The Los Angeles Rams traveled to Phoenix, Arizona to take on the Cardinals in a divisional clash on Monday Night Football. In the days leading up to the game, the Rams found themselves in a precarious situation with multiple players landing on the Reserve/COVID list along with a few starters out with injury (B. Allen, Henderson). The issue forced the Rams to call upon multiple backups and practice squad members to start and play meaningful snaps. In the end, it was the Rams superstars that took over the game to give the Rams a 30-23 win over Arizona, and pull within one game of the division lead in the NFC West.
In the overview below, I’ll cover the players and position group performances including these major topics:
- Matt Stafford and his consistency moving forward
- OBJ found a new home?
- Joe Noteboom ascension + OL depth
- Aaron Donald & DPOY Conversation
- CB room and who should start moving forward
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: 81.4 (+3.0), John Wolford: 40.2 (DNP)
According to PFF this was Stafford’s best game as a Ram - accumulating a 90.1 PFF grade in the game against the Cardinals. His next best: 84.2 in Week 8 at Houston. And its hard to argue based on the eye test.
Stafford was electric through all 4 quarters. I can’t think of a throw where I thought it was a poor decision or ill-advised. Sure, he missed Van Jefferson high in the end zone. But you could tell he was only going to throw it in a place Van was the only player to make a play on the football.
He finished 23/30, 287 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT. Once again, play action served Stafford and the offense well
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. On play action passes, Stafford was 7/8 for 129 yards and a TD. While the numbers are great, its the process during the play that allows Stafford to excel at such a high level. The way he uses his eyes to hold or pull safeties away is giving him opportunity to attempt and hit on explosive plays downfield. The throw to Kupp for 44 yards was prime example of that. And then the other element has been the way he uses his feet to get to the right platform. Stafford has been able to climb the pocket/throw on the run and find intermediate crossers. And he’s been able to avoid pressure when the pocket does collapse to buy extra time outside of the tackle box to throw across field or his body.
His poise and attitude Monday night were exactly what you want in a QB trying to lead you to a Super Bowl title. All that remains now is Stafford’s consistency (which Kurt Warner pointed out this week). Can Stafford find a groove to keep his play at a high level for the next 4 weeks and into the playoffs? With this type of offensive structure (balance run attack, play action, shotgun, and quick screen game), I think it is completely possible. And Stafford doesn’t need to be anything more than he was Monday. With a team full of superstars in Cooper Kupp, Odell Beckham, Whitworth, AD99, and Ramsey. He doesn’t need to feel the pressure of carrying a team to win like he might felt in Detroit.
Week 14 Grade: A+, Overall: B+, Trend: Moderate Upward
Darrell Henderson: 68.7 (COVID), Sony Michel: 69.7 (-0.3), Jake Funk: 63.6 (IR), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (N/A), Mekhi Sargent: 57.8 (N/A)
Nothing flashy about the run game this week, but a nice steady approach kept the offense in great position. Michel ran for 20 carries, 79 yards (3.99 avg) and a long of 19 yards. Van Jefferson added 1 carry for 10 yards on an end around.
For Michel, it was the same running style as last week; falling forward at the end of runs to keep the chains moving and 2nd/3rd down in manageable situations.
I thought Michel also displayed his toughness in pass pro; picking up blitzes - knowing his assignment in conjunction with the protection slide.
Rams keep with this balanced approach, offense will stay in a good place.
The RB room should get Henderson back next week vs. SEA (pending COVID).
Week 14 Grade: B, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral
Cooper Kupp: 91.2* (+0.2), Odell Beckham Jr: 69.5 (+2.4), Van Jefferson: 59.3 (-0.8), Bennett Skowronek: 54.3 (-2.3), L. Akers: 58.3 (N/A), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (DNP), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
Cooper Kupp man. Cooper Kupp. 13 rec (15 targets), 123 yards, 1 TD. Kupp was just his normal, elite self. More of the same: fancy footwork on his routes, YAC, and catching everything thrown his way. A triple crown is certainly possible. 113 rec (Godwin is 2nd with 92). 1489 yards (Jefferson is 2nd with 1288). 12 TDs (Evans is 2nd with 11).
In fact, Cooper Kupp is on his way for clean sweep of all major WR categories:
- 20+ yard explosive plays - 21 (2nd)
- YAC - 647 (1st)
- 1st Downs - 70 (1st)
If he takes all these categories by season’s end, then the MVP should be between Jonathan Taylor and him. No QBs are clear cut above the rest, which leaves Cooper Kupp and Jonathan Taylor the difference makers and outliers of the league. MVP type players.
I felt Odell Beckham Jr’s (72% snap share) growth with this system and sure enough its already beginning to blossom. 6 rec, 77 yards, 1 TD. He added his own explosive play with a 40 yard grab on a shallow crosser that he added plenty of YAC with. He caught his 3rd TD in as many games. And another red zone TD on a quick slant to get the Rams on the board. I would like to see the Rams and OBJ work something out for the future. The Rams players, themselves, offered OBJ a home and I would hope that would carry some weight in his offseason decision. Not to mention that OBJ now can live in Hollywood where his personality and vibe can play more to the style of this city. I am thinking that a deal somewhere in the $10-12 mil range would be fair. I’m not sure OBJ will find a better situation elsewhere. Plus, McVay has found a way to get him the ball without being a WR1.
Van Jefferson (79% snap share) hauled in another deep bomb (52 yard TD) from Stafford off play action. Van is still working through his development. He got called for a holding penalty and an offensive pass interference play on a red zone throw. I think by the time he gets to his 3rd year, he’ll have cleaned up a lot of parts of his game. Catching more with his hands, route running, run blocking, and being able to draw defensive holding/pass interference calls.
Ben Skowronek (24% snap share) was targeted once and drew a holding call in the red zone that allowed the Rams to get 7 pts.
Week 14 Grade: A, Overall: A-, Trend: Moderate Upward
Tyler Higbee: 60.6 (COVID), Kendall Blanton: 29.7 (+12.0), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR), Brycen Hopkins: 41.8 (-24.3)
The Rams experienced what life would be like if Higbee would be out. His COVID designation forced Blanton into a starting role with Hopkins coming in for 12 personnel.
Blanton (90% snap share) held his own though! 2 rec (3 targets) for 29 yards. His 23 yard catch was a great play for his confidence as he took a shot at the end of it. Blanton also deserves a lot of credit for his block to help create the 52 yard TD from Stafford to Van Jefferson. Blanton had slipped/fallen on the play and was able to get up and chip the edge rusher/LB just enough to buy Stafford time to step up in the pocket to deliver a dime to Van.
Hopkins didn’t see any targets in the passing game and appears to be a run-blocking option first. He whiffed on a few blocks which saw his grade drop.
Week 14 Grade: C, Overall: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
Andrew Whitworth: 84.0 (+1.6), Joe Noteboom: 78.3 (-0.7), David Edwards: 65.1 (-1.3), Brian Allen: 78.0 (DNP), Coleman Shelton: 62.0 (+1.2), Austin Corbett: 72.6 (+0.1), Bobby Evans: 48.9 (-2.4), Rob Havenstein: 80.1 (COVID), Alaric Jackson: 37.9 (N/A)
This group was so often criticized in 2020 and this past off-season for not drafting or adding offensive lineman. Look at what the OL coaches have been able to turn at with mid-and-late round draft picks.
- Noteboom: 3rd rounder
- Allen: 4th rounder
- Edwards: 5th rounder
- Shelton: UDFA/Waivers
At some point we need to complement the product on the field and the coaches that are developing them. Yes, there are still improvements out there such as power blocking vs. positional blocking. But because the Rams have hit on these guys, the Rams have then been able to splurge in other areas on the roster.
The biggest positive here was seeing that Sean McVay was willing to use the jumbo package even without Rob Havenstein. This time it was Bobby Evans. Joe Noteboom got the start at RT (also a pleasant sight).
With the commitment of using Joe Noteboom as OL #6 whether to fill in for an injured player or in jumbo packages - its a sigh of relief; knowing that McVay is “open” to opening the playbook. It also gives the Rams a chance to figure out if they want to retain Noteboom after the season. In this case, he’s proving worth to be a lower cost free agent option. But according to Les Snead, other teams were willing to trade for him - so the Rams may need to think of an extension sooner than later.
Coleman Shelton has played very well as the backup center and brings stability since Brian Allen has been nursing a knee and elbow injury. Should the Rams keep with him until Brian Allen is completely healthy? Might be a good idea. Plus, it keeps Brian Allen’s price tag down for 2022 free agency. Coleman Shelton will be a RFA, so his price tag won’t be quite as high.
Bobby Evans still hasn’t made the jump that Noteboom and B. Allen have. Maybe we see a sense of urgency going into his 4th year (contract year). He’s yet to carve out a true role; seeing time at LG, RG, and RT in his three years.
Against ARI, the OL allowed 3 sacks, but for the most part they created great pocket space for Stafford to deliver his throws.
Week 14 Grade: B+, Overall: A-, Trend: Slight Upward
Aaron Donald: 93.9* (+0.2), A’Shawn Robinson: 71.5 (+3.2), Greg Gaines: 76.7 (+2.9), Mike Hoecht: 46.7 (DNP), Bobby Brown III: 61.7 (DNP), Marquise Copeland: 77.2 (-1.3), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (DNP), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
Wow. That first snap rush by Aaron Donald was something else. For perspective, the line of scrimmage was the 25 yard line. Max Garcia found himself on his butt at the 15 yard line. And Max Garcia recorded his first sack because of Aaron Donald. But seriously, a 3 sack game in a divisional contest. What a way to put his name back in the DPOY conversation (even though he should win it by default every year). It was storybook for him to finish the game with a sack. That brings his season total to 10.0 and his career total to 95.5. Not only was it the 3 sacks, but AD had a pass deflection that resulted in an Ernest Jones when ARI was driving downfield to potentially go up 10-0. It would appear that the DPOY will a 5 man race - coming down to Myles Garrett, TJ Watt, Aaron Donald, Micah Parsons, and Trevon Diggs.
How Aaron Donald defeats trap— Craig Roh (@craigroh) December 17, 2021
If I had to cast my vote, it would definitely go to Donald. But I’ll remain as unbiased as possible and say the power rankings are:
- Trevon Diggs - leads the league in INTS (9) and tied for lead in PD (17), also has 2 TDs
- Micah Parsons - 12.0 sacks (-115 yards) paces LBs by a large margin, 2nd in TFLs (17)
- Aaron Donald - 10.0 sacks (-86 yards) and completely changes the dynamic of game and how offenses game plan
- Myles Garrett - 15.0 sacks (-85 yards)
- TJ Watt - 16.0 sacks (-69 yards) ... seems like a lot of cheap sacks and PIT defense has been below average
Greg Gaines (95% snap share) added another sack of his own. His ability to chase down QBs from behind is becoming a weekly habit. His season sack total is 3.5 along with 10 QB hits. Gaines is quickly and quietly turning himself into a top defensive tackle in the league in my opinion. Perhaps, he too could find himself in the conversation for an extension after this season. I mean, not only is his level of play there, but he’s on the field for 95% of the defense snaps. Not many DTs do that.
A’Shawn Robinson (49% snap share) made a great tackle on Rondale Moore to save a touchdown. He was a top 3 player on the defense according to PFF; posting a 82.3 grade. He’s giving the Rams run defense the presence they needed after trading Michael Brockers.
Marquise Copeland (14% snap share) was the only other DT used. Bobby Brown III did not play.
While this stat is shared with the Edge rushers, the Rams posted 26 QB pressures on Murray in Week 14; pacing the NFL. Wow.
Only thing that prevented this from being an “A+” was because of AD99’s missed tackle. Fair is fair.
Week 14 Grade: A, Overall: A, Trend: Slight Upward
Troy Reeder: 46.5 (+0.9), Ernest Jones: 59.1 (-3.2), Travin Howard: 61.6 (IR)
Ernest Jones added another INT to his young career. I’m sure he thanked his future HoF teammate. Despite a solid performance via the eye test, E. Jones did see his PFF grade drop because of his run defense. I wonder if that’s because of a few plays in which James Connor pushed the pile. But even then, Connor only averaged 2.4 yards a carry. Perhaps, it was being the spy on Kyler Murray? Tough to know.
Reeder (9% snap share) has been delegated to what seems like goal line or short yardage situations only.
Week 14 Grade: B-, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral
Leonard Floyd: 76.5 (+3.6), Von Miller: 86.6 (-0.6), Justin Hollins: 71.4 (+1.3), Terrell Lewis: 50.3 (-0.3), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 89.5* (-0.6), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (INA), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (INA), Jamir Jones: 55.2 (DNP) Justin Hollins: 71.4 (IR)
Leonard Floyd had 8 pressures and 4 tackles of his own for the front 7. He was making Kyler work for his yards all night. Even though he had 8 pressures, one small critique to Floyd’s play would be to take away Kyler from being able to get to the sideline. Sometimes Floyd crashed down a little too quickly on his rush which gave Kyler an opportunity to dance outward. Nonetheless, a great game from him and his INT was a great play of his athleticism.
Von Miller (78 snap share%) had his lowest PFF grade as a Ram, despite 9 pressures and 3 tackles. His missed sack on Kyler on the last play was not his finest moment. But despite that, on the Floyd INT, it was his pressure that forced the poor throw.
Obo Okoronkwo (24% snap share) was once again the rotating edge rusher for Floyd and Von Miller. He just missed a sack on Kyler. He continues to play great in short spurts.
Justin Hollins (22% snap share) returned from the IR after 10 weeks and played respectably. It looked like he played a little bit of ILB during the game (covering RBs out of the backfield). McVay may have kept his word about using Hollins as an ILB because of the depth at Edge. We’ll see how this progresses moving forward.
Week 14 Grade: B+, Current Grade: B+, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 85.3* (COVID), Darious Williams: 61.7 (+2.2), David Long Jr.: 63.3 (+1.1), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (IR), Donte Deayon: 69.8 (COVID), Kareem Orr: 28.1 (N/A)
With 3 hours before kickoff, it seemed that the Rams secondary would be in for a long night. Ramsey was deemed unavailable due to COVID about 5 hours before kickoff. Rochell had already been placed on the IR earlier in the week with a chest injury. And Deayon was already on the COVID list. So the Rams would roll out DWill, David Long Jr, and practice squad member - Kareem Orr. Woof.
It wasn’t a dominating performance, but the DBs played hard all game and hung in there. Raheem Morris did a great job of limiting how often Orr was used so that Kyler Murray couldn’t just pick on him.
Darious Williams matched up on DeAndre Hopkins and AJ Green for the majority of the night. Williams was targeted 12 times, but Kyler only completed 6 passes against him. I believe DWill had 3 pass deflections in total. One of which was a great red zone breakup against DHop on 2nd down.
Darious Williams impecable todo el partido,pero esto es un reflejo de su técnica. Primero con el mirroring a D-Hop eye2eye y segundo ,en el momento que Hopkins gira cabeza Williams se vuelve a localizar el balón. La velocidad de ejecución es pic.twitter.com/VjtUsqHDmL— Jorge Edu (@JEduFernandez) December 14, 2021
This was a get right game for David Long Jr as his performance in Week 4 vs ARI lead to his benching. He added a pass breakup in this one. Will it be enough for him to leap frog Deayon on the depth chart?
Kareem Orr (51% snap share) definitely found himself on skates early and allowed Murray to complete a pass over his head on a scramble to the right where AJ Green made the catch on 3rd down to pick up a 1st.
If I had to pick my starting 3 it would be: Ramsey, DWill, & ... David Long Jr. Why? I think Deayon only offers so much. He can play against teams like DET, NYG, and HOU. But not against the elite teams like GB.
Week 14 Grade: B-, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral
Jordan Fuller: 77.7 (-0.7), Taylor Rapp: 63.4 (+1.4), Terrell Burgess: 55.3 (-19.9), Nick Scott: 44.8 (+0.1), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
I think Fuller’s grade drops because of an unfamiliar group of names around him. I didn’t hear much about Rapp which was a good sign. It looked like he played closer to the LoS. Scott was beat late in the game on a deep ball - his eyes caught in the back field for too long. Burgess (42% snap share) didn’t do anything to suggest he needed more playing time; allowing 3 rec on 3 targets his way. And he missed a tackle in his second straight game.
Week 14 Grade: C-, Overall: C, Trend: Neutral
Johnny Hekker: 62.7 (-1.5), Matt Gay: 79.8 (+3.3)
Hekker just doesn’t seem to have the consistent leg that crushes punts. He only averaged 40.0 yards on 3 punts. He had 1 punt inside the 20.
Matt Gay was nails again; connecting on all 3 field goals - a long of 55.
Brandon Powell returned kicks again; returning one for 27 yards.
Another eye rolling moment for the special teams, this time; failing to recover an onside kick - giving ARI a chance to tie the game.
I give the grade a slight raise because of Matt Gay and Brandon Powell holding their spots down.
Week 14 Grade: C-, Overall: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
MCVAY AND CO.
Two good game plans by McVay in a row. The offense is finding its footing at the right time of the year.
Raheem Morris probably called his best game as a defensive coordinator with minimal reinforcements.
As Jordan Rodrigue pointed out in her 11 personnel podcast, can the Rams now be ready to have a counter/adjustment ready when teams start trying to take away the current game plan the Rams have. Football is also about being able to adjust ane execute quicker than your opponent.
The Rams are in a curious situation moving forward with COVID running through the team; leaving the Rams thin on game plan options and how to replace current players. We’ll have to stay tuned on what the NFL does to fix the situation. Don’t hold your breath though.
Week 14 Grade: McVay: A / Morris: A- / DeCamillis: C, Overall: B, Trend: Slight Upward