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Rams advanced stats: How LA is succeeding with runs and short passing

Can Sean McVay keep his offense rolling with play action passes?

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams have to be close to satisfied with their offensive production through three games, especially given where they were a season ago and the changes they were forced to make in recent months to the personnel and coaching. The Rams rank seventh in points scored, third in yards per play, first in yards per pass attempt, fifth in expected points added in the rushing game and first in DVOA.

How did they get there and how sustainable is this run of success for Sean McVay, arguably the best offensive game planner in the NFL today?

A longer look at the stats may help us figure that out.

Jared Goff, QB

63 of 90, 70-percent, 863 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT, 9.6 Y/A, 8.91 NY/A, 109.6 rating, 4 sacks, no fumbles

One thing I’ll be stressing this season probably is that 70-percent completions, a low amount of interceptions and a high yards per attempt is not necessarily indicative of great quarterback play like it would be in most other seasons. Leaguewide, things are odd right now and even though Goff leads the NFL in Y/A and net Y/A, the Rams clearly haven’t been as explosive of a passing offense as some other teams.

Case in point: a 70-percent completion percentage only ranks 10th in the NFL right now and 12 quarterbacks have thrown one or no interceptions on at least 40 attempts. There are 11 quarterbacks with a Y/A of at least 8.0, including Kirk Cousins, Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Mullens.

A deeper understanding of the stats is necessary.

Air Yards: intended air yards/attempt 6.1 (30th), completed AY/A 4.6 (12th), yards after catch per completion 7.2 (2nd)

Basically through three games, Goff is throwing short and his receivers are going long. Robert Woods is fifth in yards after catch, Cooper Kupp is 10th. Sports Info Solutions has Goff at a 5.6 average depth of target, second-lowest in the NFL ahead of Drew Brees.

By Distance: 5 of 6 on passes 20+ yards downfield (NFL-best 158.3 passer rating tied with Russell Wilson), 13 of 21 from 10-19 yards (23rd best passer rating), 33 of 39 from 0-9 yards (seventh best rating) and 12 of 18 behind the line of scrimmage.

Accuracy: On Target-percent 78.8-percent (20th), bad throws percent 14.1-percent (11th best), dropped passes 3.5-percent (11th best)

According to these numbers, Goff’s accuracy has been fine so far, but nothing elite.

Pressure: Goff’s pressure rate of 18.2-percent is roughly the same as it was in 2019, as is time in pocket. These numbers are above average leaguewide.

Play Type: Goff’s 50 play action passes are five more than second-place Josh Allen and double that of 12th place Kyler Murray. He’s gained 447 passing yards on these plays, second most after Allen.

Darrell Henderson, RB

35 carries, 201 yards, 2 TD, 5.7 YPC, no fumbles, six targets, three catches for 46 yards

14 first downs, 2.2 YPC before contact (21st), 3.5 YPC after contact (t5th), one broken tackle, 66-percent success rate (3rd), 79 DYAR (2nd), 40-percent DVOA (1st)

I wrote earlier this week about Henderson’s success off tackle. Through three games, Henderson ranks as one of the top running backs at FootballOutsiders and this is with significant time missed at training camp and not playing many snaps in Week 1.

By all accounts, Henderson’s been the Rams breakout player over the last two games. Will it continue?

Malcolm Brown, RB

36 carries, 145 yards, 2 TD, 4 YPC, no fumbles, six targets, three catches for 31 yards

12 first downs, 2.3 YPC before contact (20th), 1.7 YPC after contact (t33rd), one broken tackle, 58-percent success rate (11th), 40 DYAR (12th), 13.8-percent DVOA (13th)

Brown’s snap count has gone down in successive weeks. What will it be when Cam Akers is deemed healthy and “ready”? In limited time, Akers is averaging only .9 yards before contact and that means his offensive line and setup in front of him wasn’t doing him any favors in his NFL debut.

Robert Woods, WR

13 of 19 targets, 193 yards, 1 TD

9 first downs, 3.5 yards before contact/reception (121st), 11.3 YAC/reception (6th), no drops

Woods and Kupp both rank outside the top 150 players in the NFL in average depth of target. As mentioned in the Goff section, the Rams’ game is not deep passing even though they’ve been successful on those plays.

Woods has created nearly all of his yards after the catch.

Woods and Cordarrelle Patterson are tied for the most outside runs by receivers this season with seven. Curtis Samuel has six and no other receiver has more than three. All seven of Woods’ runs have been to the outside and his five broken tackles on those plays not only ranks first but is nearly as many as the rest of the league combined at that position on run plays.

Cooper Kupp, WR

18 of 21, 228 yards, 1 TD

14 first downs, 6.2 YBC/reception (91st), 6.4 YAC/reception (41st), no drops

Kupp and Woods are two of 10 receivers in the NFL to have at least 15 catchable passes and to not have a single drop.

Tyler Higbee, TE

10 of 11, 134 yards, 3 TD

7 first downs, 7.7 YBC/reception (69th), 5.7 YAC/reception (55th), no drops

So far Goff has found Higbee 10 times, resulting in seven first downs and three touchdowns. That’s basically perfect but this is a play the Rams have rarely been able to run. Throwing to Higbee works, but that’s a shallow well.