In a game where the New Orleans Saints lost starting quarterback Drew Brees with a thumb injury early in the first quarter, is it really possible to have any meaningful takeaways regarding where this edition of the Los Angeles Rams stand? Actually, yes.
Here are some things we learned during Sunday’s 27-9 victory over the Saints.
1) The Rams secondary is really good, and the linebackers aren’t half bad either.
The Saints’ Pro Bowl receiver Michael Thomas was nearly as quiet as he was in last season’s NFC Championship game before he hauled in some junk time receptions. Saints tight end Jared Cook seemed like a potential issue, based on his production against the Rams in week one a year ago, but was limited to only two catches. We haven’t heard the cornerback’s names much this season, which is a good thing. Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters seem to have become the duo that Rams fans envisioned last season when they arrived to much fanfare. The safeties are thriving in Wade Phillips’ defense in more noticeable ways though. Rookie Taylor Rapp has been playing the hybrid safety/linebacker position and getting more snaps than starting ILB Bryce Hager, and there seems to be nothing the sure tacking Rapp can’t do. John Johnson and Eric Weddle appear to be a high-level safety net, and in the slot Nickell Robey-Coleman seems be super comfortable, and is playing at full speed. Numerous times during Sunday’s game, Teddy Bridgewater had plenty of time but still couldn’t find any cracks to squeeze a pass through. Next up, Odell Beckham Jr.
While much of the Rams pass rush still comes from between the tackle, Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews have been a presence. Fowler (PFF 77.0) displayed impressive speed in weak-side pursuit situations against the run more than once. Clay Matthews (PFF 76.1) seemed to do a nice job dropping back in coverage. Cory Littleton remains dynamic and even back up turned starter Bryce Hager has blended in, while appearing in roughly half of the team’s defensive snaps.
2) Right tackle Rob Havenstein is having a rough start to the season.
After a wildly successful 2018 campaign, Havenstein has turned in consecutive stinkers to start the 2019 season. That may be somewhat excusable against a talent like Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, but he was mostly dominated on the heels of a poor game in Carolina. While newly promoted sophomores Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen find their way, it will be critical for Havenstein to find his old groove.
3) Expect fluctuation in carry distribution from week-to-week.
Against Carolina, running back Todd Gurley only had three more carries than backup Malcolm Brown. This week Gurley had 16 carries to Brown’s six. That being said, Brown averaged 6.9 yards per tote, while Gurley gained 3.9 per carry. I suppose we learned that carry distribution will most likely fluctuate throughout this season. Also, and this may seem far-fetched because of the way Malcolm Brown is playing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Darrell Henderson emerges as late season wrinkle in McVay’s offense.