Waking up on Monday mornings have been pretty easy for Los Angeles Rams fans as of late. This Sunday the Rams absolutely demolished the the Houston Texans except for some meaningless heroics at the end by the home team.
Then suddenly it became an even easier Monday with the news that Von Miller is going to the Rams this week.
The Los Angeles Rams now have:— FanDuel Sportsbook (@FDSportsbook) November 1, 2021
▪️ Aaron Donald
▪️ Von Miller
▪️ Jalen Ramsey
All on the same team... pic.twitter.com/uxIYtE9iRN
Sure, LA has not been the defense they were last year but despite giving up a lot of yards they have proven that the concept of “bend not break” defense can help lead to victories with a good supporting offense. The addition of Miller may help in getting back to their 2020 form and elevate the defensive lines to places it has not yet been before.
But that is for the future to decide, for now here are four things I learned in Week 8.
The Rams defensive line is playing lights out and it is about to get even better
The Rams defensive line was scary good against the Texans. Everyone seemed to be eating and Leonard Floyd continued to show the world why he was given his contract this offseason to stay in LA. He had two sacks on the day, Aaron Donald had one and a half, and the unit finished with five total. Currently LA ranks second in sacks per game.
And then this morning happened.
Blockbuster: Broncos are finalizing a trade to send eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Von Miller to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for two second-day 2022 draft picks, league sources tell ESPN.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 1, 2021
Miller is now saying his goodbyes to his friends in the Broncos’ training facility. pic.twitter.com/wJjlDOQkPU
Davis Mills was running for his life on Sunday and without some fourth quarter stats in garbage time would have most likely thrown for under 100 yards thanks to the pressure up front. That was without the addition of future Hall of Fame rusher Von Miller to worry about.
Donald, Floyd, and Miller will now all line up next to each other in what might be one of the most stacked defensive lines in recent memory after the Monday morning trade that sent shockwaves through the NFL. With Donald soaking up double and triple teams Miller will be in the best position he has ever been in to make impactful plays every down.
Rams will be just fine without DeSean Jackson
Some surprising news was released last week when it was announced the DeSean Jackson and the Rams organization mutually agreed to seek trade partners for the speedy veteran. Due to that agreement Jackson did not travel with the team on Sunday. That did not seem to be much of a problem on game day, especially with the emergence of Van Jefferson this season and the effort he put up against the Houston Texans.
Jefferson finished the game with three catches for 88 yards on six targets but 68 of those yards came on one play. Jefferson found separation deep despite two defenders trailing him down the field. Stafford launched the ball but just barely under-threw it which made Jefferson slow up just a bit to make the catch and get tripped up at the Houston 11 yard line.
Van Jefferson had his 2nd reception of 60+ yards on the season against HOU. Van is proving to be a receiver that is very versatile in his route selection. Known for his short & intermediate prowess coming out of college, Van is developing into all around threat for coach McVay pic.twitter.com/lqqpvobOlf— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) November 1, 2021
And of course we remember his 67-yard touchdown pass from Stafford in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.
The truth of the matter is that LA may never be able to replace DeSean Jackson’s skillset and experience but Jefferson is versatile enough to make up for it. With Cooper Kupp on the verge of breaking multiple receiving records and Robert Woods dominance in the short and intermediate game the Rams do not need someone to be the homerun hitter every single play. Jefferson does just enough to command the respect from the defense and he has the speed and catching ability to take the top off of the defense. The Rams aren’t asking him to go long every down like they did with Jackson, rather they are taking their opportunities when the defense presents it to them.
The Rams special teams needs help quick
After going against a team that faked an onside kick successfully then converted two punt fakes in the same game you would think that special teams should have been a focus all week long—and maybe it was, but against the Texans it did not show. Even though it was a blowout by the second quarter Houston found momentum in the fourth that lead to three touchdowns in the last eight minutes of the game. The scores did not mean much in a quarter where mostly reserves were on the field but a successful onside kick in the waning minutes of the game showed a weakness that teams in the future can exploit.
The other issue is that special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis and McVay have yet to truly fill the punt returning position. This season has been a carrousel of players taking punt return duties. Tutu Atwell was originally the solution when he was drafted in the second round in the 2021 NFL draft but has thus far been a disappointment. His electrifying speed should make him an ace when it comes to returning but as it was showcased against the Texans he needs some developing when it comes to gauging the distance of kicks. Being undersized he will also need to work on his shiftiness in order to stay healthy and avoid the big hits. Often times it appears that Atwell’s speed is even too fast for him to handle as he stumbles to gain balance or trips on himself turning a corner.
Kupp has been sure-handed as the supplemental punt returner but more than likely he is just back there to field the punts rather than return them. He is too busy and too vital to risk injuries on punt returns. With Atwell injured from the Houston game and Jackson on his way out of the Rams organization it remains to be seen who else the Rams could utilize this week against the Tennessee Titans.
Young talent steps up on both sides of the ball
After sending Kenny Young away to the Denver Broncos this past week there were hopes that the trade meant that the development of rookie linebacker Ernest Jones was going ahead of schedule and on Sunday he proved just that. Jones was the lead tackler with 9 combined tackles. He also had a tackle for a loss, two quarterback hits, a shared sack, and an interception that he returned 19 yards. The game could not have gone any better for him albeit a hands to the face penalty that he committed did negate one of the most athletic interceptions I think I have ever seen, given the score I think we can forgive him.
The blowout also allowed rookie wide receiver Ben Skowronek to get some playing time and though it was only three catches someone was going to need to step up in the absence of DeSean Jackson. His three targets led to 30 yards and on his second reception Rams fans got a glimpse of his abilities when he outright ran through a tackle and picked up the first down on a third-and-2. Although a small sample size at a point of the game that was near meaningless Skowronek may have earned himself a couple more opportunities as the season progresses.
Aside from Atwell the Rams are beginning to see some real contributions from their rookies this season, Their development is key to getting to deep into the playoffs come January and thus far they have looked pretty good on gameday.
What did you learn from the Rams victory over the Texans? What do you think of LA’s defensive line with Von Miller? Let’s discuss in the comments below!