After a pair of disappointing losses against TEN & SF and a bye week to regroup, the Los Angeles Rams traveled to Green Bay for a significant NFC matchup. Alas, the Rams could not find their footing again; dropping a third straight matchup - and causing a level of panic in the LA fan base.
There are still six games left to right the ship. But time is ticking, and the Rams need to establish an identity sooner than later. Perhaps, a silver lining is that LA has yet to play their best complete game of football this year. Below, I’ll address some of the positives and some disconnections; holding the Rams back from breaking through in the month of November...
- OBJ -a hopeful WR2
- Higbee’s decline and how to rejuvenate his effect
- OL strength inconsistency
- New Edge Rusher emerging
- Secondary players failing to step up
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 (-1.5), John Wolford: 39.2 (DNP)
Okay, so, bad (and obvious) news: Stafford has not helped the Rams at all in the midst of their three game losing streak. Good news: Stafford plays much better after November. Again, see the splits I showed last week...
- September: 64.7%, 76 TD, 35 INT
- October: 62.6%, 87 TD, 31 INT
- November: 60.6%, 75 TD, 54 INT
- December: 63.9%, 55 TD, 28 INT
- January: 64.7%, 13 TD, 4 INT
Stafford should rebound. But it’ll take a lot on his part to make that happen. He has missed a lot of throws through 11 games. He has missed low to the WRs; increasing the difficulty of the catch and sailing throws that are uncatchable (and that are turnover worthy plays). He will be without Robert Woods (who he had time with in the offseason to build rapport with). He will have to acclimate and find timing with Odell Beckham Jr & Ben Skowronek as the 3rd and 4th WRs. Not to mention that his timing with Van Jefferson could still use improvement.
As for the game vs. Green Bay, Stafford’s line was 21/38, 302 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, (1 fumble lost). In the first half, Stafford was 1/4 on 3rd down. In the second half, he was 0/4. Yikes. Again, missed throws were a theme. Missing behind Beckham (x2). Missing low to Van Jefferson (although a drop). Missing high to Beckham.
What will make or break Stafford’s 2021 season with LAR is whether or not he can come from behind and/or win the back and forth contests. The Rams have not had many close games this season (<7). The Rams will likely play in multiple close games down the stretch with games vs. ARI, BAL, MIN, SF, and SEA. Put up or shut up.
Last but not least, something to keep an eye on is Stafford’s splits in 1st & <10, 2nd & 4-6, 3rd & 4-6, and 3rd & 7-9. His splits are alarmingly low compared to 1st & 10, 1st & >10, 2nd & 10+, and 3rd & 10+. Kind of odd.
Week 12 Grade: D+, Overall: C+, Trend: Slight Downward
Darrell Henderson: 68.7 (-1.7), Sony Michel: 65.2 (+1.0), Jake Funk: 63.6 (IR), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (N/A)
RBs were left out to dry in this one. Once again, trailing from behind, the ground game was not able to be fully utilized. Darrell Henderson carried 16 times for 55 yards (3.4 avg). However, he had at least 3 carries that were 0 yards or less, because of poor OL run blocking push (which we will get to for the OL unit). Henderson added more value in the passing game; 4 rec (on 4 targets), 18 yards, 1 TD. His TD catch was very impressive as he had to wear the hit of the LB in the end zone. A great throw in tight coverage, and just as impressive of a grab.
Michel only saw 3 carries for 14 yards (4.7 avg). He was used in the kick return game upon his request to McVay and the coaching staff. He averaged 22.5 yards a return which is more promising than other players from previous weeks. Perhaps his hard nose style of running would be beneficial to a physically weak ST unit.
Week 12 Grade: B-, Overall: B, Trend: Slight Downward-to-Neutral
Cooper Kupp: 90.5* (+1.1), Odell Beckham Jr: 66.2 (-0.5), Van Jefferson: 61.7 (-0.4), Bennett Skowronek: 71.2 (DNP), L. Akers: 58.3 (N/A), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (DNP), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
One thing is for sure, the Rams are already missing Robert Woods in the jet sweep & run blocking out of 11 personnel. Kupp, OBJ, and Van Jefferson just aren’t the same at replacing Woods. This doesn’t even compliment Robert Woods hands as a WR.
So, the biggest piece here is how quickly and how effective can Odell Beckham Jr be in the offense down the stretch. To make matters more difficult, he’s having to play with a hip pointer which is actually identified as slightly above the hip into the lower back/side. The Rams will need to take care of this quickly to get as much out of the former all-pro.
I am going to buy on OBJ, and I think by the time the ARI game comes around, we’ll see more consistency from the Stafford/Odell connection. I think McVay’s ability to create openings for his WRs will be better than what Odell experienced with NYG and CLE, coupled with the fact that Stafford is a better quarterback then anyone Odell has had throwing to him.
Week 12 Grade: C, Overall: B-, Trend: Neutral
Tyler Higbee: 59.2 (-1.2), Kendall Blanton: 45.2 (+0.2), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR),
Here is the biggest head-scratching decision moving forward. With Gerald Everett out of the picture this past off-season, Robert Woods/Johnny Mundt/TuTu Atwell/Jacob Harris injured mid-season, and DeSean Jackson released, you would think that Tyler Higbee’s involvement and play in the offense would be substantial! Am I wrong?
But since all of those injures, Higbee has a stat line of: 17 rec (31 targets), 145 yards, 1 TD through 5 games. That’s rough to look at. Stafford and him are only connecting 55% of the time on throws his way. And when they do, it hasn’t been for substantial yardage. 29 yards/game in that 5 game stretch. With 1 TD. His latest performance at Green Bay: 1 rec (5 targets), 3 yards. *Vomit noise*
Not only that, but Higbee has been below-average in the run-blocking and pass-blocking department. Maybe its overuse and fatigue is kicking in? If that’s the case, Sean McVay needs to spell him with Blanton or Hopkins - even if its for 5-10 plays in a game. And when he is on the field, perhaps running some the slants across the middle for 8-12 yards that he effectively did in the first 6 games of the season. Along with some TE screens and rollouts where the TE leaks late.
Higbee could find himself on the chopping block for the off-season. His salary for $7.65 mil in 2022 will begin to look concerning. I recognize the Rams don’t have a lot resources at this position, but what is Higbee offering right now that makes him a lock moving forward? I’m not saying they should or will release him, but that question is coming into play with each passing week.
Week 12 Grade: F, Overall: F, Trend: Slight Downward
Andrew Whitworth: 83.0 (-1.5), Joe Noteboom: 68.5 (DNP), David Edwards: 65.7 (-1.4), Brian Allen: 78.1 (+3.6), Coleman Shelton: 48.0 (DNP), Austin Corbett: 71.3 (+0.4), Bobby Evans: 59.9 (DNP), Rob Havenstein: 77.0 (+0.3), Alaric Jackson: 37.9 (N/A)
Brian Baldinger did a great job of identifying a weakness of the Rams offensive line right now. He noted that the Rams are trying to “positionally block” rather than pushing guys off the LoS. They are getting proper angles and hands on guys, but are failing to drive them back. He noted in the GB game that David Edwards and Austin Corbett were main culprits of this. This allowed Kenny Clark and the GB DL to keep Henderson at the LoS or allow guys like Amos to make necessary stops. Edwards has always had a strength issue - we saw that when Jeffery Simmons (TEN) bulldozed his way one-on-one against Edwards on SNF.
Andrew Whitworth was uncharacteristically bad vs. Green Bay. He had a pair of holding penalties and was responsible for the Rams first turnover, which was a strip sack on Stafford. He allowed an injured R. Gary to beat him (looked like he slipped on the grass).
I’d like to see the Rams get back to their chippy play in the trenches. Against CHI, IND, and TB, the OL was putting DL on their backs. Pancakes. Against very good DL too. Akiem Hicks, DeForest Buckner, Ndamukong Suh to name a few. Those are big, power guys.
The Rams will need to get back to moving the pocket/Stafford’s platform and getting into a comfortable balance of run/pass, because this OL is not built (lack of power/strength) for drop back passing 40 times a game.
Week 12 Grade: D+, Overall: B-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Aaron Donald: 92.7* (+0.4), A’Shawn Robinson: 66.9 (-0.6), Greg Gaines: 78.7 (-1.2), Mike Hoecht: 43.7 (+0.1), Bobby Brown III: 63.5 (+0.5), Marquise Copeland: 86.6 (+1.6), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (Waived), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
Overall, the DL was pretty good! They limited Green Bay to 31 carries for 93 yards. Locking up AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones is not an easy thing to do. The longest carry for GB was 8 yards. The improvement here would be to prevent these running backs from falling forward for additional yards.
Greg Gaines had the lone sack (0 yard lost); narrowly getting Rodgers on a scramble that he could have broken free for a long run. He continues to seal down the starter role with SJD’s absence.
Marquise Copeland saw less snaps (4 out of 82), but is DL #4 in the rotation.
A’Shawn Robinson will continue to be the difference of this group. If he plays well, then the group will be strong. But if he has performances like he did against ARI, DET, and SF, then the Rams will be in trouble.
I don’t fault this unit for the lack of sacks because the ball is coming out so quick and the pass rush just doesn’t have time to get to the QB. With AD99, V. Miller, and L. Floyd, this has to change.
Week 12 Grade: B-, Overall: B, Trend: Neutral
Troy Reeder: 44.5 (-1.7), Ernest Jones: 52.3 (+5.3), Travin Howard: 61.6 (IR)
It was more of the same for Troy Reeder. Just like against San Francisco, Reeder was beat in the middle of the field. Over and over and over again.
Ernest Jones will have to be the guy (if he can do it). He played 59 of 82 snaps at ILB. And he seems to be the more athletic option in the middle. The problem is that if the Rams only leave one linebacker on the field, then they are subject to getting abused in the run game. We might have to wait until Justin Hollins gets back from IR because it was hinted that he may play ILB upon his return. Which would make sense because Von Miller and Leonard Floyd are taking so many snaps. *See McVay’s comments in the link*
I would guess that Hollins could return in Week 14 against Arizona; giving him a full 10 weeks of recovery from a torn pec.
The other move here is to remove Reeder from the lineup. Bring Rapp in as the other ILB (risk here is lack of size in the middle). From there, the Rams could insert Terrell Burgess to the safety position (a better coverage safety).
Week 12 Grade: F, Overall: D, Trend: Moderate Downward
Leonard Floyd: 74.0 (+1.4), Von Miller: 85.9 (-0.1), Terrell Lewis: 50.3 (-0.3), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 89.4* (+2.9), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (INA), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (INA), Jamir Jones: 55.2 (DNP), Justin Hollins: 71.4 (IR)
Interest thoughts and development with this group. I’m confident Floyd and Miller will be able to get home and start adding sacks to this unit’s ledger again. Teams have just been countering the Rams as of late with quick passing. SF and GB got the ball out quick.
The name to watch is Ogbonnia Okoronwko. He played 18 of 82 snaps, and continues to play well. (FINALLY!) So much so that he is ranked as the #3 out of 110 qualified Edge Rushers. His 84.1 run defense: 74.4 pass rush grade shows his balance. Is Obo capable of playing more to spell Floyd and V. Miller. I’m not sure McVay and Chris Shula are going to take snaps away from either of the two, but Obo is showing he deserves a larger snap share than Terrell Lewis as Edge rusher #3.
Justin Hollins has been designated for return from the IR. Will he be a part of the Edge unit or will he be shifted inside as mentioned earlier?
Improvement here for this group would be tackling. When these guys crash down in the run game, they need to come in and bring ball carriers down with force and presence. No arm tackles that extend the run for an extra 3-5 yards.
Week 12 Grade: C, Current Grade: B, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 84.6* (-3.1), Darious Williams: 61.0 (+0.7), David Long Jr.: 62.2 (DNP), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (DNP), Donte Deayon: 69.8 (+0.8)
Ramsey’s grade declined because of some miss tackling and he allowed 5 rec (5 targets) when lined up against D. Adams. The yardage was less than 50, but you’d still like to see Ramsey win a few more of those battles. A lot of the reason is the soft coverage. Which has been a growing restlessness from the fan base. Will LAR use more press at the LoS? A more balanced approach of this would help the pass rush get home and cause some more ill-advised throws.
Dan Orlowsky called the Rams scheme “dumb and soft”; questioning why Raheem Morris is covering a TE on the outside time and time again. Green Bay shifted Davante Adams inside to get him off Ramsey. The Rams cushion and failure to challenge guys on the perimeter has been a backbreaker in the last three losses. Especially in short down and distance situations when the defense needs to get off the field and put the ball back in the hands of the offense.
The Rams are still looking for those two other cornerbacks to emerge in this group. At times Robert Rochell has played well. At times Donte Deayon has played well. But the Rams need a guy that can play well vs. the juggernauts of the NFC. It would be a great time for Darious Williams to find his 2020 self.
They’ll need something soon because they face Arizona (D. Hopkins, AJ Green, Moore, Kirk), Minnesota (J. Jefferson, Thielen), Baltimore (M. Brown, M. Andrews), Seattle (Lockett, Metcalf), and anyone beyond Week 18.
Will the Rams play more press moving forward? I’m not sure one win vs. Jacksonville convinces everyone that things are fixed from a defensive perspective.
Week 12 Grade: D, Overall: B-, Trend: Slight Downward
Jordan Fuller: 78.1 (+2.0), Taylor Rapp: 62.0 (-2.9), Terrell Burgess: 79.4 (DNP), Nick Scott: 46.8 (+6.9), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
Just like with the cornerbacks, the Rams have an issue of finding their compliment to Jordan Fuller. Fuller has stepped up in John Johnson’s absence, but Taylor Rapp has been a frustrating starter on the defense. Outside of a career game vs. NYG, Rapp has been routinely beat in the middle of the field. As a safety, he only has 3 pass deflections, two of those against the Giants. His rookie year, he had 8. He has also missed 10 tackles this season with a 13.7 missed tackle percentage. And the cherry on top, he has allowed a 69.0% Comp Percentage along with 415 yards and 4 TDs. A clear liability.
I suggested above that one of the fixes (not certain it would work) would be to move Taylor Rapp to ILB like a Mark Barron role and allow Terrell Burgess to play deeper on the field in those coverage situations.
At this point though, I’m not sure Terrell Burgess sees the field barring an injury. And the likelihood of that happening to Taylor Rapp himself isn’t high. Plus, with how hard the team has been hit with injuries, I’m not wishing for that to happen.
Week 12 Grade: F, Overall: C, Trend: Moderate Downward
Johnny Hekker: 63.6 (-3.3), Matt Gay: 74.1 (+1.0)
Special Teams has been atrocious all year, outside of like one game (Tampa Bay).
Matt Gay is the lone bright spot; going for 2-2 on FG opportunities with a long of 39 yards.
Johnny Hekker’s play has dropped off significantly since a strong start of pinning teams down inside 20. He only had 1 inside-20 against GB. And he only managed 41.0/punt.
Koski returned punts for the Rams and clearly showed his lack of readiness for the role. He managed 13 yards on his lone return, but fumbled; giving the Packers the ball back in prime field position.
Sony Michel apparently lobbied to McVay to be used as a kick returner and to be honest, I like it. His desire to be used and stick his nose in special teams is something this team desperately needs. He returned 4 kicks for an average of 22.5 yards, which is promising. Koski muffed his own lone kick return with a 13 yard return.
Week 12 Grade: D-, Overall: D-, Trend: Moderate Downward
MCVAY AND CO.
Well, the Rams have to find themselves.
McVay feels pidgeon-holed with the offense because of the lack of depth. But at this point, with defenses keying on Cooper Kupp, he needs to keep the playbook open. A run balance with Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel is a good start. Then he needs to be willingly to move the pocket and use PA. Give guys like Odell, Skowronek, Higbee more time to find space. Dropping back time and time again will allow defenses to play downhill more. Sprinke in jet sweeps and RB screens. Go back to the WR screens. Though the loss of Robert Woods is felt in some of these ways, Cooper Kupp is a great blocker and I’m sure Van/Skowronek can get a job done. Great way to simply get the ball to Odell (if you feel the need to / make defenses stay honest and off Kupp).
Lastly, McVay needs to correct the simple mistakes. His play calling has cost the Rams on crucial down and distances.
Raheem Morris has to be willing to make an adjustment. SF ran the ball down his defense’s throat and threw quick passes in the middle of the field. Green Bay then ran quick pass plays in the middle of the field; motioning players off Ramsey. The soft coverage against Rodgers and the GB offense didn’t work and he wasn’t willing to make the adjustment of press coverage until late in the 4th quarter.
At this point, the entire coaching staff is highly responsible for technique and schematic issues. McVay should fic the “positional blocking” scheme with more power and punch from his OL.
McVay has shown stubbornness so don’t hold your breath.
Week 12 Grade: McVay: D- / Morris: F / DiCamillis: F, Overall: C, Trend: Significant Downward