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PFF Grades: Rams have found dangerous duo in Aaron Donald, Byron Young

Young, Donald, and Kobie Turner continue to impress along defensive line

Los Angeles Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Frustrations were high for fans of the Los Angeles Rams as their team was unable to find much footing offensively against the Cincinnati Bengals. LA’s offensive line was forced to dip into reserves along two different spots but failed to hold up against a tough Bengals defensive front. The Rams fell short by settling for field goals on two different red zone trips—ultimately that was the difference in the game.

There are more silver linings for Los Angeles on the defensive side. Aaron Donald had his best game since returning from a season-ending 2022 injury, and rookies Byron Young and Kobie Turner continue to impress.

Here are the top five individual PFF grades from the game on each of the offense and defense:

Top five grades on offense:

1 - Tyler Higbee, TE: 78.4

LA’s veteran TE caught all five of his targets for 71 yards, including a 22-yard strike over the middle of the field. Higbee can be hit or miss in this Rams offense, but when he’s involved he can be a difference maker. He graded out well in all three facets of receiving, pass blocking, and run blocking—which is tough to do.

2 - Tutu Atwell, WR: 74.4

Atwell was the primary focus of the Rams offense in Cincinnati and he led the team in targets with nine. He caught only four of those passes for 50 yards and a garbage time score and added another 22-yards with a long run on the opening drive (initially called a touchdown but reversed on the three-yard line).

It’s encouraging to see the speedster step up in a big way during his third season, and we are only a week away from Cooper Kupp being eligible to return from injured reserve.

3 - Puka Nacua, WR: 71.1

It was a quiet night by the rookie’s usual standard, hauling in five of his seven targets for 72 yards. Nacua caught a 37-yard deep shot along the right sideline to setup Atwell’s short touchdown grab, and that was one of the few deep passes we’ve seen thrown in the young receiver’s direction.

4 - Matthew Stafford, 67.1

It was a mixed bag for Stafford in this one. He notched three big-time throws at an impressive clip of 8.8% of his attempts. While he threw two interceptions, PFF credited him with only one turnover-worthy play—which is important given some of the big hits he took in the pocket.

The most concerning part of Stafford’s night is the fact 30.0% of his pressures turned into sacks. That mark ranks as the seventh-worst figure in Week 3 and suggest LA’s quarterback was maybe holding the ball too long. Sean McVay and the Rams offense tried to work the ball down the field despite the struggles along the offensive line.

5 - Ben Skowronek, WR: 66.0

Skowronek impressed with an 83.6 run blocking grade, which certainly bolstered his mark in this game. He was targeted once and made a three-yard reception.

Other notes on offense:

RT Rob Havenstein (63.7) graded out as LA’s best offensive lineman, though replacement every other member of the OL graded below 60.0. Replacement left tackle Zach Thomas, right guard Joe Noteboom, and replacement right guard Tremayne Anchrum were the worst of the bunch and all graded in the single digits for pass blocking. Noteboom and Anchrum actually earned 0.0 marks in that facet.

Top five grades on defense:

1 - Aaron Donald, DE: 92.9

Donald recorded seven pressures and a pass block win rate (PRWR) of 35.0 in true pass sets—the highest mark on LA’s defense Monday night.

2 - Byron Young, OLB: 85.8

Young was the next closest to Donald in true pass sets with a PRWR of 30.0. He led the Rams defense in pressures entering the game and finished with five, so he’s now only one behind Donald in the running total. The Rams may have found a gem in the third round at one of the most important positions in football.

3 - Ernest Jones, MLB: 80.7

LA sent Jones on inside blitzes to pressure Burrow with fine success, especially on important downs. But run defense is what earned Jones a high mark against the Bengals, and he recorded two run stops and did not miss a tackle.

4 - Derion Kendrick, CB: 72.6

Kendrick was targeted five times by Burrow and allowed only two receptions for two yards. He also recorded a pass breakup. Penalties have been an issue for the young corner through two games, but fortunately he was able to keep his nose clean in this one. If he can keep that up moving forward it will be a big boost for the defense.

5 - Kobie Turner, DT: 68.2

Turner notched three pressures and was solid in most phases of the game. Entering Monday night Turner was LA’s highest graded defender, and he’s consistently been among the top five each week during these posts. He could be another third round gem for the Rams as this draft class continues to look strong.

Other notes on defense:

It was a bad night for LA’s secondary, but they had a tough test in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd. Jordan Fuller had a coverage grade of only 40.5. Cobie Durant was targeted eight times and allowed six receptions for 59 yards—he was also flagged for pass interference. Russ Yeast missed three tackles on nine attempts.