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PFF Grades: Kobie Turner, Aaron Donald wrecked shop against Giants

It was a great day for Los Angeles’ rookies in Week 17

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

While it wasn’t pretty, the Los Angeles Rams took care of business against the New York Giants in Week 17 at MetLife Stadium. The defense made Tyrod Taylor uncomfortable for most of the game, although they allowed multiple long passes down the field as they have at times over the last month. Production didn’t come as easily on the offensive side of the ball. Kyren Williams finished with an impressive three rushing touchdowns but broke his streak of three-consecutive 100-yard rushing outing. Matthew Stafford had his worst individual performance on the 2023 campaign and it took strong personal efforts from Puka Nacua and Demarcus Robinson to carry the passing game.

The Rams moved to 9-7 with their win. The Pittsburgh Steelers took down the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday evening, which means Los Angeles has secured an entry to wild card weekend in the NFC. LA has defied the odds as a rebuilding team and could make a run in the playoffs as a surprise entrant.

How did the PFF grades shake out in New York?

Top five grades on offense:

1 - Steve Avila, LG: 85.1

2 - Kevin Dotson, RG: 83.7

3 - Rob Havenstein, RT: 80.0

The offensive line carried the way against a strong New York front that features what could be the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL, Dexter Lawrence, as well as former Ram A’Shawn Robinson, and up-and-coming edge rushers in Kayvon Thibodeaux and Azees Ojilari. While the rushing game wasn’t necessarily as dominant as it’s been of late, Williams still averaged nearly four and a half yards per carry and rushed 20 times for 87 yards and three scores. The offensive line deserves praise for their role in his production.

Things get a but more complicated when we dive into the pass blocking grades. Coleman Shelton was outright bad against the Giants, albeit he had a tough matchup in Lawrence. The offensive line as a whole allowed four total pressures—Shelton comprised three of those alone. The other was allowed by Havenstein.

PFF noted that Stafford was pressured seven total times, which means they are placing the blame for three pressures on the quarterback—whether he held the ball too long, failed to navigate the pocket, etc. More on Stafford in a bit.

4 - Tyler Higbee, TE: 74.1

Higbee was engaged in the offense early and often, and LA set him up with several favorable catch and run scenarios. The veteran tight end caught six of his seven targets for 62 yards with a long of 18. He needed a performance like this to stave off promising rookie Davis Allen.

5 - Kyren Williams, RB: 72.5

What a revelation Williams has been since returning from injury six or so weeks ago. He’s rejuvenated the LA offense and when he’s on the field with Stafford, Nacua, and Cooper Kupp this unit can keep up with anyone. Even on a day where the passing game was inefficient and where the offense committed three turnovers, Williams kept the engine churning and willed the Rams to a victory and a playoff berth.

Other notes on offense:

Joe Noteboom finished seventh in offensive grading with Tutu Atwell (four snaps) in sixth. Noteboom earned an “elite” 90.6 mark in terms of pass blocking but maybe struggled in the running game with a grade of 67.0.

Matthew Stafford seemed to revert back to his Detroit form in this game with the playoffs on the line. He earned a PFF offensive grade of 49.1, which was easily his worst outing of the season with the next closest coming in Week 7 against the Steelers. PFF did not credit Stafford with a single big-time throw but dinged him for three turnover-worthy plays. He threw two interceptions which both came on overthrows to his intended targets. As mentioned in the section on the offensive line, PFF seemingly credited three pressures to Stafford while the offensive line allowed just four combined. It’s possible that the veteran was holding onto the ball for too long or struggled to navigate the pocket in this game, and that discrepancy is not something you see often in the grading and tracking metrics.

Top five grades on defense:

1 - Kobie Turner, DT: 92.2

Turner had a whopping 10 pressures (career high) and three sacks (won’t match the box score but PFF does not credit half sacks). Turner consistently lived in the New York backfield and chased Tyrod Taylor outside of the pocket—the rookie often dived at the quarterback’s feet and was able to trip him enough to bottle him up.

2 - Aaron Donald, DE: 91.0

Donald contributed six total pressures including three sacks of his own. He also had a strong outing in the run game with a 83.8 grade (third on the defense behind Turner and Ernest Jones).

3 - Derion Kendrick, CB: 80.2

LA’s second-year cornerback that has been in and out of the starting lineup played only 21 snaps, which seemed to come at the expense of Cobie Durant. Durant has been starting in place of Kendrick on the outside since Kendrick’s poor performance a couple of weeks ago against the Washington Commanders.

Still, Kendrick forced an important incompletion in the end zone to protect the lead. He earned an impressive 81.5 coverage grade.

4 - Troy Reeder, MLB: 79.9

Reeder played only 11 snaps but played well in coverage. He was targeted a single time and did not allow a completion.

5 - Desjuan Johnson, DE: 79.6

Add another rising rookie to this list. Johnson, also knows as Mr. Irrelevant from this past NFL Draft, recorded a run “stop” while only playing nine snaps. This was the highest graded game of his career so far.

Other notes on defense:

Quentin Lake (73.9, sixth) continues to impress in his new role as the slot defender, and he once again forced an incompletion to get a stop on third down. The Rams have found a gem heading into an offseason where they likely need a serious injection of talent heading into 2024.

It’s important to note that three rookies made the top 10 list of players from this game with others such as Puka Nacua, Byron Young, Nick Hampton, Ethan Evans, and others playing key roles in the victory to secure a playoff berth. The Rams are ascending at the right time.