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Los Angeles Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals: What we learned

This year’s team is coming into focus with stiffer competition looming.

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams
Samson Ebukam continues to emerge a talented EDGE for the Rams defense.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the 2018 edition of the Arizona Cardinals might not be the best measuring stick to see where the Los Angeles Rams stand. Still, for the Rams, who mostly opted-out of the preseason, it was nice to see things rounding into form.

So far so good.

Here are a few observations from Sunday’s game:

The linebacker-crisis many feared entering the season, may be a non-issue.

They’ve been fine. More so than last season, tackling has been pretty good. It’s apparent the defensive line and secondary have freed up the linebackers to make plays, and the linebackers have obliged, and actually looked fast and capable while doing so. That includes Cory Littleton, Ramik Wilson, and of course blossoming EDGE Samson Ebukam.

Check out this play, courtesy of TST’s Sosa Kremenjas’ chop shop:

You can clearly see Arizona’s left tackle D.J. Humphries, glancing toward Aaron Donald as Samson Ebukam blasts by him with some fancy footwork, untouched on his way to Sam Bradford. The group has also blended into much of the work being done near the line and intermediate areas by safeties John Johnson and Marqui Christian.

It will be interesting to see inside linebacker Mark Barron back in the group shortly.

Backup-turned-starting guard Austin Blythe is good, so the Rams depth on the offensive line seems sufficient.

Now that Jamon Brown is eligible to return from his two-game suspension, it will be decision time regarding the right guard position, where Blythe has played magnificently. Playing at such a high clip, it may be impossible to pull Blythe from the starting lineup, especially considering Brown may have a degree of rust from his downtime. Whatever the Rams end up doing, they will end up having a more than capable backup waiting to get back out on the field, should they be tapped. This sort of dilemma is a very good thing.

While the Goff/Cooks connection seems potent, the tight ends have yet to make a real impact.

The bad news: Rams tight ends combined for only two catches on Sunday.

The good news: One catch was a 17-yard reception by Gerald Everett, and the other was touchdown by Tyler Higbee.

With such an abundance of talent on offense the wealth must be spread, and guys like Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley often end up occupying similar areas of the field to the tight ends. It makes it sort of hard to know whether Higbee and Everett deserve any heat for being somewhat low impact players so far this season. They haven’t actually fallen short when called upon, they just seem to be last in the pecking order in a really busy offense. McVay’s tight end–heavy approach in Washington may just be more of a contingency plan in case defenses seem to be catching up the current plan of attack down the line.

With the Los Angeles Chargers and the Minnesota Vikings stepping into the Mausoleum this week, things should get interesting fast. We’ll see what McVay has up his sleeve this Sunday, and then on a short week of practice before the Thursday night game against Minnesota.