The Los Angeles Rams finished Week 18 with a 19-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, officially ending their 2022 season with a record of 5-12. The 2022 season did not go as planned for Sean McVay and his offense, in large part because of injuries early in the season to the offensive line. Those injuries then cascaded into other offensive positions leaving the Rams thin across the board. But LA kept fighting and showed glimpses of their former selves. Who are the pieces to build around after this long and treacherous year?
In order to gain a sense of the performance of the roster and its direction, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded out all the players from the Week 18 contest. Using the PFF grades and the eye test of watching the game, I will provide a weekly evaluation/grade.
Weekly Grade: Grade for that respective week
Season Grade: Grade for the position over the course of the season
Trend: Direction of the position group from last week to this week
*Denotes a player ranked in the Top 3 at the position*
Baker Mayfield: 50.6 (-2.3), John Wolford: 40.0 (DNP), Bryce Perkins: 60.0 (DNP), Matthew Stafford: 67.0 (IR)
The Rams quarterbacks in 2022 threw for 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Last year, those numbers were 41 touchdowns to 18 interceptions.
The Rams experiment with Baker Mayfield started with a bang with a Thursday Night win over Las Vegas but it fizzled with zero touchdowns in the final two games. For a guy that was trying to prove to the rest of the NFL that he warrants a starting quarterback job, he may not have done enough. He may be best suited to come back to Los Angeles on a minimum deal to build up his value. That will come down to whether LA can create enough cap space to sign him.
In Baker’s defense, he had to try to learn and navigate a new system in one month. On top of that, he was dealt the hand of a backup offensive line blocking for him. His situation will come down to how many teams need starting quarterbacks in 2023.
Week 18 Grade: F, Season Grade: D, Trend: Moderate Downward
Cam Akers: 80.7 (+0.7), Kyren Williams: 67.2 (+0.0), Malcolm Brown: 62.5 (+0.0), Ronnie Rivers: 64.6 (DNP)
If there was a positive ending to the Rams season, it was the performance and ascension of Cam Akers. Akers rushed 21 times for 104 yards in Sunday’s finale. The third straight 100-yard game marked the first time since Todd Gurley in...2015! Not even 2017 OPOY Todd Gurley managed that feat. Despite only starting nine games for the Rams, Akers finished with 786 rushing yards and seven touchdowns (both career highs).
At only 23 years old, Akers could be the spark that reignites the Rams offense in 2023. Even though Akers will be entering the last year of his rookie deal, he will actually be a restricted free agent, making the opportunity to retain him more financially feasible. His RFA status would allow him to be kept at a reasonable price for two more years, becoming an UFA in 2026.
Something I did not previously know: Cam Akers will technically be an RFA in 2024 bc he started 2021 on NFI list. That means Rams could tender him instead of getting into FA/extension convo next spring and could have two more seasons w/Akers as lead. https://t.co/bO0Q1Xfhp0— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) December 29, 2022
Week 18 Grade: A-, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Slight Upward
Van Jefferson: 68.4 (+1.8), Tutu Atwell: 70.9 (-0.9), Brandon Powell: 65.8 (-2.2), Lance McCutcheon: 47.8 (DNP), Austin Trammell: 63.5 (-1.1), Cooper Kupp: 86.3 (IR), Allen Robinson II: 65.8 (IR), Bennett Skowronek: 57.2 (IR), Jacob Harris: 73.7 (IR)
When it comes to playmakers, the Rams will be trying to determine this offseason if Van Jefferson can make the leap to becoming a #2 option in the passing game. In three years, Jefferson has only managed 93 receptions, 1,391 yards, and 10 touchdowns. His rookie year was a learning curve and year three was slowed at the beginning because of two knee surgeries. If the Rams do not have faith in him turning the corner, then they may explore outside options. And yes, an Odell Beckham Jr reunion could still be on the table. As a player entering a contract year, offseason motivation and training should not be hard to find.
Tutu Atwell finished the season with 18 receptions and 298 yards, a far cry from where fans hoped the 2021 second rounder would be by now. Although, Sean McVay is on the record for admitting his misusage of Atwell. As the 2022 season ended, there was no player more dangerous with the football in his hands than Atwell, outside of Cam Akers. With recent misses in the second and third rounds of the draft over the last four or five years, the Rams need to commit to their investment in Atwell, otherwise he’ll be a pick they sorely regret.
I look forward to analyzing how LA really can get Atwell involved in 2023 (not just a Liam Coen half-hearted promise) with Matthew Stafford. The speedy receiver averaged 16.6 yards/reception and that number could climb with Stafford’s presence and not a quarterback carousel.
Rams fans, are you comfortable going into 2023 with a receiving corp of:— Koll_0ne (@Koll_0ne) January 4, 2023
???? What changes would you like to see? FA added? Draft pick?
Week 18 Grade: C, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Neutral
Tyler Higbee: 62.7 (+0.4), Brycen Hopkins: 63.6 (-2.0)
When it comes to the tight ends, LA will need to decide whether they want to keep Higbee in the final year of his deal and utilize 12 personnel more or stay with their standard 11 personnel and cut bait to free up cap space.
Higbee finished this year with a career best 72 receptions and 620 yards (second highest total of career). But the problem with Higbee is the missed opportunities, drops, and nagging injuries. Even though he has not endured a significant injury, Higbee is constantly hampered by elbow, knee, neck/back issues. Lastly, his run-blocking ability is average at best.
I would not support the idea of outright cutting Tyler Higbee, but I suppose a trade is feasible.
Brycen Hopkins becomes a huge piece of the equation. If he can take a leap forward to becoming a starting tight end, maybe the Rams do move on from Higbee, saving at most - $6.25 million (post-June 1 release/trade).
Week 18 Grade: C-, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Neutral
Ty Nsekhe: 70.6 (-0.3), Matt Skura: 48.3 (-2.1), Coleman Shelton: 58.0 (+2.7), Chandler Brewer: 55.6 (+0.0), Oday Aboushi: 65.2 (DNP), Rob Havenstein: 73.2 (+0.0), AJ Arcuri: 48.6 (+0.9), Robert Thomas: 60.0 (DNP), Jeremiah Kolone: 36.1 (PS), Joe Noteboom: 67.0 (IR), Tremayne Anchrum: 60.0 (IR), Alaric Jackson: 64.1 (IR), David Edwards: 58.2 (IR), Brian Allen: 63.8 (IR)
The Rams offensive woes started with the offensive line and they ended with the offensive line. In Week 1 against Buffalo, the starting OL surrendered seven sacks to the Bills. In Week 18, Mayfield was running for his life from the Seahawks front seven.
Sean McVay watched as his quarterbacks were sacked 59 times this year, the third highest rate in the league. The Rams retained free agents (Noteboom, Allen, and Shelton) but watched as all three suffered injuries. In addition, depth pieces - Anchrum, Brewer, Jackson, and Bruss all landed on injured reserve in the first half of the season.
After running through replacements, the Rams found a stable run game in the final month of the season, but the athleticism to hold up in pass protection prevented the Rams from winning more than five games.
Havenstein proved to be the Rams best lineman all year, but even his 73.2 season grade only ranked 27th out of 81 eligible linemen.
An emphasis to upgrade the interior line should be one of the Rams top three moves this spring. If they do not, 2023 may look a lot like 2022. Options in the draft could John Michael Schmitz or Andrew Vorhees.
Week 18 Grade: F, Season Grade: D-, Trend: Moderate Downward
HC (Sean McVay)
Sean McVay went through a lot this year. He had to navigate the offseason talks of his and Aaron Donald’s retirement. Veronika and Sean got married. Shortly after, the two had to endure the events of Ukraine. Midway through the 2022 season, Sean’s grandfather passed away. The football side of things was a roller coaster itself. Injuries. Cam Akers drama. More injuries.
Coach McVay kept the team from self-imploding but he was not able to deliver a winning season for the first time in his six years.
Sean was not without his own personal mistakes. He and Cam Akers were not on the same wavelength to begin the year. He misused Tutu Atwell. He relied too much on drop back passing. And he was predictable and lacking innovation in his schemes.
Now, all eyes will turn to McVay’s next move: step away from coaching or recommitment to another year in Los Angeles. Either way, the effects will be significant.
Week 18 Grade: D, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Stay tuned within the next 24 hours for the defensive PFF grades from Week 18 for the Los Angeles Rams roster overview!
Which player needs to step up most in 2023?
This poll is closed
Kyren Williams, RB
Van Jefferson, WR
Tutu Atwell, WR
Brycen Hopkins, TE
Logan Bruss, OG