The Los Angeles Rams and Buffalo Bills are only set to play each other once every four years, but with perfect 2-0 starts on each side, both clubs have expectations to make the deepest of postseason runs.
There are a handful of stars on the Bills that many will already know about, like Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and Tre’Davious White. Same case for the Rams with Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and so on. For some NFL fans, the following names will not be unfamiliar, but I tried to reach for some names that may or may not have an impact this week.
And the amount of success they do have could directly reflect in the final score. I picked three players (in one case, more of a “unit”) for each team and laid out the reasons to keep an eye on them this week.
Gabe Davis, WR
I love watching this play by fourth round rookie Gabe Davis. I don’t drink but I watched this play like 11 or 12 times in a row on Sunday night and yet it somehow feels like a hazy memory clouded by inebriation. I suppose the rookie has intoxicated me.
He’s only had three targets in two game, but Davis was perhaps the most hyped non-first round rookie receiver of any training camp this year and I did my best to follow each team in that regard. Davis is also no better than fourth or fifth on the depth chart and his opportunities will be sporadic but it would be no surprise to see him make the play of the day.
How about this catch for former Seminole HS and @UCF_Footballstar Gabe Davis’ first NFL touchdown?! pic.twitter.com/KPs08zyaFc— Adam Shadoff (@FOX35Adam) September 20, 2020
Mario Addison, DE
Can you be underrated at 33? Well, how many people are aware that Addison’s 41 sacks since the start of 2016 ranks as tied with Frank Clark for the ninth-most in the league? More than Calais Campbell in fewer games, more than Yannick Ngakoue, Everson Griffen, Justin Houston and Chris Jones, and only 2.5 less than Khalil Mack.
But Addison has never made the Pro Bowl and he signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Bills in the offseason with little attention paid to it as compared to other pass rushers.
Two games into his career with Buffalo, Addison has a sack in both contests and has seemed to fit in as planned with Leslie Frazier’s defense.
Mario Addison gets the sack here after lining up at 3-tech.— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) September 20, 2020
This is a personnel grouping the Bills played around with during training camp -- was waiting to see when they'd unleash it in a real game pic.twitter.com/XudN2LBSi8
The Bills have six sacks so far as a team with Addison leading the way. Against Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein and a quarterback like Jared Goff who is adept at avoiding sacks, any pressure provided by Addison, Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver or Trent Murphy would be integral to the defense’s success.
Tyrel Dodson, LB
We can’t say that Dodson will even play this Sunday because that depends on the health situation of Tremaine Edmunds, but Buffalo wasn’t much worse off in the former undrafted free agent’s starting debut last week against the Dolphins.
Dodson finished with eight tackles, one for a loss and two passes defensed in his first career start. He said after the game that he felt he could have done a lot better.
“I feel like I did OK, I still left a lot out there that I can get better with but it’s a long process for me, first game, so I’m still trying to get my feet wet and still trying to learn and see stuff that I’ve never seen before. I mean it’s a good start there but I’m just gonna keep trucking,” Dodson said after the game.
After filling in for Edmunds midway through Week 1, Dodson had four tackles and a sack. He should be no less than a regular contributor on special teams this week, but Edmunds status for Week 3 is up in the air at this point.
Van Jefferson, WR
Of course, Rams fans will be familiar with their team’s second round pick, especially given his positive reports out of training camp and some impressive plays in the first two weeks. But a game featuring Jefferson in the passing game almost seems inevitable at some point this season and Buffalo’s matchups might force Goff to look his way this Sunday.
Both of these teams gave out record-breaking contracts to cornerbacks within days of each other this year and so you know that Tre’Davious White is expected to take Robert Woods or Cooper Kupp out of the equation.
Jared Goff drops an absolute DIME to rookie wide receiver Van Jefferson pic.twitter.com/n2hJo2D8Fb— LA Rams Nation (@RamsNationCP) September 14, 2020
Last week, Dolphins receiver Isaiah Ford got more targets, catches and yards than “number one” DeVante Parker. What we may see instead is another busy day for Tyler Higbee as Miami tight end Mike Gesicki was the most featured weapon for the Dolphins last week.
Much like Davis for the Bills, Jefferson is a rookie receiver who might not be involved in a lot of plays, but could be involved in one or two of the biggest plays.
David Edwards/Austin Blythe/Austin Corbett, iOL
It’s time to talk about the Rams interior of the offensive line. They lost Joseph Noteboom to a calf strain in Week 2 and Edwards resumed his duties as a left guard. It looks as though he will be there again this week against the Bills and they’ve got an matchup coming against Oliver, the ninth overall pick in 2019.
Ed Oliver had four tackles, a sack and another QB hit against the Dolphins and he only played in 48-percent of the snaps. As Buffalo Rumblings wrote this week, Oliver moves all around the defensive line and he’s proven to be a lot to handle for interior linemen, as he’s relentlessly moving and attacking guards and centers alike. Buffalo can also play Addison inside and signed Quinton Jefferson in the offseason, a player who had 25 QB hits and 6.5 sacks in the last two seasons in part time duty with Seattle.
#LARams Austin Corbett and David Edwards were able to provide some impressive production in 2019 during a period of OL uncertainty— PFF LA Rams (@PFF_Rams) January 30, 2020
Among all Guards (min 500 snaps):
- Corbett allowed 11 pressures (4th) and 1 sack (T-7th)
- Edwards allowed 14 pressures (T-6th) and 1 sack (T-7th) pic.twitter.com/TzRsAHbG6Y
Goff has been sacked twice in two games and the Rams offensive line has drawn a lot of praise, mostly for its tackles. But if Blythe and Corbett are performing above expectations, the offensive line could be what propels LA back to their 2017-2018 scoring levels.
For Edwards, it’s a matter of proving he does belong as a starter. Which may be important because Blythe is a free agent again next year.
Taylor Rapp, S
I’m going to go ahead and give Rapp a shout out because apparently nobody else is going to do it. Besides, this may be one of the last chances to wonder if Rapp is being underrated.
After stepping in as a starter last season following the injury to John Johnson, Rapp did lead the Rams with 100 tackles and he was only credited with three missed tackles by Pro-Football-Reference. That’s a fantastic percentage, even if Rapp was making more tackles than desired because of lapses in coverage.
So what is the best role for Rapp in Brandon Staley’s defense?
Following an injury in training camp, Rapp stepped aside and LA fans have watched as rookie Jordan Fuller has risen up to the level of starter with no end in sight. Fuller has started both games and total 17 tackles with the game-sealing play against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 and perhaps an even better all around performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.
In the first two weeks of the season, Rams' safety Taylor Rapp has played 32 of 143 defensive snaps (22%).— Bate™ (@NoPlanB_) September 21, 2020
Week 1 (vs. DAL): 15/72 (21%)
Week 2 (at PHI): 17/71 (24%)
Meanwhile, Rapp played in 15 snaps and 17 snaps in those games, respectively. It’s not because of his injury, it’s because of the way that Fuller has played.
“It was based on the way Jordan Fuller performed throughout training camp,” McVay said. “Taylor Rapp is a big part of our football team, that is not going to change, but it was more a result of great things that Jordan has done from day one. I mean, he’s been making plays, he’s mature beyond his years. The way he sees things, his range, his ability to make plays, as he demonstrated tonight. So, very pleased with Jordan. He’s going to continue to get better, but Taylor Rapp is a huge part of our football team as well.”
That hasn’t taken Rapp off the field completely though and McVay says he has plans for Rapp regardless. Even if you didn’t favor Rapp as a starting safety for the Rams, he could be one of the best backup or part-time safeties in the league and maybe that role will help put him in the position to make the types of plays he’s most capable of for this defense.