How much value is there in the NFL when it comes to a powerful duo? Well, the New England Patriots might tell you that the right combination of head coach and quarterback can bring you nine AFC Championships and six Super Bowl wins. That Bill Belichick-Tom Brady duo was hard to deny, and the fact that Brady and Belichick are separate in 2020 could be the reason that the Patriots are having their worst season since before Brady took over at quarterback for an injured Drew Bledsoe 20 years ago.
The Rams could say the same about Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.
Or Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
Or Orlando Pace and Warner.
Kevin Carter and D’Marco Farr.
Todd Lyght and Dexter McCleon.
The NFL is littered with high-impact pairs and so is the current iteration of the Rams in Los Angeles. Without further a-duo, here are the top five two-person teams within the greater scope of the franchise.
5 - Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown
When the time comes for rookie Cam Akers to replace one half of this duo, I’ll address him then, but for now it is clear that Henderson and Brown are Sean McVay’s No. 1 and 2 options in the backfield. Combined, they carried the ball 152 times for 686 yards and six touchdowns over the first seven games, and they have caught 21 of 31 targets for another 171 yards in the air.
Maybe Todd Gurley was an MVP candidate at back all on his own, but the combined forces of Henderson and Brown have been quite good in doing the job to replace him. Together, Henderson and Brown forced seven missed or broken tackles in Week 7 against the Bears, more than they had total in the first six games combined. Don’t underestimate either one of these players when they’re on the field.
4 - Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe
Perhaps not the two offensive linemen that everyone would have chosen, but it’s not my job to choose for everybody. What I’d prefer to focus on with a successful offensive line is the group’s center and best tackle. In the case of the Rams, that’s Whitworth and Blythe.
Nothing against Rob Havenstein, but Blythe stepped in and helped tremendously in 2018 when called upon, and then this season he switched over to center when Sean McVay once again needed someone to do the job. He’s been a great value on his one-year deal and that could make him tough to keep in 2021.
3 - Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods
LA extended both of these receivers this year and plan to have them as a duo through at least 2021. I know that the contracts run longer than that, but a lack of longevity is a reality that every NFL team faces; we can talk to Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks about that.
But what’s important is that today Kupp and Woods represent one of the top 1-2 threats in the league. I’m not sure why Kupp’s numbers have been trending down (over his last 15 games, Kupp has 73 catches for 786 yards with a single game best of only 107 yards) but it’s not as though defenses can back off from him.
In that same period of time, Woods has caught 82 passes for 1,014 yards with 19 carries for 143 more gained. Kupp has the higher catch rate, more touchdowns, but Woods has more touches and yards. Combined, they make for a great duo.
2 - Sean McVay and Les Snead
Setting aside typical GM criticism involving contracts and trades and draft picks that do not work out, Snead has managed to do a few things that almost no people in his position have done in the last decade: add players as good as Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Andrew Whitworth, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, all while working around the aforementioned bad deals and lack of first-round picks.
It was a masterful job by the organization to move to Los Angeles, draft Goff, hire McVay and then immediately flip the Rams around from one of the NFL’s worst franchises to one of its most successful.
The McVay credit goes without needing to say much, because so much has already been said. He’s one of the top five coaches today, if not one of the top three. The fact that these two work in harmony is another reason they’ve managed to be such a powerful duo, and as we’ve seen with other “rosy” situations around the league, those relationships often grow sour in time. McVay and Snead are legitimately right as roses.
1 - Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald
As noted, the two best moves of Snead’s career, at least as it pertains to the present roster, are drafting Aaron Donald in 2014 and trading for Jalen Ramsey in 2019. They are the best current players in the league at their positions and for Donald, what that really means is that he’s the most dangerous threat as a pass rusher in the NFL. That’s not a title to take lightly.
Neither is “shutdown cornerback” and Ramsey is every bit of that and more when you take into account his tackling abilities.
The Rams don’t have the strongest roster top-to-bottom, but they have two elite players on the defense. While they rarely occupy the same amount of territory on the field, they’re the reason that LA ranks second in points allowed and first in net yards per pass attempt allowed through the NFL’s first seven games of the season.