The Los Angeles Rams are on their bye week and will have some time to do some self-reflecting and figure things out before playing the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8. The bye week is a good time to take a step back and evaluate how some of the position groups are playing and what they can do to improve. Let’s take a look at the offense.
The offensive line hasn’t done Matthew Stafford any favors this season. Still, the Rams quarterback hasn’t played well. He ranks 23rd in quarterback DVOA according to Football Outsiders and 29th in EPA per dropback. Too many times this season, he’s hurt the offense.
Stafford is tied for second in turnover-worthy plays via PFF and his big-time throw percentage is down from 5.7 percent last year to 3.1 percent. In 2021, the Rams got way more of the good Stafford than the bad. So far in 2022, it’s been the opposite.
The turnover to Talanoa Hufanga against the San Francisco 49ers can’t happen. If the Rams are going to turn it around after the bye week, Stafford is going to need to start playing better.
The Rams running backs might be one of the worst units in the NFL this season. Among running backs with at least 50 carries, Cam Akers’ 3.0 yards per attempt ranked dead last. He’s also among the worst running backs in rush yards over expected and EPA per rush.
While it looks like Akers is on his way out, Darrell Henderson isn’t a difference-maker in the run game. He can get the job done as he showed against the Panthers, but he’s not someone who’s going to take over the game on the ground. Behind him, the Rams have Malcolm Brown who is fine in pass protection, but not a threat to run the ball and Ronnie Rivers is an unproven commodity.
No, the offensive line hasn’t done any this group any favors. Still, they’ve missed opportunities when they are available and there’s not anyone that really scares a defense. We’ll see if Les Snead and co. make an addition here at the trade deadline.
Like most of the Rams’ position groups this season, the wide receivers have dealt with injuries. Van Jefferson has been out all season, but still, this group has been a little disappointing outside of Cooper Kupp.
Allen Robinson had his best game against the Panthers with five receptions for 63 yards. However, that accounts for over one-third of his production for the season. The offensive line effects the receivers as well, but overall, Robinson has been disappointing.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom here. Ben Skowronek has quietly put together a nice season. He’s found a role as an H-back in the Rams’ I-formation, and he’s done well as a receiver that Stafford can trust. Skowronek ranks second in the NFL in average yards of separation per play. Brandon Powell has also gotten involved.
We’ll see how all of these pieces work together once Jefferson returns. We need to see more from guys like Robinson, but this group is trending up.
It’s hard to be too critical of the tight ends when the Rams only rostered two to begin the season. Kendall Blanton returned after the Brycen Hopkins suspension and Jacob Harris still hasn't found a place on offense.
With that said, what Tyler Higbee is doing needs to be commended. He’s second on the team in both receptions and yards. His 297 yards is also sixth among tight ends while his 34 receptions rank fourth. From a production standpoint, Higbee has shown flashes of the receiving threat that he was at the end of the 2019 season.
Where this group could get better is blocking. There are times when the offensive line will actually block a run play well, but one of the tight ends will miss their block, blowing up the play. Because the Rams don’t have a blocking-specific tight end, it makes it difficult to leave a tight end in to block.
It’s extremely difficult to be critical of the offensive line after everything they’ve gone through. After Joe Noteboom went down last week, the Rams were playing:
...and that’s not even according to the depth chart at those positions. Alaric Jackson would technically be the team’s third left tackle. They’ve played with ten different offensive line combinations and haven’t started the same offensive line combination twice, let alone in back-to-back weeks.
However, in six games, this group has played three of the best defensive lines in the NFL. That context matters. Against the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and Panthers, this group has allowed a combined 16 pressures. They allowed 27 pressures alone in Week 5.
This group will get healthy and as they start to play together, that chemistry and consistency will make things somewhat better. They aren’t going to be as good as last year’s group, but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve.