The Los Angeles Rams have an obvious need an edge rusher. It’s time to put an end to the Michael Hoecht experiment and play someone else in that spot whether it’s a rookie or trading for a veteran edge rusher.
Last week, rookie Ochaun Mathis made his debut and played a total of 10 snaps. This came as a mild surprise as Mathis was coming off of injured reserve. The team also made fellow rookie, Nick Hampton a healthy scratch in favor of Mathis.
While Mathis only played 10 snaps, he did have two pressures. At the end of the day, with a limited sample, he finished as PFF’s 57th graded edge rusher for the week. With that said, I thought it might be a good exercise to go back and watch all 10 of Mathis’ snaps in Week 5 as we head into Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals. Getting to Josh Dobbs will be key to getting a divisional win on Sunday.
Mathis played five consecutive snaps on the opening drive and then just five snaps the rest of the game on a sporadic basis. Three of his snaps came on third downs and most of the time he subbed in for Byron Young. With a game under his belt it will be interesting to see of Mathis does get more playing time.
Play 1: 1st Quarter, 2nd-and-7 from the LA 36
There was nothing really special about Mathis’ first play on the field. The Eagles put a tight end on him and the rookie was unable to get around the edge. Mathis clearly overpowers the tight end, but doesn’t make an impact on the play. It’s possible that Mathis’ responsibility is simply to keep Hurts in the pocket, but nothing really of note here. It’s a pretty standard five-man rush from the defense.
Play 2: 1st Quarter, 1st-and-10 from the LA 29
Again, nothing truly of note on Mathis’ part. It’s a three-man rush for the Rams with Mathis’ responsibility being in the flat in coverage. Mathis respects the running back enough, but as soon as Jalen Hurts breaks the pocket, he releases.
Play 3: 1st Quarter, 2nd-and-2 from the LA 21
A third play for Mathis, and again, nothing truly of note to discuss. The play goes away from him in the run game. Out of Mathis’ 10 plays, six of them were runs.
Play 4: 1st Quarter, 1st-and-10 from the LA 17
Here we get Mathis’ first pressure and it’s a great play design from defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. This is is an alignment that Morris has rolled out frequently this season in order to get pass rushers either a favorable matchup or free run at the quarterback.
Morris calls a “BOSS” alignment which stands for “Big on Same Side”. As you can see, the Rams have started with three of their bigs on the right side and show blitz with Ernest Jones. This forces the offensive line to slide that direction, leaving Mathis a free-run at the quarterback.
Any other quarterback and this might end up being a sack. However, Mathis does force Hurts to escape to his right. Unfortunately, Hoecht breaks contain on the other side and Hurts is able to escape the pocket and pick up positive yards.
Play 5: 1st Quarter, 2nd-and-8 from the LA 15
The Eagles are able to pick up positive yards on this QB power run with Hurts. However, it’s of no fault of Mathis. If anything, this is Ernest Jones misreading the play. Mathis does a nice job holding contain on the edge in case Hurts were to give the ball to the running back.
Play 6: 1st Quarter, 1st-and-goal from the LA 5
It’s another play that goes away from Mathis. Nothing of note here from the rookie. It is worth pointing out that on each of these first six plays that Mathis was on the field, Hoecht was the edge on the other side. It would be nice to see more Mathis and Young on the field together. As Mathis gets more experience it will be interesting to see if we do get more of that pairing.
Play 7: 2nd Quarter, 3rd-and-9 from the PHI 41
There’s a lot to like about this play. Again, Morris calls a BOSS alignment with Mathis, Donald, and Turner as the “bigs”, giving a one-on-one matchup to Young. There’s also a stunt. Morris is trying to take advantage of Jason Kelce’s head being on a swivel, but the Eagles center is just very good.
In terms of Mathis on this play, there are a few things to like and things that he could do better. First off, the spin move that he pulled off on Lane Johnson was a lot of fun to watch. It shows off his athleticism and explosiveness as a player. However, by doing so, he breaks contain and Hurts is able to flush the pocket. Against a pocket passer, this may end up being a sack.
Mathis recovers, but slips and is unable to tackle Hurts in the open field. That’s another moment where he could be better, but also unfortunate that he slipped. On grass, that maybe doesn’t happen.
Play 8: 2nd Quarter, 3rd-and-9 from the LA 41
You would like to see Mathis be able to make this play on Hurts. He does a nice job recognizing the play, but is just unable to get off of his block quick enough. It’s a tough play to make as Kobie Turner is in a better position. Still, it’s a good effort, but just slightly behind Hurts to make the play.
Play 9: 3rd Quarter, 3rd-and-7 from the PHI 38
A few things are true here. First, there is a case to be made that Mathis was held by the Eagles tight end on this play. Secondly, you could also say that Mathis gets too far upfield which allows Hurts to step up and gives him the opportunity to scramble for positive yards. Lastly, it’s fair to say that with most other quarterbacks, this might end up being a sack.
The second point is more applicable to this situation. Mathis creates the pressure, but gets too far upfield in his rush and there isn’t anybody behind him to make a play on Hurts. Again, you can see the speed that he brings to the edge rusher position which is something that the Rams don’t have in their rotation right now. He’ll learn with more experience.
Play 10: 4th Quarter, 2nd-and-11 from the LA 41
This was Mathis’ final play of the game and it comes in an obvious passing situation. He’s able to get a free run to the quarterback as the tackle chips Aaron Donald. Out of Mathis’ 10 plays, this was the only snap in which he was paired with Zach Van Valkenburg. The Rams bring six and the interior pressure doesn’t get to Hurts, leaving Dallas Goedart open underneath. Mathis does a nice job dipping underneath the tackle, but the ball just comes out too quickly.
It would be nice to see more of Mathis on Sunday against the Cardinals. The rookie played 10 snaps in his debut and getting him on the field for 15-20 snaps would be ideal. The immediate takeaway from Mathis is his overall athleticism that he brings. You can immediately feel that athleticism and explosiveness when he was on the field.
Overall, it’s clear that the Rams like Mathis as a player. It was a mild surprise that not only did the Rams make Mathis active for the Eagles game, but added him in the lineup over Nick Hampton who ended up as a healthy scratch.
It’s hard to gauge Mathis’ game in 10 snaps, but with two pressures in 10 snaps, his 14.3 percent pressure percentage ranked ninth in the NFL in Week 5. Obviously, it’s a small sample, but Mathis 14.3 win percentage also leads the Rams edge rushers.
At this point, it’s pretty clear that Michael Hoecht is going to be part of the Rams rotation at edge rusher. However, Mathis showed that he does deserve a deeper look and more snaps going forward.