The Los Angeles Rams hosted the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium. This was a game where the focus of the fanbase was that was not so much about the score/result of the game, but in what type of fashion would LA win? Would they make necessary in-game adjustments or would they continue to compound mistakes?
Sean McVay’s team delivered with a 37-7 victory. By no means was the team flawless in its play, but the overall execution was significantly better. Eight of 11 offensive starters improved their PFF grades (while Van Jefferson, Whitworth, and B. Allen [1 snap] just missed the cut). Seven of 11 defensive starters also saw their grades climb. In the overview below, I’ll cover the players performances including these major topics:
- Sony Michel & the RB room moving forward
- Jumbo Package + TE & OL Depth
- Aaron Donald & run dominance
- ILB rotation of Ernest Jones & Troy Reeder
- Defensive Scheme against quick passing
This article will cover each player’s PFF grade as it fluctuates week to week. The grade next to the individual is his current PFF grade.
*The differential +/- in parenthesis reflects whether or not he improved or declined from the previous week. Lastly, based on my own study of the game, I hand out a grade to the position group based on their ability and impact on the game (as well as injuries, signings, or releases). This grade factors into the overall grade of the positional group for the season, and ultimately the trend of the unit moving forward.*
Matthew Stafford: 76.2 (+2.2), John Wolford: 40.2 (+1.0)
No-win November has come and gone. Now we get to see the Matt Stafford that bounces back from adversity. While a win against Jacksonville hardly quiets a restless fan base, Stafford will have his opportunities to prove that the Rams made the right choice in trading Goff + 2 first round picks away and bringing him in. With a MNF game @ ARI, trips to BAL & MIN, and rematches with SF & SEA still left on the schedule, time will tell about Stafford’s productivity as a Ram.
As for the game against JAC, Stafford was 26/38, 295, 3 TDs. Early on the offense wasn’t as explosive, but it was in large part because of two 3rd downs, one in which Stafford climbed the pocket well off of JAC DL’s pressure, and threw off balance to Skowronek cutting across the middle to the JAC 10. Unfortunately, Stafford’s dime went right off of Skowronek’s chest for an incompletion and LA settled for a FG. The second 3rd down play was a quick slant at JAC 19 on 3rd & 2. Van Jefferson dropped an easy pitch and catch and was noticeably frustrated at himself after the play (as he should have been). The Rams once again settled for 3 pts to conclude the first half. The other point-scoring drive was a 3rd & 1 run to Michel that went for -2 yards.
The major fix still needs to be 3rd down conversion rate. The Rams offense was 0-for-6 on 3rd downs in the 1st half. Fortunately, that improved in the 2nd half to 5-for-6, but the Rams need to convert in these downs & distances early in games against their five remaining opponents. Hopefully this improves based on more reps/timing with Skowronek and OBJ. The Rams will need for teams to respect the consistency that Stafford has with his others WRs, so that Kupp can be freed up.
Play action really assisted Stafford well in this one and hopefully McVay will be wise to follow this plan with a run balance moving forward.
Week 13 Grade: B+, Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Upward
Darrell Henderson: 68.7 (DNP), Sony Michel: 70.0 (+4.8), Jake Funk: 63.6 (IR), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (N/A), Mekhi Sargent: 57.8 (N/A)
Only one RB to analyze here. Sony Michel was the bell cow with Darrell Henderson nursing a quad injury. The Rams offense proceeded to flow more with Michel as the lead back as he carried the ball 24 times for 121 yards (5.0 avg/carry) and a TD. It was clear that Michel’s running style was a big lift for the team. His ability to generate yards after contact and fall forward was a major emphasis for his promotion. It was also “how” he did it, which was equally impressive. According to Next Gen Stats, Michel faced a stacked box (8 or more defenders) on 12 carries; managing 54 yards on those plays.
This was the Rams first 100+ rusher of the season, not to mention a rarity in the career of Matt Stafford. At this point, similar to 2018 with CJ Anderson, McVay would be wise to go with the hot hand in Michel.
I don’t think that Darrell Henderson should be absent from the offense when he is healthy, I think he provides value in the passing game and he’s a great change of pace for late in games to provide burst.
Sony Michel and Darrell Henderson should look to take advantage in the run game moving forward; facing the following run defenses in the next 5 games...
- Arizona (16th) - 113.7 yards/game
- Seattle (24th) - 120.4 yards/game
- Minnesota (29th) - 131.5 yards/game
- Baltimore (1st) - 84.3 yards/game
- San Francisco (18th) - 114.3 yards/game
Week 13 Grade: A+, Overall: B+, Trend: Slight-to-Moderate Upward
Cooper Kupp: 91.0* (+0.5), Odell Beckham Jr: 67.1 (+0.9), Van Jefferson: 60.1 (-1.6), Bennett Skowronek: 56.6 (-1.6), L. Akers: 58.3 (N/A), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (DNP), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
Cooper Kupp just doing Cooper Kupp things. 8 rec (10 targets), 129 yards, 1 TD. Kupp was the recipient of three third down conversions in the 2nd half. His receiving grade now stands at 90.9 with a run blocking grade of 68.2. Kupp officially hit the 100 rec mark for the season and has 1366 yards with 5 games remaining. If he wants to overtake Calvin Johnson, he’ll need to average 120 yards/game from here on out. Cool record, but not the ultimate goal here. A greater priority is continuing to strengthen the dynamic effect of the WR room. It’s not hard to imagine that teams are going to look to take away Cooper Kupp in January.
Van Jefferson continues to be the deal-breaker here. He had 6 rec (8 targets), 41 yards, 1 TD on Sunday. He did have an ugly drop in the 1st half, and he needs to show stronger hands and working back to the football. Against JAC, he allowed the ball to travel deep to his body and failed to haul in a 3rd down in the redzone. Against GB, after getting to the top of his route, he failed to work back to the ball on a comeback. I still believe in Van Jefferson. Apparently, he is working through a little adversity. There was a video clip of him and McVay sharing a moment on the field after his 4th quarter TD. I’m actually not surprised by the sophomore “roller coaster” year for him, as the WR room has gone through a lot with OBJ signing, Robert Woods injury, and his own less than inspiring performances against IND, TEN & SF. OBJ endorsed the fact that he will be a future stud. I think it’s there too. He’s not far away from his first 1000 yard season. 39 rec, 621 yards, 5 TD. Not bad. But the 5 drops on the season need to be cleaned up.
After 3 games, OBJ (53% snap share) has 2 TDs. Good to see the connection heating up for Stafford and him. Hopefully his hip pointer/back continues to heal. The fade was a great play of his athleticism, but I really loved the 27 yard PA pass across the middle that allowed him to see an easy, uncontested target early.
Ben Skowronek (25% snap share) had a poor drop on the first drive that resulted in LA settling for a FG. But he did make up for it with a 35 yard catch over the shoulder on a seam route.
Week 13 Grade: B+, Overall: B, Trend: Slight Upward
Tyler Higbee: 60.6 (+1.4), Kendall Blanton: 29.7 (-15.5), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR), Brycen Hopkins: 66.1 (N/A)
WELCOME BRYCEN HOPKINS TO THE FOOTBALL FIELD! It’s like an early-Christmas miracle. He didn’t see any targets, but McVay finally committed to using him in the run game. And look what happens when you use 12 personnel to make life easy on Stafford and the offensive flow. And then to put the cherry on top, McVay takes things a step further and uses a jumbo package (which we will get to with the OL)!
I tried to watch Hopkins when he was on the field (21% snap share). A few times, he fired off the ball quickly and got good push in the run game. There was one play where he was tasked with working back across the OL on a PA pass. He ended up running into Whitworth and Edwards. Not his finest moment. Nonetheless, good to see him on the field and letting this offense operate with different personnel packages.
Kendall Blanton (15% snap share) caught 1 pass (2 targets) for 6 yards. He fumbled going to the ground via no contact. Fortunately, he recovered. While his PFF grade on Sunday was poor, it was most contributed to his pass blocking & receiving. His run blocking graded out at 78.2, which bodes well for the Rams using 12 personnel and jumbo moving forward.
Higbee was more utilized in the passing game this week; finishing with the 2nd-most receiving yards. His 5 rec (6 targets), 48 yards needs to be a weekly baseline. It creates more diversity and the defense can’t key in on Kupp and Van Jefferson.
There is life and promise for the TE room after all.
Week 13 Grade: C, Overall: D, Trend: Slight Upward
Andrew Whitworth: 82.4 (-0.6), Joe Noteboom: 79.0 (+10.5), David Edwards: 66.4 (+0.7), Brian Allen: 78.0 (-0.1), Coleman Shelton: 60.8 (+12.8), Austin Corbett: 72.7 (+1.4), Bobby Evans: 51.3 (-8.6), Rob Havenstein: 80.1 (+3.1), Alaric Jackson: 37.9 (N/A)
It’s a good day at the office when 5 offensive lineman improve on their PFF grades and 2 lineman have very slight declines; especially considering Brian Allen played 1 snap before exiting because of a sprained MCL.
Coleman Shelton replaced Brian Allen and performed very well. He earned a 74.1 pass blocking grade and 63.6 run blocking grade. With a game against ARI on MNF, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shelton gets an opportunity to start against his former team from 2018.
The biggest surprise here was the Rams electing to use a jumbo package; bringing in Joe Noteboom as a 6th OL for 12 plays. The move worked as the Rams consistently picked up chunk plays in the ground game. The Rams generated runs of 6 yards (3x), 7 yards, 9 yards, and 25 yards with Noteboom used as a 6th OL. We’ll see if the Rams continue to integrate Noteboom in the weekly game plan. McVay has already been on the record this week of saying that Noteboom is one of the best 11 guys on offense and not using him would be a disservice to the offense. With that type of confidence and mindset, it would appear that Noteboom has carved out a role and creates another personnel package for the offense moving forward.
Rob Havenstein, the Rams RT, performed at a high level; earning a 91.8 run blocking grade vs. Jacksonville. I mentioned a few weeks prior that the Rams would be best suited to have balance with their run/pass calls so that it plays to the strength of Havenstein and Co. He’s a 6’7” run mauler and not a 40/50-snap pass blocking RT.
Bobby Evans saw a brief appearance because of a David Edwards injury. But he was not nearly as ready as Coleman Shelton. Bobby Evans plays too tall and doesn’t create a lot of leverage and push. Its clear that the Rams weakest link on the OL is Left Guard with David Edwards representing the lowest starting OL grade at 66.4 and Bobby Evans being his backup. Edwards is serviceable, but he is the weakest of the five.
In the latest news, it looks like the Rams could have Andrew Whitworth for 2022 based on his comment earlier this week about playing another season if the Rams want him back. I imagine they will. That means that Rams will have Whitworth, Edwards, Havenstein, Evans, and Anchrum under contract for 2022. Of the 2022 free agents - Corbett, B. Allen, Shelton, and Noteboom, I expect the Rams to try retain 2 of the 3 UFAs (Corbett, B. Allen, Noteboom) and then resign Shelton as a RFA. Still a lot of football to play before then.
Week 13 Grade: A-, Overall: B+, Trend: Moderate Upward
Aaron Donald: 93.7* (+1.0), A’Shawn Robinson: 68.3 (+1.4), Greg Gaines: 79.6 (+0.9), Mike Hoecht: 46.7 (+3.0), Bobby Brown III: 61.7 (-1.8), Marquise Copeland: 78.5 (-8.1), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (DNP), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
All hail, Aaron Donald. AD99 flexed his strength and ability early in this one; throwing James Robinson to the turf, while forcing a fumble with a strip. It was just the type of turnover the Rams had been searching for over the last month. His pass rush grade dominates the league at 92.3 with his run defense at a comfortable 91.6 (remember the analyst that once tried to call Donald an average run defender...LOL)
Donald added 1 sack (two 0.5 sacks). He should have had another sack, but Darious Williams committed a holding penalty in the secondary. On the play, Aaron Donald managed to take down Trevor Lawrence with just one hand while being blocked by the Jags left tackle. Superhero type stuff. Donald now has 7.0 sacks on the season with 92.5 in his career (122 career games).
Donald could have a chance at a stretch run for tallying more sacks on his ledger with games against ARI, MIN, BAL, SEA, and SF. I expect him to finish at the 9 or 10 mark by season’s end. What has been more impressive to this point though is the influence Donald has had in the run game as of late. Donald has 19 tackles in the last 3 games. And over the last few games, the Rams have ranked as one of the best run defenses, in large part because of AD99 and Greg Gaines. Donald may not have the TFLs like he did earlier in his career, but there have been a number of runs that go for 0-2 yards which keep teams in 2nd & Long. The Rams have the #7 run defense (100.4 yards/game) in the NFL, which is right in line with their 2020 defense ranked #4 in run defense (99.1 yards/game). They will be tested in their next 5 games; facing opposing rushing offenses ranked mostly in the Top 15...
- Arizona (10th) - 124.2 yards/game
- Seattle (24th) - 97.0 yards/game
- Minnesota (15th) - 113.3 yards/game
- Baltimore (3rd) - 147.1 yards/game
- San Francisco (7th) - 125.9 yards/game
Greg Gaines continues to play at an elite level. According to Next Gen Stats, Gaines ranks as the #5 DT in pass rush win rate, and #4 in run stop win rate. His motor was on display again when he chased a scrambling Trevor Lawrence from behind for a 2 yard gain. At the point, most fans considered it a sack because of the hustle and ability to limit a mobile QB of Lawrence’s ability.
A’Shawn Robinson finally added some other credentials to his LA Rams stat sheet; forcing a fumble in the 2nd half of the game. He has still yet to bring down an opposing QB, but at this point, he just needs to continue to win his 1-on-1’s in run plays.
Overall, the Jags only managed 61 yards on 25 carries (2.4 yards/carry).
Week 13 Grade: A-, Overall: A-, Trend: Moderate Upward
Troy Reeder: 45.6 (+1.1), Ernest Jones: 62.3 (+10.0), Travin Howard: 61.6 (IR)
Ernest Jones was named the starting middle linebacker and he showed up all game and filled up the stat sheet. He lead the team with 9 tackles (5 solo), 0.5 sack, 1 PD, and 1 QB hit. I actually thought I saw him with 3 TFLs, yet the box score does not reveal that. I’m not sure if the official scoring marked the runner back at the LoS or not. Regardless, EJ made his presence known from Q1 through Q4. He played a career high 56 of 58 snaps.
McVay commented that the reason Ernest was able to play a lot was because of the way the game flowed, however I think EJ has earned his way enough in both run defense and pass coverage. He’s more athletic to blitz and cover the middle of the field than Troy Reeder. If the Rams want to survive teams that just try to pick them apart with quick passes, E. Jones is the answer. Reeder (49% snap share) can be used in early down situations, but that’s it in my opinion.
Another 3rd rounder that Snead hits on.
Week 13 Grade: B, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral-to-Slight Upward
Leonard Floyd: 72.9 (-1.1), Von Miller: 87.2 (+1.3), Terrell Lewis: 50.3 (-0.3), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 89.5* (+0.1), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (INA), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (INA), Jamir Jones: 55.2 (DNP), Justin Hollins: 71.4 (IR)
Floyd added a 0.5 sack; raising his total to 8.0 on the year.
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (27% snap share) continues to be first rotational edge rusher off the bench. He clocks in as the #4 of 111 ED in the league.
While the Edge Rushers were quiet for the most part, JAC and Trevor Lawrence were trying to get the ball out quick. The Rams adjusted nicely - and Von Miller even made a nice play; dropping into coverage (faking a stunt/twist); nearly intercepting a pass over the middle on a slant route. This type of counter to the quick passing game is vital in order for the Rams to have success as a pass defense when opposing offenses want to try to neutralize the Rams pass rush.
Week 13 Grade: B, Current Grade: B, Trend: Neutral
Jalen Ramsey: 85.3* (+0.7), Darious Williams: 59.5 (-1.5), David Long Jr.: 62.2 (DNP), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (+0.0), Donte Deayon: 69.8 (-3.6)
Poetic that Ramsey would find himself on the receiving end of a turnover. His partner in crime, AD99 forced a fumble and Ramsey was in prime position to recover for an early turnover; flipping field position and allowing the Rams to go up 10-0.
Aside from Jalen Ramsey, this unit is still trying to find itself. Darious Williams continues his with inconsistency. He had two holding/DPI calls against him, which showcases a tendency to get beat and then get handsy. For comparison sake, Darious Williams had 4 INTs and 14 PDs in 2020. In 2021, he has 0 INTs and 4 PDs. He needs to pick it up. His one flash of excellence came on a quick screen, where DWill came downhill; adding a TFL. It resembled his style of play in 2020, similar to the INT he made @Seattle in the playoff game.
Dont’e Deayon has the third CB spot for now (71% snap share), but his play has been equally as erratic. He’s good against below-average teams and less than inspiring against good football teams.
Robert Rochell falls in as the #4 CB; only playing 1 snap at the end of the game. He made a fantastic special teams play as a gunner; helping down the ball at the JAC 1 when the game didn’t even matter. That type of effort and hustle shows me he wants to be on the field.
David Long Jr was a healthy inactive and appears to be in the dog house for McVay/Raheem. I expect him to be active on Monday, but only because ARI will use empty sets. Doesn’t mean he will play.
Overall, Deayon, DWill, and one of the safeties were graded out as the lowest PFF performers on Sunday. This will need to get corrected especially since JAC isn’t a world beater.
Week 13 Grade: C-, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral-to-Slight Downward
Jordan Fuller: 78.4 (+0.3), Taylor Rapp: 62.0 (+0.0), Terrell Burgess: 73.2 (-6.2), Nick Scott: 44.7 (-2.1), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
Jordan Fuller nearly made an acrobatic interception off a tipped pass. He added 8 tackles (5 solo); continuing his nose for the ball.
Taylor Rapp (92% snap share) is still his partner at the safety position. But he is the weak link now on the defense since McVay/Raheem promoted Ernest Jones over Reeder.
Nick Scott (32% snap share) added 3 tackles (2 solo).
Burgess played when the game was out of reach; missing a tackle during his 5 snaps on defense.
Week 13 Grade: C, Overall: C, Trend: Neutral
Johnny Hekker: 64.2 (+0.6), Matt Gay: 76.5 (+2.4)
Hekker had a rough stretch during November, but got back on track against JAC. He hit 3 punts for 150 yards (50.0 avg) and had one downed at the JAC 1 thanks to Rochell’s elite play (which should not be overlooked despite score of the game).
Matt Gay hit 3 field goals - a long of 44 - and was 4/4 on XPs. He did have a kickoff go out of bounds which can simple not happen in an indoor stadium.
Brandon Powell received the nod for kickoff duties since Sony Michel was the lead RB. Powell gave the Rams a shot of energy on the opening kickoff; returning it 65 yards.
The Rams kick off coverage held JAC to 1 kick return for 24 yards.
The other blemish on the special teams unit was Ben Skowronek running into the JAC punt returner on a fair catch signal; giving JAC 15 free yards.
Still not a clean game for this group, but maybe the tide is turning with significant plays like Powell and Rochell. Sometimes its just getting the right people in there... You have to love special teams..
Week 13 Grade: C-, Overall: D+, Trend: Slight Upward
MCVAY AND CO.
This was one of McVay’s better games in 2021. His willingness to use Michel for 20+ carries, use 12 personnel, and a jumbo package was pleasing to the eye. Hopefully its not a one-time wonder, but a sign of things to come to make this offense click at a high level in December and January.
Raheem Morris made the right switch naming Ernest Jones the starting ILB over Reeder. I’m not expecting Ernest Jones to play flawless football at the ILB position, but it should give the defense more athleticism and versatility.
Special Teams still needs some refining but Jordan Rodrigue from The Athletic did note that DeCamillis is working hard at practice (and after practice) to get these guys coached right. Sometimes the responsibility falls on the players to execute (ex: Matt Gay kickoff & Ben Skowronek on a fair catch).
Week 13 Grade: McVay: A / Morris: B / DeCamillis: C, Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Upward