Football is the ultimate team sport. Star players can make big impacts in the game’s biggest moments in order to help his team come out one top. On the flip side, all it takes is one weak link to unravel an entire offense or defense - you can have four good starters on an offensive line but you’re only as good as your worst player (see the Minnesota Vikings in the wildcard round this past weekend).
It’s no fault of any single individual that the Los Angeles Rams collapsed in 2022 despite entering the year with Super Bowl expectations, but there are players the Rams were counting on to right the ship that wilted under pressure. Most of these names won’t be on the 2023 version of the team, but some are young players and these marks raise significant questions about their future prospects.
Today we are focusing on the weak links: these are the lowest PFF grades from the Rams 2022 season.
Worst three grades on offense:
1 - Bobby Evans, OG: 29.8
2 - Jeremiah Kolone, C: 36.1
Both Evans and Kolone have been in the Rams’ building for several years, which is why it is such a disappointment neither could be trusted to step up when the team needed them the most.
Injuries derailed LA’s offensive line this past season, and it started as soon as Week 1. Kolone was needed when both Brian Allen, the starting center, and Coleman Shelton, the starting right guard that shifted inside to replace Allen at times, were injured and unavailable. Kolone played the majority of the games between Week 4 and Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, and Carolina Panthers - the Rams won only one of these games (Panthers).
Evans was cut by the team before the conclusion of the regular season and was signed by the Minnesota Vikings - he’s slated to hit unrestricted free agency this spring. Evans started the Week 4 game against the 49ers and earned a 19.1 pass blocking grade at left guard next to Kolone at center. He had bounce back performances against the Cowboys and Panthers, but his second outing against the 49ers was just as inept. The Rams also asked Evans to play left tackle against the New Orleans Saints when Alaric Jackson went down with injury - he was a massive liability and earned a pass blocking mark of 13.9.
Los Angeles could have salvaged their season over the Week 4 to Week 11 stretch, instead the ineptitude of both Evans and Kolone contributed to things going off the rails. The Rams also deserve blame for not having Evans or Kolone ready to play despite having them on the roster for multiple years.
I’m no offensive line expert but letting a big guy run by you seems like bad technique pic.twitter.com/KCZmETsQNf— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) November 6, 2022
3 - John Wolford, QB: 40.0
The NFL is a league of parity, which means there are unseen forces constant pulling teams back to the 0.500 mark. All it takes is one to three games that could result in watching the playoffs from your couch instead of the sidelines - that’s why a dependable backup quarterback is so important.
If your starting quarterback misses six or more games, you’ve probably lost all hope for the season. But you do need a guy that can keep you competitive if the lead man is out for the better part of a month.
The Rams didn’t have an acceptable backup quarterback until they were fortunate enough for the Panthers to release Baker Mayfield, who they claimed off waivers. John Wolford and Bryce Perkins are not NFL caliber throwers of the football, and it’s malpractice for Wolford to have been the primary backup for the team over the last three years.
The oft-maligned Cody Barton gets a wide open pass from John Wolford to seal the game pic.twitter.com/Q3MPP3DXw4— Main Team (@MainTeamSports) December 5, 2022
Worst three grades on defense:
1 - Derion Kendrick, CB: 43.7
Kendrick was targeted in coverage 56 times this season according to PFF tracking, which was the fourth highest total on the defense.
The good news is that he was battle tested, and he faced over twice the number of passes that fellow rookie Cobie Durant did (25). The bad news is that teams weren’t afraid to go after Kendrick, and they probably looked for him as a mismatch in coverage.
There’s room for Kendrick to grow as a corner, and the Rams will need all the help they can get at that position. With that said, he’s a limited athlete and will always have trouble keeping up with faster receivers down field.
How will Kendrick fare in year two?
2 - Earnest Brown, DT: 46.0
Brown was drafted by the Rams in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He was the only player from that draft class that didn’t make the initial 53-man roster at the conclusion of training camp, and he also started the 2022 season on the practice squad. It took injuries to Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, and Marquise Copeland to get Brown onto the field - and the results weren’t great when he got his opportunity.
Brown is likely better for the experience, and he will have a shot to make the team during next fall’s training camp.
3 - Terrell Lewis, OLB: 46.1
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the 2022 Rams was the failure of the team to replace Von Miller and run into the season with Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins as the starting OLB’s opposite Leonard Floyd. Both Lewis and Hollins were cut before the conclusion of the season - Lewis was claimed by the Chicago Bears and Hollins by the Green Bay Packers.
The Rams tried to make a move for Brian Burns and possibly Bradley Chubb at the trade deadline, but ultimately they were stuck with Lewis and Hollins. Michael Hoecht made the change from interior defensive line to edge defender and was immediately more productive than the aforementioned duo.
Starting Lewis and Hollins was a failed experiment that cost the team immensely.