Between Week 1 and Week 12 of the 2019 season, the LA Rams scored at least 30 points only three times. That includes 40 points in a loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs, 37 points in a win over the Atlanta Falcons and 30 points in victory over the Carolina Panthers. The Rams offense had failed to top 17 points four times during their 6-5 start last season.
It’s too soon to say if Sean McVay has definitively improved LA for the course of the whole year, but it’s only been five games and his team has already scored at least 30 three times. Perhaps more impressively, the Rams have only allowed more than 20 points once and have opened the season at 4-1.
Through Week 5 of 2019, LA ranked fifth in scoring but only six teams had allowed more points.
Through most of Week 5 in 2020, LA is 12th in scoring but they are third in points allowed, fourth in yards allowed and first in net yards per pass attempt allowed. By holding Washington Football Team to 70 net passing yards and under two yards per throw this week, the Rams established themselves as the most dominant pass defense in the league — statistically speaking — through five games.
Fortunately the personnel would seem to match the stats; there’s no reason to believe these players aren’t talented enough to be this good.
Even if they were facing Alex Smith in his first game action of two years, and though LA has had a favorable schedule up to this point by playing against the league’s most hapless division, the quality of coaching and execution has been evident. What will definitely change? The quality of opponent.
The Rams next face the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears, teams that held Los Angeles to seven points and 17 points during their 6-5 start a year ago, and they’re both in primetime. These franchises also have obvious vulnerabilities at the moment and LA need only play as well as they’ve been playing to give themselves a chance to be 6-1 heading into a road game against the Miami Dolphins and then a bye week.
What would seem to be the strength and vulnerabilities of the Rams after five weeks? I know people have been asking for position grades, please consider an offering of patience and forgiveness if these don’t fully satisfy those cravings but these would be my thoughts and more importantly, an opportunity for you to share yours.
Jared Goff: 71.7-percent completions, 1,372 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT, 9 Y/A, 108.8 rating, 75.6 QBR, 8.3 NY/A, seven sacks, two rushing touchdowns
As I wrote on Sunday, Goff has been almost perfect to open each game and the Rams have scored touchdowns on seven of 11 drives that started in the first quarter. Goff is playing better than he did in 2019 and statistically, he hasn’t had more efficient seasons than this one. Back in 2018, Goff did start out with 11 touchdowns and two picks after four games and over 10.5 yards per attempt, but he trailed off and over the 10 next games: 61.8-percent completions, 16 TD, 10 INT, 7.6 Y/A.
I think what Goff is giving to the Rams is an “A” because he’s done almost everything asked of him. To be successful in the NFL, you usually need to have quarterback play as good as what Goff has been providing to LA and that’s a good thing. So I wouldn’t take his “B” grade as an indication that he’s failing Sean McVay, when in fact, he’s been expertly executing a solid gameplan and at times, elevating those around him with his own decision making and abilities.
The reason I can’t give him a better grade than a “B” overall when I consider the possibilities league-wide, is that there are obviously quarterbacks doing more around the NFL right now. I wouldn’t give Goff the same grade as Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen after these last five weeks. There has to be some hierarchy and I’d say right now Goff has been good and there’s room for improvement. I’d put 2020 Goff on the same level as 2020 Lamar Jackson.
What’s your grade of Jared Goff for the first 5 games?
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Darrell Henderson: 58 carries, 260 yards, 3 TD, 7 rec, 92 yards, 1 TD
Malcolm Brown: 53 carries, 213 yards, 2 TD, 9 rec, 44 yards
Cam Akers: 26 carries, 113 yards, 0 TD, 1 rec, 4 yards
This grade is heavily impacted by injuries. Henderson wasn’t fully available in Week 1, Akers wasn’t available in Week 2-Week 4. Even though Henderson has had a couple of nice games and done a lot more to prove that he can be a productive back for McVay, he also didn’t do enough to keep Akers at bay while the rookie was out and then returned. Over the last two games, albeit against good defensive lines, Henderson has 23 carries for 59 yards.
This emphasizes points about the offensive line, the gameplan, the defenses they’ve faced, but also these backs. They’re not forcing many missed or broken tackles — Akers might have had more of those on the 49-yard run than the entire unit has had all season — and I haven’t seen anything out of Brown that would suggest he’s not going to be third in the pecking order eventually.
Even though the Rams lead the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns, I think that’s a testament to McVay’s expert game scripting and the abilities of Goff, the receivers and the offensive line to put them in that position. LA can run the ball effectively but that’s not been helped tremendously by the running backs yet.
Cooper Kupp: 28 catches, 36 targets, 363 yards, 2 TD, 10.1 Y/T, 1 fumble
Robert Woods: 23 catches, 31 targets, 300 yards, 2 TD, 9.7 Y/T, 1 fumble, 8 rush, 65 yards, 1 TD
Josh Reynolds: 12 catches, 16 targets, 181 yards, two fumbles
Van Jefferson: 5 catches, 10 targets, 76 yards, 1 fumble
Well, here’s one reason to not give this group a full A: too many fumbles!
Kupp and Woods are kind of like everything I said about the running backs, but the opposite. It seems like McVay has found his perfect sweet spot for Reynolds: after positing a 50.8-percent catch rate in his first three seasons, the 25-year-old Reynolds is at 75-percent in 2020.
Tyler Higbee: 15 catches, 17 targets, 166 yards, 3 TD
Gerald Everett: 8 catches, 9 targets, 141 yards, 1 fumble, 1 rush TD
I think the combined efforts are remarkable: 23 catches on 26 targets for 307 yards and a total of four touchdowns scored. George Kittle has 23 catches on 28 targets for 271 yards and one touchdown, so their combined efforts as receivers has good company.
However, I don’t want to overrate Everett’s season based on his most recent game or Higbee’s three-touchdown performance in Week 2.
Higbee’s season-high is 54 yards and he has five catches for 32 yards in the last two weeks. Everett came into Week 5 with 51 yards. I think the Rams clearly have a pair of weapons at the position but neither has proven to be consistently dangerous; like a gun that randomly switches off between “real” and “has the “BANG!” flag in the barrel.”
The Rams kept the offensive line they had, David Edwards seems to be a fit at left guard and I’m not going to overthink this grade when it might be what saves their season and justifies Les Snead’s offseason.
Aaron Donald: 17 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 13 QB hits, 6 TFL
It doesn’t matter who else plays on the defensive line. If it has Aaron Donald, it’s as good as any wish you could dream up. He leads the NFL in sacks and is tied with T.J. Watt for QB hits.
Michael Brockers has been a consistent presence and has two sacks. Morgan Fox could be having his best campaign. This group could get even better if A’Shawn Robinson returns in a few weeks.
Leonard Floyd: 12 tackles, 2 sacks, 6 QB hits
Micah Kiser: 32 tackles, 3 PD, 1 FF, 0 TFL, 1 QB hit
Troy Reeder: 16 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 TFL
Kenny Young: 19 tackles, 0 TFL, 1 QB hit
The most difficult grade to give on the team because somehow they’ve got one NFC Defensive Player of the Week award already but also too much inconsistency to understand how reliable they’ll be as the season wears on.
What does it say about Leonard Floyd if he can play in 298 snaps and yet he has fewer tackles and sacks than Troy Reeder, who has played in 66? It could say that Floyd has different assignments, but what are those assignments leading to? Some people thought he would replace Dante Fowler, Jr and yet he’s not that devastating of a pass rusher. Some people thought he would replace Cory Littleton, but he’s not a productive tackler.
Kiser had a rough debut, then a fantastic follow-up, then he had a mixed bag over the next couple of games until a groin injury kept him out against Washington. I think in the case of both Kiser and Reeder, there’s more to be encouraged about than there was prior to the season. However, “reason for encouragement” is not the same as “reason for comfort.”
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Samson Ebukam are nearing the end of the line for “the breakout is coming” talk. Jachai Polite and Justin Hollins give a micro-boost to this grade.
What’s your grade for the LBs over their first 5 games?
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Jalen Ramsey: 13 tackles, 2 PD, 0 INT
Darious Williams: 15 tackles, 4 PD, 2 INT
Troy Hill: 28 tackles, 3 PD, 1 INT
There have been times this season that teams have successfully gone after Troy Hill and that could also be a product of a zone defense and poor tracking by whoever keeps track of these advanced stats. The takeaway from this group is that they could be the best in the NFC.
Ramsey might be the best cornerback overall and Williams has taken full advantage of the opportunity to be his running mate. Weird quirk: Last season, Williams had 15 tackles, 14 solo, 1 assisted, 1 TFL, 4 PD and 2 INT.
Through five games he has: 15 tackles, 14 solo, 1 assisted, 1 TFL, 4 PD and 2 INT.
The Rams' CB group had a damn legendary day, per @PFF:— Sosa K (@QBsMVP) October 11, 2020
- 2 targets, 1 reception, -1 yards, 56.3 rating
- 2 targets, 0 receptions, 0 yards, 39.6 rating
- 2 targets, 1, reception, 5 yards, 1 1st down, 56.3 rating
John Johnson: 33 tackles, 23 solo, 2 TFL, 4 PD, 1 INT
Jordan Fuller: 21 tackles, 13 solo, 2 PD
Taylor Rapp: 24 tackles, 20 solo, 1 PD
Despite some struggles by Rapp, this is a group that might have gained the most promise between Week 1 and today. Johnson is the on-field leader of the defense and they rank third in third down conversions allowed, third in points allowed and second in passing yards allowed. Fuller is the best new addition to the team so far. They haven’t even unwrapped Terrell Burgess yet.
It’s difficult to assess special teams or to even know what that means. You can give a kicker a perfect grade but you know that won’t guarantee him perfect kicks. Especially not on this team.
Sam Sloman has attempted one kick beyond 39 yards this season and he missed it. He’s missed two PATs and one 29-yard field goal try.
Other than that, I’d trust Johnny Hekker to get the job done and few teams have exciting returners anymore, so that’s a wash. The fact that Kupp did fumble one punt return away has to hurt the grade also.
Which grade was the most INACCURATE?
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