In most cases facing a team on a four-game losing streak is just what the doctor ordered to turn around the season when you have a disappointing 3-5 record. Instead, the Los Angeles Rams find themselves battered, bruised, and limping into this weekend’s Week 9 contest against the Green Bay Packers.
Sunday afternoon’s game isn’t necessarily a pillow fight, but it’s a matchup of two teams that haven’t necessarily found their identity on either side of the ball.
Joe Barry, a familiar face for LA, leads an underwhelming Green Bay defense. Despite a wealth of former first-round talent, the Packers haven’t become the defensive team they were built to be. Edge defender Rashan Gary will be a formidable matchup for the Rams’ offensive tackles, but he’s nearly the only player with pedigree that stands out on a weekly basis.
The Rams are going through a year of transition on their defense. They spent this past offseason moving on from Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, Nick Scott, Taylor Rapp, A’Shawn Robinson, Greg Gaines, and others. LA has embraced a youth movement, and while there are encouraging signs they still have a ways to go to make life consistently difficult for opposing offenses.
In terms of offense, both teams are plagued by youthful errors and quarterbacks that miss a lot of throws.
For Green Bay, when the young receiving corps and offensive line are playing well, Jordan Love seems to fall flat. When Love is able to stand in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield, he sees his passes dropped at a rate that ranks towards the top of the NFL. Giving this unit the benefit of the doubt, they’ve moved on from a number of veteran players in recent years in Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Devante Adams, and David Bakhtiari. Gaining more experience and bringing a youthful group along will see growing pains and bumps on the way—it’s only natural.
The offensive concerns for the Rams seem more fundamental. Despite investing heavily in the offensive line with contract extensions to Rob Havenstein, Joe Noteboom, and Brian Allen, premium draft capital in Steve Avila, and trading for Kevin Dotson the results along the offensive line have not been ideal. Matthew Stafford still finds himself under duress on a consistent basis, and it’s taking a toll on the rest of the offense. Stafford himself is having one of the worst individual seasons of his decade-and-a-half career and is towards the bottom of the NFL in adjusted completion percentage—one of the more trustworthy metrics for accuracy.
The bottom line is that this is an offense that was built to be successful now while the defense got their bearings, and they’ve been nothing but disappointing for the most part outside of an energetic win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 1. The offensive line needs to play better. Stafford needs to play better, and the offensive scheme needs to do a better job of getting the ball into the hands of its dynamic playmakers in Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, and Tutu Atwell.
Losing this game would effectively end the 2023 season for the Rams, and dropping to 3-6 would mean that it’s time to turn the page and look forward to the 2024 offseason. Perhaps that means drafting the quarterback of the future with their first first-round pick since 2016. Maybe they will continue to invest in the offensive line and finally shore that group up. LA will have ample cap space for free agency and will likely be in the hunt for a bonafide pass rusher.
This weekend’s game is important for the Rams, and losing to a struggling team like the Packers would put a fork in their still-young season.