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Trick or Treat? Rating Rams players through the first 7 games

Which is better: Matthew Stafford’s performance so far this year, or scoring a king-sized candy bar on Halloween?

Detroit Lions v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

After exorcising the ghost of quarterbacks past and defeating the Detroit Lions in Week 7, the Los Angeles Rams currently hold a 6-1 record.

Coming into the season, LA set the standard of being a playoff contender; however, it was not realistic to expect Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense to look this good this early. Outside of the team’s spooky and lackluster outing against the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles could not ask for a better start to the 2021 campaign.

To get you into the Halloween spirit, let’s assess some individual performances through the first 7 games . Who has performed better than expected (treat), and who has disappointed (trick)?

Matthew Stafford, QB

Trick or Treat?: TREAT

The Rams offense has evolved with Matthew Stafford at the helm. One of the main things holding the LA offense back in recent seasons was a lack of downfield attempts, but now the Rams have even turned Cooper Kupp into a reliable deep threat. Los Angeles is once again home to one of the NFL’s most efficient passing attacks, and the most significant driver of this is the change at quarterback.

Stafford has completed 69.3% of his passes for 2,172 yards, 19 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a passer rating of 116.7. Even Sean McVay thinks his new quarterback is “better than expected”.

David Long, Jr., CB

Trick or Treat?: TRICK

In order for the Rams defense to live up to the standard set last season, a third cornerback needs to step up. Coming into the year, it seemed that individual would be David Long, Jr.; however, the third-year corner was benched in favor of rookie Robert Rochell ahead of the Week 5 divisional matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Long fell another peg down the depth chart the following week as well, when Dont’e Deayon played in front of him against the New York Giants.

Fortunately for Long LA needs another corner to step up even after Darious Williams returns from injury. There is still time for the young defensive back to turn his Rams career around, but he’s on shaky ground for now.

Offensive Line

Trick or Treat?: TREAT

The offensive line for Los Angeles deserves as much credit for its role in the team’s 2018 Super Bowl run than any other position group. The Rams lost starters John Sullivan (released/retired) and Rodger Saffold (free agency) after that successful season, which led to a down year in 2019.

The good news for the Rams is that the offensive line has returned to form and has been one of the better units in the entire NFL this season. Stafford has been one of the least sacked quarterbacks and there has been room to run on the ground even against the handful of stout interior units the team faced early in the year.

Center Brian Allen has been a revelation for LA, and he brings a stability to the position that the Rams have not had since Sullivan left the team.

Tutu Atwell, WR/PR

Trick or Treat?: TRICK

Los Angeles drafted Tutu Atwell in the second round of the 2021 draft after signing similar player and veteran deep threat DeSean Jackson in free agency. While the rookie was not expected to contribute much on offense this year, Atwell has also not yet made much of an impact as the team’s primary option at punt returner.

Taking into account the defense’s regression from last season, it’s fair to wonder what the Rams were thinking when they used their top draft pick on Atwell. Should these resources have been allocated in a manner that would help the team this year, especially considering the struggles at inside linebacker and defensive back?

Darrell Henderson, RB

Trick or Treat?: TREAT

Prior to this season, Darrell Henderson’s role in McVay’s offense was mostly as a change of pace runner. With the injury to Cam Akers before the start of training camp, there were significant concerns that Henderson might not be able to handle the heavy workload as the Rams’ primary back.

Fortunately for LA the third-year running back has surpassed any realistic expectations, and Henderson has asserted himself as an every-down back in the NFL - accumulating 417 rushing yards and 138 receiving yards (555 total) through 6 games.

Taylor Rapp, DB

Trick or Treat?: TRICK

Taylor Rapp had a promising rookie season for the Rams in 2019, filling in admirably when the team lost starter John Johnson III to injury. Rapp missed most of the following season due to his own injury, though he lost his starting job in training camp to then-rookie Jordan Fuller.

Rapp’s third season has had its share of ups and downs, with the highest moment being his two interception performance against Daniel Jones and the Giants. The safety was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 6 after his individual contributions in this game.

But there have been a number of rough moments too, and its reasonable to question Rapp’s fit in the Fangio/Staley defensive scheme the Rams continue to run under coordinator Raheem Morris. Can LA find a way to put the third-year safety in the best position to succeed, or will Rapp’s struggles continue?

Sony Michel, RB

Trick or Treat?: TRICK

After losing Akers to injury and not having full confidence in Henderson to serve as a workhorse back, the Rams acquired Sony Michel from the New England Patriots.

When Henderson missed the Week 3 contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a rib injury, Michel stepped up and carried the ball 20 times against a tough run defense. Henderson also left briefly against Seattle, which resulted in Michel picking up his next largest workload - 11 carries.

It’s clear that the Rams think Henderson is the better back right now, but it’s also curious how Michel has not been able to carve out much of a role on his own. Can the veteran earn a larger workload over the second half of the season?

Read: Sean McVay leaves door open for Cam Akers to return in 2021