First of all, Merry Christmas! Enjoy family, food, and festivities...
On to the write-up...
Week 15. Just your typical Tuesday Night Football game. The Los Angeles Rams hosted the Seattle Seahawks; hoping to improve their NFC West divisional record and inch closer to making things interesting with Arizona down the stretch. It was another eventful week for the Rams as they were still dealing with the effect of COVID.
Tyler Higbee, Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, and Jordan Fuller were the major names unavailable for the Rams in this one. But despite relying on rotational players and backups, the Rams once again prevailed 20-10 despite a slow start and a handful of miscues.
In the overview below, I’ll cover the players and position group performances including these major topics:
- Offensive struggles vs SEA: Stafford or Supporting Cast?
- WR targets shares + Is there value with Ben Skowronek?
- OL struggles in the trench
- Von Miller score card
- Taylor Rapp & Nick Scott debate
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: 82.4 (+1.0), John Wolford: 40.2 (DNP)
Stafford was 21/29 for 244 yards and 2 TDs, but did throw an interception. The interception was head-scratching as Stafford seemed to anticipate Kupp cutting his route off. Instead, Kupp kept vertical to the end zone, and Q. Diggs (who baited the throw) had himself an easy turnover. Outside of the pick, Stafford was reliable. But he wasn’t helped out much by the rest of the offense (other than Kupp & a long Michel run). Here’s a drive / play-by-play breakdown of how the offense stalled out:
- 1st Drive:
- 3rd & 5 at SEA 37: Stafford pass to OBJ for first down negated by Bobby Evans illegal formation (penalty / mental blunder)
- 3rd & 10 at SEA 42: Michel rush for no gain (questionable play call on 3rd down near FG range)
Drive Result: FG (3 pts)
- 3rd Drive:
- 2nd & 8 at SEA 31: Stafford incomplete to Skowronek (drop by Skowronek)
- 3rd & 8 at SEA 31: Stafford sacked for -10 yards (OL blocking + questionable play call to knock out of FG range)
Drive Result: Punt (0 pts)
- 4th Drive:
- 4th & 2 at SEA 32: Stafford incomplete to Kupp (drop by Kupp)
Result: Turnover on Downs
These were the significant plays that hampered the Rams from putting up more points in the first half, which usually has hurt the Rams in the past. Just something to be mindful of as we get closer to football in January and February. Now, while the OL was subpar, Stafford does need to make sure he is getting the ball out quick if field position is a factor for FG range on 3rd down. But, I thought I large portion of the blame fell on how the OL was just not able to contain Al Woods and the SEA DL. Hard to grade Stafford in this one altogether because of at least 2 drops, a miscommunication on the Kupp route, and questionable play calls on SEA’s side of the field.
Week 15 Grade: B-, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral
Darrell Henderson: 68.5 (-0.2), Sony Michel: 71.6 (+1.9), Jake Funk: 63.6 (IR), Buddy Howell: 66.6 (N/A), Mekhi Sargent: 57.8 (N/A)
McVay said before the game that Henderson and Michel would share duties as the lead back, but I think everyone felt comfortable knowing Michel would have the majority of carries. And he did.
Michel carried 18 times for 92 yards (5.1 avg/carry). Granted 39 yards came on a long, yet impressive run. There just didn’t seem to be a lot of push in the run game like previous games. Part of that is because the Rams like to run right - Havenstein’s side - but he and Noteboom were out via COVID.
Henderson saw 6 carries and gained 23 yards (3.8 avg/carry). His success was minimal as his longest run was only 6 yards.
McVay did make an effort to try to get the RBs steadily involved. There were a few screen plays called, but poor blocking (D. Edwards) prevented those plays from being explosive. Between the two RBs, they totaled 4 rec (4 targets), 27 yards - with Michel again being the more effective back.
Week 15 Grade: B, Overall: B+, Trend: Neutral
Cooper Kupp: 91.6* (+0.4), Odell Beckham Jr: 67.6 (-1.9), Van Jefferson: 58.9 (-0.4), Bennett Skowronek: 57.9 (+3.6), L. Akers: 58.3 (N/A), Robert Woods: 75.7 (IR), Jacob Harris: 58.7 (DNP), TuTu Atwell: 60.7 (IR)
What else am I suppose to write about Cooper Kupp at this point? I feel like I have to critique him for his dropped pass on 4th down (Jordyn Brooks in coverage) and his miscommunication with Stafford on the route. His 8 drops are kind of high. Especially for a guy that has high standards for himself.
But in all seriousness, Kupp’s performance this year is historic. Whether he breaks Calvin Johnson’s record (in 17 games or 16) or doesn’t break it at all - Cooper Kupp has been able to put up video game numbers in his first season paired with Matthew Stafford as quarterback.
I would like to see the Rams balance the passing attack with OBJ, Van, and Skowronek.
Van Jefferson (92% snap share) is very hot and cold week to week. He had 2 rec (2 targets) for 23 yards. Skowronek (32% snap share) had his best game vs SEA - 4 rec (5 targets) for 42 yards, but he may not be reliable vs. playoff competition. OBJ (76% snap share) had 1 rec (3 targets) for 7 yards and seems like the #2 option despite a quiet game. Let’s take a deeper dive and see how often Stafford is targeting each of these guys since Robert Woods injury...
176 Matt Stafford pass attempts since Week 10...
- Kupp: 61 targets (35% target share)
- OBJ: 28 targets (16% target share)
- V. Jefferson: 29 targets (16 % target share)
- Skowronek: 13 targets (7% target share)
Kupp is seeing a healthy double-digit number of targets every week. Again, the last three weeks - it’s worked. But when defenses take him away with double teams or a bracket coverage, can McVay/Stafford counter - and do they feel like they can rely on the other three guys. OBJ showed his ability to connect with Stafford in the ARI game. His work on shallow crossers has opened up a lot of space for Kupp in the intermediate. I would like to see Van piece together some of his performances down the stretch. It would be big for his confidence going forward.
While he wasn’t credited with a drop, I would like to see Odell Beckham make the catch on the shallow crosser that he tried to catch with one hand (Stafford threw it from a low arm slot). Poona Ford narrowly made an interception because of OBJ’s “less than full-effort attempt”.
I think the Skowronek does a place with this offense (and reports claim he has been attached to Cooper Kupp’s hip during the week), but I’m not sure if he physically will be able to get to the level of dominance week in & week out. He won’t hurt teams like GB, TB, or the stronger teams in the AFC, but he can be a good rotational piece moving forward. I kind of seem him like a Kevin Curtis type (w/o the speed).
Week 15 Grade: B, Overall: A-, Trend: Neutral
Tyler Higbee: 60.6 (COVID), Kendall Blanton: 35.5 (-6.2), Brycen Hopkins: 52.2 (+10.4), Johnny Mundt: 64.7 (IR)
Very quiet game for the Tight End group. Hopkins caught his first NFL pass - for 9 yards. There was a time - we didn’t think he would see the field...ever. Now, it appears he is starting to cut into Blanton’s starting time on the field based on usage.
Blanton had 0 rec (1 target) and his snap share decreased from 90% to 65% this week.
The Rams will get Tyler Higbee back, so all of this could be relatively meaningless, but for the sake of Brycen Hopkins and his development as TE2, a battle with Blanton might not be the worst thing.
Week 15 Grade: C-, Overall: C-, Trend: Neutral
Andrew Whitworth: 84.8 (+0.8), Joe Noteboom: 78.3 (COVID), David Edwards: 64.8 (-0.3), Brian Allen: 77.7 (-0.3), Coleman Shelton: 62.0 (-0.3), Austin Corbett: 70.1 (-2.5), Bobby Evans: 48.1 (-0.8), Rob Havenstein: 80.1 (COVID), Alaric Jackson: 37.9 (N/A)
I wasn’t thrilled with the OL in this game. The group was without its best run blocking OL - Havenstein. And they were without OL #6 - Joe Noteboom, who had been used more in the last 2 games in jumbo packages and as a RT (vs. ARI). The offensive line surrendered 4 sacks (-35 yards) and outside of two runs, didn’t open many lanes in the run game. At one point, McVay expressed his frustration with David Edwards on the sideline for failing to hold a block on a screen pass. Michel was tackled for a minimal gain even though Edwards and two other Ram offensive lineman were present and had the opportunity for an explosive play. Here are the sacks allowed and penalties for each OL...
Whitworth - 5 penalties / 4 sacks allowed
D. Edwards - 3 penalties / 4 sacks allowed
B. Allen - 5 penalties / 5 sacks allowed
Corbett - 2 penalties / 2 sacks allowed
Havenstein - 3 penalties / 4 sacks allowed
Noteboom - 0 penalties / 1 sack allowed
B. Evans - 1 penalty / 2 sacks allowed
Shelton - 0 penalties / 0 sacks allowed
With 90 offensive snaps and 2 sacks allowed, Bobby Evans is not ready like the rest of the group. He stands up way too easily and DL can get leverage on him easily. The group’s biggest weakness as a group is facing teams with size & brute strength. SEA DL is that way. TEN is that way. Just something to note. Like mentioned by Jordan Rodrigue on the Athletic & 11 personnel podcast, the Rams attempt at “positional blocking” against these teams doesn’t work very well.
Week 15 Grade: C-, Overall: B, Trend: Slight-to-Moderate Downward
Aaron Donald: 93.8* (-0.1), A’Shawn Robinson: 71.3 (-0.2), Greg Gaines: 75.8 (-0.9), Mike Hoecht: 46.7 (DNP), Bobby Brown III: 61.7 (DNP), Marquise Copeland: 71.1 (-6.1), Jonah Williams: 66.3 (DNP), Sebastian Joseph-Day: 62.4 (IR)
Similar to the Offensive Line, sometimes this group can get handled with physical strength or a power running scheme. If two guys are getting hands on Greg Gaines, there’s a good chance with his size, he won’t win that matchup. And with Aaron Donald, already considered an undersized DT, the Rams don’t have the stature in the run game to always control the trenches. SEA was smart to feed the rock over and over early in the 3rd quarter. They stole momentum on their touchdown drive and definitely put Los Angeles on the ropes.
They still proved well in containing Seattle’s run game to only 4.2 yards/carry and a long run of 10 yards. But just as a precaution, the Rams can’t get complacent and let teams do what SF did - death by 1000 cuts.
AD99 added a sack for the DL - and raised his season total to 11.0 sacks. 96.5 total with 3 games left in the regular season.
Week 15 Grade: B, Overall: A-, Trend: Slight Downward
Troy Reeder: 45.8 (-0.7), Ernest Jones: 57.3 (-1.8), Travin Howard: 61.6 (IR)
Ernest Jones led the team with 11 tackles (5 solo) and a pass deflection. The no-call on the 4th down play against Deejay Dallas was the wrong officiating call. But let’s not get carried away with calling it a “GAME-changing” missed call. It wasn’t.
Troy Reeder (42% snap share) played more than usual because of SEA’s offensive style.
Week 15 Grade: C-, Overall: C+, Trend: Slight Downward
Leonard Floyd: 76.5 (-0.9), Von Miller: 88.7 (+2.1), Justin Hollins: 71.4 (-0.7), Terrell Lewis: 50.3 (DNP), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: 89.5* (COVID), Chris Garrett: 53.8 (INA), Justin Lawlar: 63.8 (INA), Jamir Jones: 57.4 (+0.2) Justin Hollins: 71.4 (IR)
I can feel this group getting stronger. Von Miller is starting to hit full acclimation with this defense. He had 6 tackles (3 solo), 5 QB pressures, and his first sack as a Ram.
While Von started out the year with 4.5 sacks in 4 games - and went without a sack in the last 7 games (5 as a Ram), he is putting up numbers in other areas. In 5 games with LAR, Von has 6 TFLs. His usage has increased every week (outside of ARI game - 78%). After battling a lower foot issue when leaving DEN, acclimating to Raheem Morris’s defense, and COVID outbreak, I think Von is ascending. His impact on this defense will go beyond the box score every week. His PFF grades have been lights out in 4 of the 5 games. Stay tuned for this group. I feel good about it.
Floyd added a sack (his 9th in 2021). Between Floyd & Von Miller - they had 3 TFLs. Justin Hollins (26% snap share) added 3 tackles (1 solo).
This group is collapsing the pocket very well and I think we are going to see this group turn it up a notch in January too.
Week 15 Grade: B+, Current Grade: A-, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 83.9* (-1.4), Darious Williams: 64.4 (+2.7), David Long Jr.: 62.6 (-0.7), Robert Rochell: 61.9 (IR), Dont’e Deayon: 70.4 (+4.2), Kareem Orr: 28.1 (DNP)
Jalen definitely won that round against DK. It wasn’t close. Though Russell Wilson didn’t do much to help his WR; underthrowing his playmaker on a number of routes. Ramsey broke up 2 passes on the evening.
Darious Williams was solid again in pass coverage; allowing 18 yards on 3 receptions.
Deayon had a very impressive pass breakup. I was worried on the pass attempt, but Deayon made a great recovery and used his hand with great finesse despite being in okay position at best. It was a pivotal play, especially for an undersized corner.
I like the balanced usage of David Long Jr and Deayon as the 3rd CB. I think it’s a smart tactic by R. Morris to prevent these teams from keying on one specific guy. Deayon can be picked on for his size and below-average tackling. David Long Jr can be picked on for his body positioning when on a WR.
Week 15 Grade: B-, Overall: B, Trend: Neutral-to-Slight Upward
Jordan Fuller: 77.7 (COVID), Taylor Rapp: 63.7 (+0.3), Terrell Burgess: 55.3 (COVID), Nick Scott: 52.9 (+8.1), JuJu Hughes: 35.5 (DNP)
Man, there was a deep pass on the left side of the field (Rapp’s deep shell responsibility). Nick Scott was responsible for the right side. Scott beat Rapp to other half of the field to make the play on the ball and tackle. To me it showed the point that’s been there all along: Taylor Rapp is not a cover safety and really doesn’t have a true profile for this defense. He was drafted for Wade Phillips scheme and with Wade Phillips no longer a part of this organization now for almost 2 years - I have to wonder if Taylor Rapp will make it through this off-season without being traded. I even began to wonder if the Rams would draft another safety in the early rounds because they put such a high emphasis on their pass shell defense. I think Nick Scott is better for that role right now, but I don’t think he’s the answer long term. Taylor Rapp might have sealed the game with an INT, but its just brutal watching his late reaction on pass attempts. Safeties need to be instinctual and see the field well - I just don’t think he does that from the back end. If you are using him, I’d rather him be closer to the LoS; pressing or bumping a slot WR/TE and then covering the middle of the field against quick slants.
Week 15 Grade: C+, Overall: C+, Trend: Very Slight Upward
Johnny Hekker: 64.2 (+1.5), Matt Gay: 82.5 (+2.7)
Matt Gay! Back to back weeks from 55! Love seeing the confidence in him from that distance and the trust from McVay in him to be nails. And congratulations on the Pro Bowl nod. He’s now 28/29 on FG attempts and 40/41 on XPs.
Hekker pinned 1 punt inside the 20, but wasn’t able to with the other two punts. He averaged 43.3 yards/punt. For comparison sake, Dickson averaged 49.5 yards/punt on 6 punts. Hekker’s age is starting to catch up...
Brandon Powell returned kicks and punts. He averaged 23.0 yards/kick return and returned 1 punt for 0 yards.
Week 15 Grade: B-, Overall: C, Trend: Very-Slight Upward
MCVAY AND CO.
Not McVay’s best in-game play calling - I thought there were some bad calls in important situations. But I can’t knock McVay too much because of canceled practices from COVID, so consider this a pass. We’ll see a fuller game plan against Minnesota.
Raheem Morris’s defense is clicking more and more, though it still showed a small crack in the run game in the early 3rd quarter.
DeCamillis can hang his hat on the fact that he has a pro bowler on special teams this year. LOL!
Week 15 Grade: McVay: B / Morris: B+ / DeCamillis: C+, Overall: B, Trend: Neutral