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Do the Rams need to be worried about Jalen Ramsey?

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has struggled over his last four games. Is it time to be worried about the star CB?

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past six months, there has been a lot of talk on whether or not Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has lost a step. With long touchdowns allowed in the NFC Divisional round, Super Bowl, and again in Week 1, a worrisome trend is starting.

In his last four games, Ramsey has allowed 17 receptions for 388 yards and four touchdowns. He allowed eight more yards and one more touchdown during the entire 2020 season.

In 2019, the Rams traded two first round picks for Ramsey from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The effect was felt almost immediately. The shutdown cornerback allowed 336 yards in nine games and more importantly allowed zero touchdowns.

With a full offseason and a new defensive scheme, the Rams fully felt Ramsey’s effect in 2020. Their pass defense ranked fourth in DVOA and first in dropback EPA as Ramsey allowed just 396 yards with an average of 9.9 yards per reception. Both of those numbers ranked second in the NFL among cornerbacks with at least 600 snaps in coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Additionally, he allowed a passer rating of just 76.3 when targeted which ranked fourth.

During the 2020 season, Ramsey allowed less than 30 yards in coverage on 11 separate occasions. Simply put, he was a lockdown cornerback. Ramsey held Stefon Diggs to one reception for four yards. In two games against Ramsey, DeAndre Hopkins had five receptions for 48 yards combined. Terry McLaurin was completely shutout.

The most-hyped matchup was 2020 was that between Ramsey and DK Metcalf. Ramsey shutout Metcalf early in the season and then held the Seahawks receiver to a combined four receptions for 44 yards in their other two meetings.

Amari Cooper had the most success against Ramsey with eight receptions for 57 yards in Week 1. Cooper was the only receiver to top 50 yards against Ramsey and it was one of just two times that the Rams cornerback allowed more than 50 yards in a game.

While Ramsey found success last season and was a first-team all-pro for a reason, teams started to throw at the Rams cornerback more often. After only allowing 50 yards in a game twice in all of 2020, that number tripled in 2021. Ramsey didn’t allow more than 75 yards once in 2020. Last season, that number jumped to four times.

To summarize, Ramsey allowed 50 or more yards in six games in 2021 and 75 or more yards on four occasions. The last time Ramsey allowed those same numbers was 2017 when he was with the Jaguars.

The end of 2021 was the beginning of what has become a worrisome trend. Ramsey hasn’t been the same since allowing five receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown to Evans in the NFC Divisional round. Of those 97 yards, 55 came on one play that put the Buccaneers within one score in the fourth quarter.

In the Super Bowl, Ramsey was beat by Tee Higgins for a 75 yard touchdown. Yes, context certainly needs to be added there as Higgins got away with a blatant facemask. However, Ja’Marr Chase beat Ramsey for a 46-yard reception earlier in the game. Chase again got past Ramsey on the final play and had it not been for Aaron Donald, Joe Burrow may have found him.

That trend has continued this season when Ramsey allowed a perfect 158.3 passer-rating in the home opener against the Bills. The cherry on top was a 53-yard touchdown to Diggs that clinched the game.

To add to that Next Gen Stats number, since the beginning of last season, Ramsey has allowed a reception of 40 or more yards five times. He allowed five receptions of 40 or more yards in the previous three seasons combined. Getting beat vertically has become a more often occurrence, especially since the end of last year.

It’s worth noting that the Rams cornerback underwent surgery in the offseason to repair an AC joint in his shoulder. Ramsey played 10 games through the injury last season. The Rams opted not to put him on the PUP list to start training camp despite originally designating that he would be. It’s possible that the shoulder isn’t 100 percent or Ramsey doesn’t have full confidence in it to play as physical as he normally does.

With that said, it doesn’t make what has taken place any less concerning.

At some point, all great cornerbacks fall off. Ramsey is entering his seventh year in the NFL, but he is still only 27 years old. Historically, cornerbacks have peaked at 26-27 years of age and then started to fall off around age 30.

Age 30 is when Darrell Revis made his final Pro Bowl and his final all-pro selection came at age 29. Chris Harris Jr.’s last Pro Bowl appearance also came in 2018 in his age 29 season.

Looking at Ramsey’s contract, it’s pretty clear to see why it’s structured the way that it is. The Rams are responsible for nearly $80M of guaranteed money to Ramsey over the next two seasons. After 2023 when he turns 30, the Rams can cut him with only an $11.4M cap penalty.

It may not be time to officially start worrying about Ramsey’s poor run of form in his last four games. However, it’s a situation worth monitoring. There’s no question that the Rams need their shutdown cornerback to be better. What they do in the secondary relies heavily on number five.

What he’s able to do playing outside, in the slot, and in the “star” position, isn’t something that most cornerbacks can do. He makes everyone around him better when he plays at an elite level. The Rams secondary goes as Ramsey goes.

The possible silver lining is that Ramsey has typically bounced back after poor performances. After allowing Cooper to have eight receptions for 57 yards in Week 1 of 2020, Ramsey didn’t allow a single catch on two targets the following week and went on a run of elite play. Evans had four receptions for 40 yards later that season. In his next game, Ramsey held Hopkins to three receptions on eight targets for 20 yards.

Last season after allowing five receptions on five targets for 41 yards to Davante Adams, Ramsey allowed just one reception for 12 yards the following week against the Jaguars. He then shutdown Metcalf two weeks later, holding him to three receptions on eight targets for 25 yards.

The last four games of Ramsey’s career is something that we haven’t seen from him in the past. How he responds this time could change how he’s looked at moving forward.