The Los Angeles Rams are 4-2 and rank in ninth in DVOA over at FootballOutsiders, a fairly familiar spot because they were 12th last season. What is DVOA? It’s been thrown around quite often over the last few years especially but it’s probably too soon to assume it is common knowledge.
Per FO: DVOA breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.
That’s not enough to completely understand DVOA (I surely do not) and I don’t want to overrate that number like so many other “advanced” stats have become overrated. But it is a nice tool to put in your back pocket, like many others.
Here are some of the key stats at FootballOutsiders when it comes to the LA Rams first six games this season.
Offensive DVOA: 18%
The Rams rank fifth in offensive efficiency at FootballOutsiders, including 10th in passing and first in rushing. LA’s DVOA in 2017 was 11.3% and in 2018 it was 25%, so this is a medium between the two. Though the Rams are ranked first in rushing in both 2018 and 2020, they were even more elite on the ground with Todd Gurley that season.
Perhaps that figure will go up as the season goes on and Cam Akers gains more experience.
The Rams were 16th in DVOA for offense last season at .6%, so McVay seems to have them on the track they want to be on.
Pass Defense DVOA: 2.5%
Passing offense and passing defense could be the two most important aspects of NFL football (on a basic, rudimentary, almost useless basis of speaking, but still) and LA is excelling in those areas by some measurements. They are first in net yards per pass attempt on offense and first in NY/A allowed on defense.
The Rams strongest suit on defense is a pass rush led by Aaron Donald and a secondary led by Jalen Ramsey. They rank 21st against the run by DVOA (-4.4%) but are 11th against the pass.
Field Goals/Extra Points EPA: -5.7
Los Angeles has a lot of optimism about their offense and defense but they rank 27th in special teams DVOA. The worst area of that unit is undoubtedly the place kicking position as only the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars have had worse production in that area.
What is “-5.7” all about? Per FO: “Field goal rating compares each field goal to the league-average percentage of field goals from that distance. Yards of field position from the other four elements of special teams are translated into points using a method that gives each yard line a point value based on the average next score an NFL offense is worth from that point on the field.”
The Rams lose a lot more points on kicking attempts than the average team. Rookie Sam Sloman tends to either miss or almost miss many of his attempts and the team added Kai Forbath as competition this week.
There is no area of special teams that LA does exceptionally well, though there isn’t need to complain about Johnny Hekker’s performance. Actually, his 48.3 yard average would be a career-high.
Adjusted Line Yards: 4.94 (1st)
The Rams rank first in adjusted line yards* this season and they’re third in adjusted sack rate. LA ranked 19th in adjusted line yards in 2019 with a mark of 4.27. This is considerably better than that.
* Per FO: Based on regression analysis, the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:
Losses: 120% value
0-4 Yards: 100% value
5-10 Yards: 50% value
11+ Yards: 0% value
These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, opponent, and the difference in rushing average between shotgun compared to standard formations. Finally, we normalize the numbers so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry.
The Rams were first in adjusted line yards in 2018 but with a remarkable figure of 5.49 yards, over a half-yard more than their current league-leading stat. They were sixth in adjusted sack rate that season.
The offensive line has rebounded from 2019 in a way that gives Les Snead and McVay a major point in their favor for how they handled the offseason and criticism for a lack of moves with those positions.
Adjusted Line Yards Allowed: 4.95
Adjusting to the other side of the trenches, it would be fair to point out that as good as the offense has been in winning the battle on run plays, the defense has been equally giving. They have almost the exact same adjusted yards allowed on defense as they gain on offense.
They are tied with the Chiefs as having the lowest percentage of their defensive plays that end in a stuff, which is a run stop at or behind the line of scrimmage. That is their worst area of defense.
Though the Rams do rank eighth in adjusted sack rate, we know that wouldn’t be the case for any plays without Aaron Donald on the field. This is an improvement opportunity for the defense, if and when A’Shawn Robinson and Terrell Lewis are full-time members of the rotation on defense. Lewis is working his way onto the field for games already and Robinson could return after the Week 9 bye.
Offensive Line Snaps: 396
The Rams have played in 396 offensive snaps this season. Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, Austin Blythe and Austin Corbett have each played in 396 snaps this season. David Edwards has played in all 283 snaps since Joseph Noteboom was injured and he’s not coming out of the lineup.
We should give credit to their performance but also to their continuity and ability to stay on the field this season.