The Los Angeles Rams had a weird offseason, like every other NFL team. That meant that people both inside and outside of the organization had less information about their players than they would have in every year prior to 2020. A lot fewer practices, no preseason games and less opportunities to put on the pads.
That changed somewhat when the Rams hosted the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1, and LA also came out as the winners.
There were some surprises in the rotation, snap counts and how certain players performed. Whether or not these are outliers or trends will be determined over the course of the season, but we get one more data point this Sunday morning when the Rams face the Eagles in Philadelphia.
These are six players who I’ll be watching to see how much — and how well — they play.
Malcolm Brown, RB
Will he continue to be the primary ball carrier?
Brown emerged from training camp as Sean McVay’s first option at running back, giving him 44 snaps to Cam Akers’ 24 snaps in Week 1. This was probably influenced heavily by two things: Darrell Henderson’s injury and Akers’ inexperience without a preseason.
Most Expected Points Added on Run Plays - Week 1— Sports Info Solutions (@SportsInfo_SIS) September 16, 2020
1. Cam Newton
2. David Johnson
3. Malcolm Brown
4. Kyler Murray
5. Lamar Jackson
Brown finished with 79 yards and two touchdowns and has become the subject of countless fantasy football questions, but it’s logical to expect McVay to reduce his playing time and increase the reps for Akers and Henderson. Is it logical this week against the Eagles though?
Jordan Fuller, S
Will he continue to get snaps over Taylor Rapp?
With Rapp missing most of the second half of training camp, Fuller played in all but one snap against the Cowboys and starred for LA, leading the defense in tackles and making the defensive play of the game.
Clutch tackle on fourth down by Jordan Fuller @J_Fuller4 #RamsHouse— NFL (@NFL) September 14, 2020
: #DALvsLAR on NBC
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app: https://t.co/ynDmpGSOcL pic.twitter.com/sjoZZXtMRZ
Also worth consideration is Fuller’s inexperience and Pro-Football-Reference’s missed tackles total for Fuller: three.
It would be perfectly acceptable to see Fuller have mistakes and ups-and-downs during his rookie season and that’s why teams have veterans to spell even the players with the brightest of futures. Fuller’s future wasn’t supposed to be this glowing when he was a sixth round pick, but expectations have changed in a hurry. However, if Rapp is ready for more playing time after getting 15 snaps on Sunday, will McVay be mixing him in more and giving Fuller more time to learn from the sidelines?
Or is that absolutely crazy to keep Fuller off the field? That’s something we’ll get more data on this Sunday.
Andrew Whitworth, LT
Another dominant performance?
It’s understandable to have concerns about a 38-year-old tackle coming off of a disappointing campaign, but Whitworth played against the Cowboys like he was a 38-year-old Tom Brady. (Brady led the NFL in touchdown passes at 38 and has played five more years and counting.)
How many more years does Whitworth have left after playing like one of the NFL’s top-10 players to open the season?
Andrew Whitworth's 95.2 grade ranked 2nd among ALL offensive players in Week 1— PFF LA Rams (@PFF_Rams) September 15, 2020
He trailed only Aaron Rodgers (96.0)#RamsHouse pic.twitter.com/xLFZvDBO7W
Philadelphia is banged up along the defensive line right now, especially on the edges, so I can’t say who he will be facing or what condition they’ll be in but Whitworth played as well as he could have against the Cowboys.
Van Jefferson, WR
When is the breakout game coming?
The second round receiver had his first catch, a 31-yard charmer against another second round rookie. He also was credited with a drop on a play that really would have been impressive if he had hauled it in anyway. Jefferson was targeted three times and this was only the beginning of McVay warming him up to the NFL. I have a feeling that Jefferson will be a top-billed name on LA’s end-of-season highlight reel.
Van Jefferson pic.twitter.com/iUwvQ6i2Zs— Clover Jerry. (@JBreezyII) September 15, 2020
Micah Kiser, LB
Will he continue to be primary blitzer?
Yes, I noted that Kiser apparently missed seven tackles — one of the highest single game totals I’ve ever heard of, if not the highest — but let’s call it an outlier because of how extreme that number is and move on for now. What about what the team did on purpose: four blitzes by Kiser, most on the team.
Leonard Floyd had a sack and could become the Rams’ top pass rushing threat at linebacker but Brandon Staley sent Kizer four times. How many times will he go after Carson Wentz this week? Wentz was sacked eight times by Washington, so this will be viewed as LA’s best opportunity to rack up stats for the front-seven. Can they take advantage around Aaron Donald?
Darious Williams, CB
Is the the Rams’ second best corner?
If you want to believe these numbers, then the numbers are concerning: six catches on six targets for 80 yards gained.
That’s what PFR has credited Rams cornerback Troy Hill with during his 2020 debut against the Cowboys. The numbers they have for Williams: 3-of-5, 27 yards.
Darious Williams played 89% of defensive snaps as the Rams third CB. I know Dallas mainly ran with 3WRs, but it was an incredibly heavy nickel game from the Rams D.— - ℝ (@TL_LARams) September 15, 2020
There are too many reasons to list as to why these stats can be misleading, none of which may stand out more than assignments. These guys were covering different guys, asked to do different things, and Dallas has three receivers who are difficult to cover. But Williams has quietly been tossed around this year as the number two behind Jalen Ramsey and how he’s utilized against the Eagles will help us better see the full season picture of the secondary.