Sitting at 3-6, the Los Angeles Rams have just a seven percent chance to make the postseason. In just two short months, the Rams have gone from title contenders to looking at an impossible hole to climb out of.
With games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers on the road and two matchups against the Seattle Seahawks still on the schedule, the 2022 season looks to be a lost one.
"Stick the fork in the #Rams"— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) November 15, 2022
Cooper Kupp's injury may not be season-ending for him, but it very well could spell the end of a possible playoff run for the defending champs@M_Cassel16 x @MartyMornhinweg pic.twitter.com/YZYCtTs3QJ
For most teams, it’s at this point where you would start questioning how much effort you put into the rest of the season and whether you should consider “tanking”. As it stands, the Rams would have a top-10 draft pick. However, with no first-round selection due to the Matthew Stafford trade, this pick doesn’t actually belong to the Rams. Tanking the rest of the season would be pointless.
Even with a fourth-place schedule, the NFL changes so much year-over-year, the difference wouldn’t be that significant.
Still, that doesn’t mean that the Rams don’t have anything to gain over the final eight weeks either. While trying to win, it makes sense to slowly work in younger players so that they can develop into their role. Rookies make rookie mistakes and for teams trying to win, that can be costly when it comes to playoff seeding.
Sitting at 3-6, the Rams shouldn’t be actively trying to lose, but this is a perfect opportunity for them to see what they have in younger players.
At quarterback, the Rams have Bryce Perkins who has been on the roster over the last two seasons as an undrafted free agent. In Week 10, it was John Wolford who got the start for an injured Stafford. Wolford finished 24-for-36 for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception. If you take away the final drive, the Rams backup with the second-worst EPA per dropback for the week while throwing for 15-for-27 for 147 yards and one interception.
It's pretty clear that Wolford isn’t the answer. While he might be a good guy to have in the quarterback room, he’s not a starting quarterback in the NFL. The Rams need to see what they have in Perkins.
Even if Stafford can play this week against the New Orleans Saints, given the investment, it might be worth shutting him down at some point in a lost season to get fully healthy. The Rams need to see if Perkins is someone worth keeping in the quarterback room or if they need to re-evaluate the backup quarterback position altogether.
Over the last two weeks, former second-round pick TuTu Atwell has been inactive as a healthy scratch, bringing his total up to three healthy scratches for the season. To put it simply, the Rams selected Atwell in the second-round for a reason. It’s time to see what he can do.
Atwell had a 54-yard catch earlier this season against the Dallas Cowboys. However, he hasn’t gotten a lot of playing time on offense. With eight games left of a lost season, now is the time to get Atwell some experience and see if he can be a playmaker on offense. Is this someone worth keeping on the roster next season or are they better off moving on from him.
Dime from Matthew Stafford to Tutu Atwell sets up Rams FG. Cowboys 9, Rams 3pic.twitter.com/7vj29CDxDr— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) October 9, 2022
Jacob Harris is in the same boat. This is someone that the Rams have had high hopes for since being drafted in the fourth round. The Rams have struggled finding a fit for him, moving Harris from tight end to wide receiver.
Harris is currently on the practice squad, but now would be the perfect time to call him up and see how he fits into the offense. The Rams need to find out if he and Atwell are worth continuing to develop. For two years they have been non-contributors.
While to a lesser-extent, the same can be said about Lance McCutcheon. Fans saw what McCutcheon could do in the preseason. The Rams went out of their way to keep seven wide receivers on the roster to avoid losing the undrafted free agent to another team.
Is McCutcheon someone worth keeping going into next year as receiving depth? If he is, these eight games could give him a lot of valuable experience, especially with Cooper Kupp possibly out for the season.
“It wasn’t nothing. It was just a play.”- Derek Stingley on this 22 yard reception by Lance McCutcheon pic.twitter.com/NHMlhtM7TO— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) August 20, 2022
It doesn’t stop there on the offensive side of the ball.
Kyren Williams has been out all season with an ankle injury while the Rams running game has struggled. It shouldn’t be expected for him to single-handedly turn the running game around, but it’s worth seeing what he can add to the offense. This is especially the case considering Darrell Henderson is a free agent after the season.
Last season, Alaric Jackson played the majority of a game at left tackle against the Minnesota Vikings. After that game, it was pretty clear that Jackson could add least be a depth piece that the team could count on. With the current struggles on the offensive line, it might be worth giving some reps to AJ Arcuri who’s currently on the practice squad.
The Rams drafted Arcuri in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Looking like they may need to completely re-tool the offensive line heading into 2023, it’s worth seeing what Arcuri brings to the table. He played 72 snaps at left tackle in the preseason. It’s certainly worth giving Arcuri the reps over 37-year old Ty Nsekhe.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams need to continue to give reps to young players like Derion Kendrick and Cobie Durant. These players have gotten a lot of reps this season and could turn out to be solid contributors down the line.
Quentin Lake should return as well. With Taylor Rapp and Nick Scott hitting free agency, getting Lake and Russell Yeast involved in the rotation could be beneficial.
Again, this doesn’t mean that the Rams need to tank. Tanking does absolutely nothing for them exception maybe lock-up a pick in the 40-50 overall range. The pay-off isn’t that substantial.
All this means is that the Rams can evaluate some of the young players that they have, giving them valuable experience while also seeing if these are players worth continuing to develop. These players don’t need to steal a majority of the reps from the current starting players, but working them into the rotation could be beneficial.
There shouldn’t be any harm in giving Atwell or McCutcheon 5-10 snaps per game at wide receiver. Working in Yeast or Lake as a rotational safety for a handful of snaps a game wouldn’t take away from what Rapp and Scott aren’t already doing.
At 3-6, it makes more sense to give these players experience now instead of throwing them in the fire with limited experience next season when the team is once again in win-now mode.
This isn’t an “embrace the tank” attitude. It’s simply about getting young players experience where it makes sense. In a lost season, that’s at least something that the Rams could benefit from moving forward.