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To fix offense, Sean McVay and Rams must commit to a run game

It’s time for the Rams offense to adapt

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that the Los Angeles Rams offense has struggled this season. While not much on the offensive side of the ball has worked, the Rams have especially been one of the worst teams when it comes to running the ball.

As it stands, the Rams’ 68.1 rushing yards per game ranks 32nd. If that number holds, it would be the lowest since 2000 when the San Diego Chargers and Cleveland Browns averaged 67.8 and 66.4 rushing yards per game.

The Rams currently have a rushing success rate of 28.8 percent. This is by far the lowest in the NFL. The distance between the Rams at 32 and Seattle Seahawks at 31 is the same as the Seahawks at 31 and Las Vegas Raiders at 18. It’s the lowest success rate since the Baltimore Ravens in 2013. This is also the year after the Ravens won the Super Bowl.

What makes this so concerning is that we’ve entered amn upward trend in the NFL when it comes to running the football. Throughout NFL history, offenses and defenses have adjusted to one another. We’ve seen that first-hand this season due to the disappearance of bigger linebackers and the emergence of two-high safety looks in order to take away explosive passing plays.

The passing game will always remain prominent, but smart teams are starting to take advantage of lighter boxes and smaller linebackers with a power run game.

Through Week 10, NFL teams are averaging 121.8 rushing yards per game which is the most since 1987. Their 4.5 yards per rush is also the highest in NFL history. Passing is also down to its lowest rate since 2010 with teams throwing the ball just 33.7 times per game. Teams are averaging just 11 yards per completion which is the lowest since 1933.

For the past decade or so, the NFL has been a passing league and the league of the quarterback. While the quarterback and throwing the ball is still important, the run game seems to be making a comeback.

More of an emphasis has been put on being able to run the football. Running the football has become as important as it’s been since the forward pass was invented.

This season, seven of the top-10 teams in rushing DVOA have a winning record. Six of the top-10 teams rushing success rate have winning records. Meanwhile seven of the bottom-10 teams in run offense DVOA have losing records.

This is an issue for a Rams team that simply can’t run the football. It’s not even that they don’t rely on running the football like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills. The Rams run game at times has been non-existent.

The Rams are currently one of the worst teams in the NFL of the last decade when it comes to running the football. That’s concerning for the future outlook of the Rams offense in a league that is trending towards running the football more.

An inability to run the football has made the Rams offense look completely disjointed. While they weren’t a rushing powerhouse last season, they still ranked 12th in run offense DVOA and were inside the top-20 in both rushing EPA and success rate.

This inability to run the football has severely effected the Rams’ success rate and efficiency on early downs. This then trickles down to unmanageable third-down situations. The Rams are averaging 7.3 yards to go on third-down this season. That’s tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NFL.

In 2021, the Rams had the fifth-best offense via EPA on second down. This season, they’re 32nd by a wide margin. The distance between the Rams at 32 and the Chicago Bears at 31 is the same distance as the Bears at 31 and the Indianapolis Colts at 25.

A major caveat here is that obviously the Rams have been dealing with numerous injuries to the offensive line which has been tragic. On Sunday, they’ll start their 10th different offensive line combination in 10 games.

However, a few things can be true here. No, the Rams haven’t had a lot of success running the football. As mentioned earlier, they have the lowest rushing success rate since 2013.

No, the Rams offensive line hasn’t been run-blocking well. They rank last in adjusted line yards according to Football Outsiders and 30th in run-block win-rate.

This is a team that has also dealt with injuries on the offensive line. They’ve been through Three left tackles, three left guards, three centers, and five right guards. While some can criticize the Rams’ depth, not many teams are three players deep across almost the entirety of the offensive line.

All of that can be true.

At the same time, in a league that is shifting to more run-focused offenses, the Rams are doing the opposite. On first downs this season, the Rams have run the ball 109 times which ranks 32nd in the NFL.

This is combined with 131 passes which ranks 18th for a split of 55-45. That’s not a terrible ratio, but it shows the lack of commitment in the run game. On first down, the Rams are also averaging just 4.8 yards per first-down play which ranks 26th.

On second downs this season, the Rams’ lack of commitment to the run game is even more on display. The Rams have called 55 runs on second down this season which is tied for the fewest in the league.

Combined with 138 passes, this means that the Rams are running the ball on second-down just 28 percent of the time. Only the Los Angeles Chargers have a worse ratio. It should be no surprise that the Rams offense is averaging just four yards per play on second down which ranks last in the NFL this season.

There’s been no commitment to the run game early in games as the Rams rank last in first-half rushing attempts. This was the case last week against the Arizona Cardinals. The offense opened the game with seven run plays on the opening drive. They ran the ball one more time the rest of the first half.

Heading into this season, Sean McVay had lost just one game after leading at halftime. The Rams have lost two such games this year and much of that has to do with the offense’s inability to run the ball late in games. They lost against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of this.

For the Rams offense to change, McVay must also change. Running or passing, the offense has been disjointed. Every week it feels like they’re trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Until McVay adapts with the rest of the league, it’s hard to see the offense improving.

Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles started their season 3-6. Through the first seven games, new head coach Nick Sirianni was calling an offense that threw the ball 77 percent of the time. The result was a unit that was ineffective and predictable. Sound familiar?

In Weeks 8-10, the Eagles rushed 626 yards and handed the ball off 91 times to their running backs. It was a midseason admission from Sirianni that the offense he spent all offseason preparing was the wrong one.

That’s not an easy shift for a head coach, but Sirianni realized it was necessary and it worked. The Eagles finished 9-8 and made the playoffs. With a similar offensive philosophy, the Eagles are 8-1 this season. That’s not to say that the Rams will make the playoffs with a similar change, but only that McVay must be willing to make that same admission.

The NFL is an adapt or die business. The currently offensive product clearly isn’t working. To fix it, the Rams need to move with the rest of the NFL and put more emphasis and commit to running the ball. The question: Is Sean McVay willing to do it?