The Los Angeles Rams travel to Lucas Oil Stadium to take on the Indianapolis Colts in a early window game. The Rams have defeated the Colts in their last three meetings, and hope to continue this trend as they look to get back on track after two straight losses.
These are the four storylines I believe are most important heading into the Week 4 showdown.
Can the Rams fix their offensive line troubles
LA had a tough go against the Cincinnati Bengals after left tackle Alaric Jackson went down with a hamstring injury, giving up six sacks and only rushing for 38 yards. Zachary Thomas filled in for Jackson, struggling mightily, and it was questioned why Joe Noteboom, a former left tackle, was never moved over through out the game, as it was a position he has had some success in the past playing with LA, even being in competition to start there just this offseason.
Noteboom experienced his own minor injury within the game, and even though he did end up returning, it may have given us the answer as to why he was never moved.
When asked about Noteboom and the offensive line, head coach Sean McVay explained his thought process:
“The main thing is, we had eight offensive linemen up,” McVay explained Wednesday. “Brian Allen, if something were to happen to Coleman Shelton. There had already been a situation a little bit later on where Joe (Noteboom) did get banged up. Tremayne Anchrum had to come in for an extended period of time and then you’ve got Zach Thomas. And so, if you did do that, you’re talking about a two-man switch where you moved Joe out, then you put Tremayne in. There was a lot of levels to that and so I think in hindsight, you’d say maybe would you give Joe an opportunity to go out there? Yes, but he also got banged up and there had been some things that we had seen and there was a lot of things that had gone on quickly. I’m not going to pretend to be perfect, but I will learn from those things and we’ll make better decisions if we feel like those are applicable.”
Luckily for the Rams, it sounds as though Alaric Jackson’s injury should not keep him out long term and he will hopefully be able to play this week. McVay said they’re taking things “a day at a time” with Jackson, but he’s “feeling good.”
If he is not, one has to wonder if Noteboom could move to left tackle this time around, allowing newly acquired guard Kevin Dotson to see his first action of the season vs the Colts. Tyler Higbee, Ben Skowronek and Puka Nacua are also all dealing with minor injuries, however, none of them should be serious enough to affect their availability this weekend.
Will Colts QB Anthony Richardson play?
Colts QB Anthony Richardson has dealt with some injuries already in his short NFL career. He was knocked out of Indy’s first game, and again when he was concussed against the Texans in Week 2. He missed Week 3, but looks to be trending in the right direction for Sunday’s matchup against Los Angeles.
This actually could benefit the Rams defense though, as he is a rookie and was not playing great through his first two games, only having 279 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In comparison, his veteran backup Gardner Minshew has 398 yards, two touchdowns and no picks filling in.
Neither quarterback’s stats will blow you away, and while Richardson may end up being the better QB long term, Minshew is probably the harder matchup at this current juncture due to his starting experience in Jacksonville and Philly. The Colts would still probably prefer to have Richardson back though, if at a minimum, to get him some live game experience. He has been practicing all week, and while he still needs to clear concussion protocol, looks to be ready to go.
One thing we know for sure is that Indianapolis will be without star running back, Jonathan Taylor, who is still out after being placed on the PUP list at the beginning of the season.
Rams defensive line vs Colts offensive line
The Colts have an older offensive line, but still a very good one, boasting starters like center Ryan Kelly and guard Quintin Nelson, who is arguably one of the best linemen in the league. It will be interesting to see if the Rams will be able to get some pressure on Richardson, because if they do, they may be able to get him to make some rookie mistakes. Aaron Donald should be moving around the line again to find a weak spot, as the middle will surely be a tough go.
Rookie Byron Young continues his strong play, along with Kobie Turner who was able to get a sack on Joe Burrow last week as well, however Michael Hoecht has become a liability at outside linebacker. It will remain to be seen if LA moves Hoecht back down to the defensive line where he’s had his most success.
That said, the Rams defense was not the reason they lost the game last week, it was more due to their ineffective offense. If LA can get the offensive side back on track, a defensive performance similar to the one against the Bengals should be enough to get a win in Indy.
Will the Rams recommit to the run?
Heading into Week 3 the Rams were the number one red zone offense, this was not the case against the Bengals as they were kept out of the end zone multiple times inside the 20. This could be due in large part to the abandonment of the run early, as Kyren Williams was only allowed 10 rushes on the day and most them outside of the red zone.
Williams was also the only back to receive carries in the game, so it will remain to be seen if Los Angeles gets Ronnie Rivers and Zach Evans more involved vs the Colts. Kyren Williams has struggle in receiving, dropping the ball multiple times in both the Niners and Bengals games and Evans was a strong receiving back in college, so he could be used more in the pass game going forward if given the chance.
Whoever is running the ball will need more than 10 attempts to have much success though. McVay needs to shoulder some of that blame for his gameplay against Cincinnati and revisit what made the team successful in their win against Seattle - running the ball.