The Los Angeles Rams lost an inexcusable game to the Pittsburgh Steelers, falling 24-17 to drop their record to 3-4 on the season. This was the ideal game for LA to get back over .500 for the first time since Week 1 and they blew it.
I decided to switch up the format of the rookie report for this week. Desperate times call for desperate measures as I had a lot of thoughts about this crappy game that absolutely ruined my weekend. Thanks for nothing Rams!
Where in the world was Zach Evans in Week 7?
First off, I’d like to say that I wasn’t surprised whatsoever that Zach Evans wasn’t getting the bulk of the carries heading into this game.
When Sean McVay wanted to shift towards experienced ballcarriers in Royce Freeman and Darrell Henderson, I figured why not? Relying on veterans rather than an unproven playmaker in Evans was a wise move in theory. Plus, Henderson was familiar with McVay and the offense. I didn’t disagree with the move.
What I’m not exactly jazzed about is how Evans didn’t get a chance at all. McVay didn’t even let the rookie see the field against the Steelers.
Final Rams RB snaps -— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) October 22, 2023
Henderson - 36 (58%)
Freeman - 26 (42%)
Evans - 0
Well, the move seemed to work out as Henderson and Freeman combined for 127 yards on 30 carries. They did enough to carry the load without Kyren Williams and Ronnie Rivers. Perhaps I’m disappointed to see zero opportunities were given to Evans and I want answers.
Evans ran the ball four times for 10 yards in Week 6 versus the Cardinals. The only reason he ever saw the field was because of injuries to the players ahead of him on the depth chart. I’m just confused why LA would spend a draft pick on Evans and refuse to play him.
Hey Zach Evans and Royce Freeman, we appreciate all your hard work in camp and during practices, but we're going to give all the backfield work to a guy we just signed off his couch. - signed, Sean McVay.— Michael Fabiano (@Michael_Fabiano) October 22, 2023
Which also makes me debate whether the coaching staff doesn’t give Evans touches since they feel he’s not ready yet or he never made an impression to begin with. If the Rams continue running the ball effectively with Henderson and Freeman, no harm done.
However, if the running game starts to struggle in coming weeks and Evans still doesn’t see sizable playing time, the latter I mentioned above has to be true. Way to troll the fantasy nerds Sean!
Offensive Rookie MVP: Puka Nacua
Stats: eight receptions for 154 yards on 12 targets
All the talk about Puka Nacua disappearing once Cooper Kupp returned to the lineup has died down considerably hasn’t it? Nacua had a very quiet game against the Cardinals last week, his first career game without reaching at least 50 receiving yards.
Aside from Tutu Atwell’s spectacular touchdown right before halftime, the rookie stud was the lone bright spot in the pass catching department. Kupp had a stinky game, something we hadn’t seen from him in quite some time. Nacua more than made up for his All-Pro teammate’s lackluster game, again making history in the process.
Elite company— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 22, 2023
Puka Nacua joined Ja'Marr Chase as the only players in NFL history with 700+ rec. yards through their first 7 games pic.twitter.com/eH7ffDiY2J
Puka is already one of the most prolific rookie pass catchers in NFL history and is 248 yards away from having a 1,000-yard campaign. At his current pace, Nacua has averaged around 107 receiving yards per game, meaning he could realistically reach 1,000 yards within the next three weeks. Either way, he’s so close to the mark and it’s been a special sight to watch during a mediocre season. About as special as this catch:
Defensive Rookie MVP: Byron Young
Stats: three total tackles, one TFL and two QB hits
Byron Young has been the most underappreciated defensive rookie in the league. Luckily, he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves coming off winning the NFL’s Pepsi Rookie of the Week following his tormenting of the Cardinals.
Every quarterback the Rams have faced this season have felt Young’s presence even if he hasn’t recorded many sacks. What he has done in his rookie campaign has been reflected in more than just the box score.
Byron Young is going to be a very special player for the Rams. He’s been a force thus far as a rookie. Rams had a hell of a draft this year. Kudos to Les Snead and the scouts for finding this gem. #RamsHouse pic.twitter.com/0OjXPlZGpe— Allen Sales (@AllenSales) October 18, 2023
As I’ve mentioned countless times before, Young’s closing speed is the best part about his game. With 7:56 remaining in the third quarter, the Steelers were staring at 3rd-and-12. Kenny Pickett tried to evade pressure and upon escaping the pocket, Young was one of the players that brought him down.
While that play didn’t really show the Tennessee product’s speed, he was still around the ball long enough to make a play. That’s what ballhawks like him do. Young is seemingly everywhere on a particular play. Even if he doesn’t always get there, his hustle and drive is what allows big plays to happen as they did against Arizona.
Should Ethan Evans start kicking field goals from now on?
The Cowboys had every reason to cut kicker Brett Maher after his “yips” in the playoffs. LA is beginning to understand why Dallas made the move after Maher missed two field goals and an extra point in the loss to Pittsburgh. That’s a full seven points off the board that cost the Rams dearly.
TST’s own Kenneth Arthur already broke down McVay’s issues with kickers. I’m not here to recycle what a fellow writer said on the topic. Although I will say to McVay that this is why you NEVER overlook special teams. A kicker may seem relatively unimportant until their struggles become a problem. It’s not like his nightmarish performance against the Buccaneers in last year’s Wild Card Round produced any red flags or anything.
I brought this up because some fans are desperately wanting punter Ethan Evans to take over field goal duties.
Let Ethan Evans kick field goals— HoldenCantor (@HoldenCantor) October 22, 2023
Ethan Evans can’t kick FG’s? Strong leg… Just saying— Johnny Lirette (@ramsfan2800) October 23, 2023
I’m convinced that Ethan Evans might be able to do both effectively enough to allow us to not even carry an official kicker. And then just restrict kicks in general and go for it more.— Mike Winchell (@mrmikewinch) October 23, 2023
There’s so much I love about this idea I can’t stand it. Seriously, could he be any worse than Maher at this point? Could be worth a shot.
Evans truly does have a booming leg on him. He booted a 68-yarder and averaged 52.0 yards on his four punts. Sadly, I’m afraid this won’t ever happen. The rookie with a massive leg did indeed kick field goals in college but wasn’t all that accurate on them.
Ethan Evans went 10-for-18 on field goals in 2022 at Windgate. Had a long of 41.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) October 23, 2023
Maher simply might be the option that you are stuck with at this point.
It was a long shot to even think he could push out Maher. So looks like LA will be stuck with the veteran for the foreseeable future. We wouldn’t be having this conversion if the front office paid Matt Gay. Oh well, guess the fanbase will be dreaming of a competent kicker until a change is made.