on the play.
After seeing Tavon Austin muff punts for years, it’s clear that this role is just as much mental as it is physical. Jury remains out on the Pro Bowl return man. Let’s hope he recovers quickly.
When asked if there was any rust from not playing in the preseason, Goff answered in the negative. I’d beg to differ. On his second trip to the red zone, Goff tried to give it back to the Raiders twice, forcing a ball into quadruple coverage and letting one fly towards two Oakland CBs on his second errant toss of the stanza. His timing was off in stretches, and his deep balls were just off the mark (which is usually the case, but an area where we’d all love to see him improve). Once the Rams established RB Todd Gurley and the PA game started to click, Goff found his rhythm and was solid on his way to a pedestrian 18-33/233/2 TD showing. His pocket awareness remains a concern, as he fumbled on a blind side hit, and he was late on a potential TD pass to Cooper Kupp, while missing a wide open Tyler Higbee. Clearly, a lack of real game action magnified some of Goff’s more shaky traits. Let’s hope he’s sharper in Week 2.
A major question mark heading into week one, the Rams’ rebuilt LB corps left quite a bit to be desired in their Monday night debut. Stats can be deceiving, as Corey Littleton’s 13 total tackles (11 solo) and INT were great if you’re running him out as an IDP in fantasy, but also meant the UDFA from the University of Washington (Bow Down to Washington) was heavily targeted. For most of the first half, Oakland’s dink and dunk offense was supremely effective, as Carr went 20-24. Littleton’s whiff on Jared Cook (exacerbated by LaMarcus Joyner’s brutal angle) was the bad, but he did make some nice plays and displayed good range. Samson Ebukam was very solid, with 3 of his 4 tackles for loss, and he also looked sturdy in coverage. Starting for the injured Mark Barron, ILB Ramik Wilson was fairly terrible, and was often replaced by SS Marqui Christian, whose presence in certain packages seemed to stem the silver and black tide. Adjusting to his new role, Dominique Easley looked like a nice rotational piece on the outside, and Matt Longacre didn’t flash much opposite him when called upon. On the plus side, rookie John Franklin-Meyers, sporting his new look #94, impressed — albeit no real sense of how he’d do in coverage. Overall, there’s a reason why the Rams didn’t cut Mark Barron and his $8M salary, and we saw it on Monday night — getting him back will be key, or you’ll see opposing TEs eat on this Rams D all season long.