The Los Angeles Rams have started the season off with a 7-3 record with new quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm. The Rams mentality has been going “all in” this year by trading for Stafford, Sony Michel, and Von Miller and signing Odell Beckham Jr., but they haven’t been the dominant team they’d hoped to be. Looking to the second half of the season they have some tough games coming up and need to win most of them to compete with Arizona for the division. That being said, let’s dive deep into the Rams’ offensive, defensive, and special teams performance so far this year. Each unit will come out as a separate article so be on the lookout for all 3.
The Rams offense started out hot this year but has since fizzled out in recent weeks. So far, they rank 6th in total yards per game, 5th in passing y/g, and 20th in rush y/g. As for points, they rank 7th with 27.1, a 3.8 increase from last years’ total. Through 10 games they’ve scored 271 points compared to 2020s 243. Overall, trading for Stafford has increased their offensive efficiency, but how do they stack up in terms of turnovers?
Through 10 games in 2020, the offense committed 10 team turnovers compared to 2021’s 11. That doesn’t look good when trading for Stafford was supposed to cut down on those types of plays. However, how many of those were his fault, and how many were just bad decision-making? So far this year he has 8 interceptions, some of which aren’t 100% his fault. For example, last week a pass he threw to Tyler Higbee slipped through his hands and got picked. He’s had really bad luck on throwaways, and in reality, without those unlucky plays should have about 5 picks. On the bright side, he’s exceeded Jared Goff’s passing TD total from 2020 in just 10 games.
McVay has been using more 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) this year, something that hasn’t been used as much since 2018. LA leads the league with an 87% use of 11 personnel compared to last years’ 65%. This puts more pressure on Stafford, as he loses an extra blocker. The offense has become very predictable for defenses, and McVay needs to make some adjustments so this offense doesn’t finish the same way 2018’s offense did. A common theme in losses has been the offense committing turnovers, the other team capitalizing off of them, and being unable to catch up until it’s too late.
Veteran Pass Catchers
With the help of Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp has had an explosive career year so far. He’s nearly matched his stats from 2019 (94/1161/10) in just 10 games this year and has been a bright spot when the offense has struggled. He’s dominated in the slot, as 840 of his 1141 yards have come from there, which would rank 5th in the league. Kupp has been Stafford’s favorite target this year and has been especially reliable on 3rd down. He ranks first on the team with a 122.1 passer rating when targeted, the next closest WR is Van Jefferson with 106.4.
Robert Woods was also having a solid year before he got hurt. Although he wasn’t as dominant as Kupp was, he led the league in separation over expectation this season. The Rams are definitely going to miss Bobby Trees as a consistent option besides Kupp. With the emergence of Van Jefferson though, he will quickly step in and fill that hole. Jefferson has had a breakout year and been the Rams’ deep threat averaging 16.2 yards per catch. With DeSean Jackson requesting his release, he’ll have to take his game to the next level against some tough teams coming up.
Rookie WR Tutu Atwell was disappointed before he had a season ending injury. He only played 10 offensive snaps on offense and never caught a pass. McVay didn’t use him as a deep threat and barely trusted him to return punts. His selection in the draft was meant to fill one of those roles, and in the limited playing time he got before injury, he filled none. On the other hand, fellow rookie Ben Skowronek has been solid and did a decent job filling in for Woods last week. He passed the eye test and looked almost like a tight end as a reliable target. He should have an increased role as OBJ continues to learn the offense and as a rotating WR. As for the other rookies, they haven’t made much of an impact on offense yet, but I’d expect to see more of Jacob Harris in the future.
The tight ends this year have been solid, but nothing like Higbee’s performance in 2019. Higbee has been a decent option for Stafford with 344 yards and 3 TDs. He’s on pace for a similar year as last year, so I don’t expect much from him to end the year. Johnny Mundt was good as a blocker before he got hurt, and his injury is definitely affecting the run game. As for Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton, they haven’t had much action with Higbee taking up nearly 90% of the TE snaps. McVay barely uses tight ends in his offense with a 14.6% target share compared to the Atlanta Falcons league most with 30.5%. The Rams prioritize passing to WRs with 72.7% target share, so there isn’t much receiving work for the tight ends.
Already down 2 running backs before the season started, the Rams’ run game has been solid, but not game changing. This prompted the trade for Sony Michel, who hasn’t been amazing, but good enough. Despite the 1 game he missed, Darell Henderson has carried the majority of the load in the run game. He’s been pretty consistent with 80 total yards in 6/9 games and 5 touchdowns on the year. He’s not at the level that Cam Akers was, but still has been a capable back. Henderson or Michel haven’t exceeded or even gotten close to some of Akers’ numbers last year. Neither of them have shown true workhorse RB potential, and this team definitely misses Akers.
McVay seems to abandon the run game the second the team gets down, and this is likely to them not having an exceptional back. I have a feeling he doesn’t 100% trust either RB, due to their small usage and dependence on the passing game. The three headed monster last year worked well since McVay could design plays relative to each back’s strengths. Now, Michel and Henderson have a similar skill set, so the run game has been more one dimensional. McVay needs to focus on running a more balanced offense, and that starts with improving the rushing attack.
The O-Line started out the year performing really well with allowing 8 sacks through 8 games, but has crumbled in the last 2 losses. They’ve been solid in pass protection and rank 4th in the league for sack percentage (3.93%). According to ESPN, Rob Havenstein ranks 2nd in pass block win rate with him winning 96% of his blocks. Andrew Whitworth is tied for 5th place with 94%, so you can’t want much more from your tackles. The Rams offensive line as a whole has been solid in pass protection, but struggled in run blocking. The main problem has been the interior O-Line, a major weakness that was missed by the front office this past offseason.
The IOL haven’t been that great and there’s no one on the depth chart that could replace them next year, as Austin Corbett and Brian Allen are both free agents. Creed Humphrey has been a franchise center for the Chiefs and has been one of the best rookies this year. Even if they didn’t want to waste the draft capital, Alex Mack was available, who currently ranks 8th with a 95% win rate. Brian Allen has improved from his lackluster season in 2019, but still hasn’t been amazing. His PFF grade is 74.5 compared to Humphrey’s 91.1. Granted PFF doesn’t tell the whole story, but the rest of the stats back it up. As the whole offense starts clicking more, it needs to start with the guys in the trenches.
Overall, the Rams offense needs to start switching things up and be less predictable. They’ve used 52 unique lineups on offense, 70 fewer than the next-closest team. Shell coverages that take away the big plays are becoming more popular this year, so I think it’s time Sean McVay incorporates more WR screens and intermediate plays, instead of relying on deep shots. The team has 1419 YAC which ranks 3rd in the league so the everyone is capable of making big plays after the catch. It’s time for McVay to show the league why he’s regarded as an offensive guru and get this team back on track.