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Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers Film Preview: Beware of DT Gerald McCoy

The Panthers acquired an NFC South menace who has the potential to make things very difficult for the Rams offensive line

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Since QB Jared Goff was extended earlier this week, it only makes sense that the Los Angeles Rams face a potentially hazardous pass-rush from the Carolina Panthers.

Fortunately for the Rams, their bookend tackles both ranked in the Top 10 for pass-block wins last season. LT Andrew Whitworth was No. 1 with a 92% win-rate while RT Rob Havenstein was No. 8 with an 86% win-rate. The Rams lost G Rodger Saffold and C John Sullivan both of whom were Top 10 run-block winners (Saffold, 87%; Sullivan 85%).

What the Panthers pass-rush struggled with last season was getting to the quarterback. In 2018, they recorded the sixth-fewest sacks with 35.

The Rams return most of their offensive line from last season and could see the strength from that unit return should replacements like C Austin Blythe play up to par. However, DT Gerald McCoy could be the difference maker for the Panthers pass-rush and be a great problem to the right side of the Rams offensive line.

Attracting attention

Much like DT Aaron Donald and NT Ndamukong Suh, McCoy attracts a lot of attention from opposing offensive lines in the form of double-teams. Because at 6’4” and 300 pounds, McCoy is not the easiest object to move with a one-on-one matchup.

As his former linebacker teammates will tell you, the attention McCoy attracted helped the linebackers freely move through space. Against the Baltimore Ravens last season, McCoy absorbed plenty of double-teams which allowed linebackers to keep a lid on then-rookie QB Lamar Jackson (26 rushing yards).

Clearly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebackers bit hard on the counter run and were unable to take advantage of all the free space in front of them, specifically the Mike the Will linebackers. The New Orleans Saints’ LT and LG have one-on-one assigments while the C and RG take on McCoy while also trying to get out to the second level to provide support downfield. McCoy travels with the down-block and moves down the line to give chase. After he gets free, McCoy is the only non-DB defender in range of RB Alvin Kamara.

Traveling man

McCoy’s movement on the line is impressive and for a guy of his size, he’s able to move and adjust to the opposing line.

Everyone else on the four-man line is bull-rushing while McCoy takes advantage of the preoccupied RT, who is trying to man-up on a linebacker faking his rush. If you watch the Sam linebacker, he lines up to show pressure only to hover off the snap before falling back in coverage.

Since the RG is sealing his man off from the right side, McCoy has easy access to run up and sack QB Nick Foles.

On this run from the Saints, McCoy is able to move with the direction of the running back while taking on one-on-one blocking. The defensive tackle is able to still move around the traffic in front of him (LG taking on RDT) and secure the tackle.

Even with the double team, McCoy is still able to make the tackle before the C can properly set up a seal. In fairness to the rest of the defensive line, the apparent running lane was never established thanks to help from No. 50. But watch the Mike linebacker (No. 49) as he’s able to freely move with the direction of the play and come up to the point of contact. Had the lane been established, the linebacker still would have had a clean shot to make the tackle.

McCoy isn’t going to “wow” anyone with stats but he will make a difference on the front-seven that can’t be properly measured. After nearly a decade, McCoy is still a force on the defensive line.

For a more advanced breakdown of McCoy and his potential impact with the Panthers defensive front, check out this piece from Charles McDonald (@FourVerts). As with everything McDonald writes, it’s detail-rich and very informative.