The Los Angeles Rams are 4-1 through the quarter mark of their first 17-game season following a Week 5 win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams offense looks to be much improved from a season ago, in large thanks to the surprising performance of the offensive line, but the defense seems to have regressed with the replacement of Brandon Staley in the form of Raheem Morris.
What individual performances stick out in the first five games for Los Angeles in either a good way (Winners!) or a bad way (Losers!)?
It’s time to check on the Rams again after five games this season.
Cooper Kupp, WR
Star wide receiver Cooper Kupp has arguably been the Rams’ best offensive player through the first five games and has already amassed 523 yards and 5 touchdowns on 37 receptions.
The veteran is on pace for a career year and currently averages 105 yards per game. His previous career best was a 73-yard average in 2019.
Cooper Kupp has been named September's NFC Offensive Player of the Month. He joins Torry Holt (October 2003), Pro Football Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce (October 1995) & Henry Ellard (December 1988) as the only Rams WRs to earn Offensive Player of the Month: https://t.co/g4coID479b— Stu Jackson (@StuJRams) September 30, 2021
The big guys up front have been excellent to start the 2021 season, and Matthew Stafford is the least-sacked quarterback in the NFL so far - he’s been taken down only four times in five games.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the unit’s performance to-date is that they’ve faced rather stout defensive lines including the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, and Arizona Cardinals. Chandler Jones had more sacks for the Cardinals in Week 1 against Tennessee (5) than the Rams have allowed all season.
Center Brian Allen also deserves to be specifically mentioned after surpassing all expectations in the early part of the season. It was a fairly significant surprise when in training camp he earned the starting role in the middle of the offensive line and Austin Corbett transitioned back to right guard, but the move has paid dividends so far for Los Angeles.
Brian Allen, by any means necessary - playing so far this year like he’s furious at the game for almost leaving him behind. Great clip find here @BigDuke50 https://t.co/uc8JeW47Fz https://t.co/Ida8Er9foi— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) October 10, 2021
Matthew Stafford, QB
Stafford’s performance in the first three games was just about as good as the Rams could have possibly hoped for. LA’s offense looks dynamic and capable of scoring from anywhere on the field - their new signal caller should get most of the credit for that.
Through five games Stafford has completed 68% of his passes (on track to be a career high) for 1,587 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. His current passer rating is 113.2, which is notably better than his previous career high of 106.0 in 2019.
With that said, there is still room for improvement. Stafford had a rough outing against Arizona and then continued to miss throws in Week 5 versus the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams have incredibly lofty expectations to live up to after trading for the veteran quarterback, and they will need Stafford at his best in order to make a run in the playoffs.
Darrell Henderson, RB
Darrell Henderson missed the Week 3 contest against Tampa Bay with a rib injury, but aside from that he has proven to be a capable every-down back. It was fair to be concerned that Henderson could be a workhorse back for the Rams after the team lost Cam Akers to injury before the season, and the third-year running back has been better than expected.
Henderson has rushed for 294 yards on 60 attempts (4.9 average) for 3 touchdowns. He has also recorded 10 receptions for 90 yards.
DeSean Jackson, WR
Heading into the season the Rams needed DeSean Jackson to be a threat in the deep passing attack in order to open up room for Kupp and Robert Woods to work underneath; however, the speedster has proven that he still has what it takes to be one of the best deep ball receivers in the NFL.
Even though he and Stafford have been unable to link-up on multiple open opportunities, they have connected 7 times for 215 yards (30.7 average) and a touchdown so far in the young season.
Jalen Ramsey, CB
Overall the Rams defense has performed in an underwhelming fashion, but one of the major bright spots has been the play of Jalen Ramsey.
LA has an excellent plan for the utilization of Ramsey and the team routinely moves him between the slot and outside in order to keep offenses on their toes. The star cornerback has been equally as impressive in the run game as the pass, and playing inside allows him to be more involved in every aspect of the game.
The most notable play for Ramsey was his interception of Colts backup passer Jacob Eason to seal the victory in Indy.
Leonard Floyd, OLB
Leonard Floyd has 3 sacks in his second year with Los Angeles, but the most notable part of his performance has been his ability to use his athleticism to keep mobile quarterbacks at bay. This is more important when considering the opposing quarterbacks in the NFC West: Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson, and Trey Lance. Floyd will be an important piece of the Rams defense as the season continues to unfold.
Leonard Floyd continues to show that he is one of the best run defenders in the league. He had a couple nice stuffs last night. Underrated defender pic.twitter.com/IAutSE1KCG— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) October 8, 2021
Sebastian Joseph-Day & A’Shawn Robinson, DT
LA traded DT Michael Brockers to the Detroit Lions in order to save on salary cap space, and Sebastian Joseph-Day and A’Shawn Robinson have filled in admirably. Outside of Week 1 against the Bears and Week 4 against the Cardinals, the Rams have stood up well in the run game. It’s usually a good sign for the opposing team when Tom Brady is the leading rusher, which was the case in Week 3 versus the Bucs.
David Long, Jr., CB
David Long, Jr. was the first player on the 2021 Rams to lose his starting job after being benched in Week 5 in favor of rookie Robert Rochell.
Long had a very poor outing in Week 4 against Arizona, but the third-year corner may get a shot to redeem himself with teammate Darious Williams currently rehabbing an ankle injury.
Terrell Burgess, DB
Terrell Burgess suffered a significant injury during his rookie season, but it’s a surprise that the promising young player has not been involved in a meaningful way on defense so far in year two.
Are Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott really better options at safety, or has Burgess not performed adequately behind the scenes?
This season for the Rams (@PFF):— Sosa Kremenjas (@QBsMVP) October 5, 2021
Taylor Rapp - 279 snaps
Terrell Burgess - 1 snap
I don't agree with that. At all.
Taylor Rapp, DB
Rapp is at his best when he is playing a hybrid linebacker role and able to be active against the run and in the short to intermediate pass game. The Rams ask a lot of their safeties in order to prevent chunk plays down the field, but Rapp has struggled to defend the deep passing attack.
Rapp’s struggles may be a result of how he is being utilized versus individual performance. Is he being put in the best positions to succeed? This question is a good transition to the next member of the “losers” list -
Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator
The Rams defense seems to be performing below expectations when you account for the level of talent on the roster. When this is the case, you have to question whether the coaching staff is getting the most out of their players. The first 5 games of Raheem Morris’ tenure as defensive coordinator has been concerning, but it’s also important to note that LA has faced multiple dangerous offenses in the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Seahawks.
The next few games against the New York Giants, Lions, and Houston Texans will allow Morris’ defense to right the ship for the remainder of the season. However, there’s a very real chance this unit could be the Achilles heel of the 2021 Rams should improvement not be made.
Kenny Young, ILB
Kenny Young’s best outing came in Week 3 against the Buccaneers, but he did not perform as well in the other four games and was ejected in Week 2 versus the Colts. Troy Reeder rotated in more often in Week 5, which may suggest that Young is in jeopardy of losing his job in the middle of the Rams defense. Rookie Ernest Jones is also a likely candidate to earn more playing time over the remainder of the season.
Jacob Harris, TE
Rookie Jacob Harris has been involved on special teams, which is an encouraging sign for the young player; however, it’s fair to want to see more from LA’s athletic pass catcher.
It is entirely possible that Sean McVay and the Rams are waiting until the right moment to break out Harris as a weapon on offense, particularly in the red zone. Can the rookie make an impact over the remaining 12 weeks of the season?
Johnny Hekker, P
As a result of an improved Rams offense, Johnny Hekker has not had a lot of opportunities to punt the ball.
Unfortunately, Hekker has not made the most of his opportunities - punting 13 times for an average distance of 42.1 yards. This mark is on track to be the lowest of Hekker’s career. His current lowest measure was for the 2020 season where he averaged 45.6 yards per punt.
LA traded Corey Bojorquez to the Green Bay Packers after an impressive performance in the preseason, and it’s fair to wonder now if the Rams kept the right punter.