The Los Angeles Rams are on a roll as of late after losing three-straight from Weeks 4-6. They hope to continue their winning streak against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 10. The Rams have some extra time to prepare for their upcoming matchup at Heinz Field. This will allow them to fix offensive struggles, defensive gaps, special teams shortcomings and inexcusable penalties. All of which have created problems in the first half of the season.
Quarterback Jared Goff: B-
So far, Goff earned 192 completions on 314 attempts for 2,367 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He’s had his struggles, but is still oddly on par to earning his impressive 2018 stats. Although he has improved from earlier this season, Goff still makes questionable throws. Part of the reason for the improvement is trusting his offensive line. He has also adjusted by rolling outside, giving him more time to connect with his receivers.
Goff broke his own single-game passing record with 517 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 55-40 loss. He came close to Norm Van Brocklin’s record set in 1951 with 554 yards. The San Francisco 49ers held him to his lowest game passing yardage in almost three years at 78 yards. Being dependent on inexperienced interior offensive linemen hasn’t helped, but they seem to be improving each week. The schedule will get tougher though.
Receiving Corps: A+
Since the beginning of the season, the Rams receivers continue to shine. Although Cooks has faced concussion protocol twice this season, he still managed to earn 27 catches for 402 yards and one touchdown. Josh Reynolds has stepped in for Cooks and has 5 catches for 107 yards. He also scored one touchdown against Cincinnati. Robert Woods continues to impress with 38 catches for 471 yards and a rushing touchdown against San Francisco. Cooper Kupp leads the pack with 58 catches for 792 yards and five touchdowns. Kupp continues to be Goff’s favorite target. He is a big reason for the high grade for the receiving corps, but his incredible running back-like, tackle-breaking runs after the catch put him over the top. The Rams receivers should continue to shine in the latter half of the season.
Running Backs: C+
This may not be a fair grade given Todd Gurley’s team-mandated limited playing time, but he has not shown the intensity of last season. Gurley is still phenomenal when he breaks out on a run, but has not had a huge scoring play yet. He has 92 carries for 355 yards and six touchdowns. Gurley is no where near the stats he had in 2018, but he is still the Rams’ starting running back. Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are strong alternates. Brown has 37 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns (both scored in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers). Henderson has incredible intensity and speed. The rookie has 29 carries for 119 yards, but no touchdowns.
The running backs have done a solid job in blocking for Goff as well, but the running game needs improvement to make the Rams more competitive. Part of the issue is due to coaching relying on the passing game too much, and limiting Gurley’s touches. However, this is to be expected to conserve Gurley for the rest of the season.
Tight Ends: A-
Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee continue to be major weapons in the Rams offense. They have not been targeted heavily in every game, but when Goff needs them, they usually gain big yardage. Everett has 26 catches for 297 yards and two touchdowns. Higbee has 18 catches for 170 yards and one touchdown. Both are excellent blockers as well on running plays and pass protection. That’s primarily been their main role, especially for Higbee, since the offensive line has seen its share of struggles. They may not have flashy fantasy football numbers, but the blocking is where they are really needed.
Offensive Line: C-
The Rams offensive line have been the major talking point throughout the season. In the beginning of the 2019 season, Jared Goff was running for his life for protection. There were also avoidable penalties due to false starts and holds that killed offensive drives.
The departure of left guard Rodger Saffold and center John Sullivan left a veteran void to be filled in the offseason. Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom stepped into their new roles and did adequate. There were learning curves and struggles, but both Allen and Noteboom grew in those positions. Noteboom’s recent season-ending knee injury did not help, but his replacement rookie David Edwards has proven to be a good move. Though, Goff would have appreciated not going through the Jamil Demby phase. While the offensive line is no where near perfect, it could be a lot worse.
Defensive Line: B+
The Rams defensive line has been a stalwart force for the past two seasons and Aaron Donald is leading the way. He also continues to be double and sometimes triple-teamed. Although he is not on par to compile as many sacks as last season, Donald still has 17 solo tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles. Stats don’t always tell the story though, Donald is still a force to be reckoned with despite the lack of flashy numbers. Michael Brockers has 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Sebastian Joseph-Day has 19 tackles and one sack. Look for the D-line to continue to cause quarterbacks to scramble and running backs to be stuffed.
The Rams linebackers continue to impress. Against Atlanta, Dante Fowler had a career day with three sacks. He has 32 tackles, 6.5 sacks and one forced fumble so far. Samson Ebukam has stepped up after filling in for an injured Clay Matthews who broke his jaw against the Seattle Seahawks. Matthews has 19 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles. The numbers are amazing considering that he has already surpassed what he did in Green Bay last season. Troy Reeder has filled in nicely for an injured Bryce Hager, splitting time with Taylor Rapp and Christian Marqui. Cory Littleton leads the linebackers with 66 tackles and two interceptions. He also has 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is even starting to step up.
Defensive Backs: A-
The recent trades of Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib by the front office created quite a shake-up, but the acquisition of Jalen Ramsey has already made a difference in coverage. Ramsey, Troy Hill and Nickell Robey-Coleman are now covering man to man instead of zone. This helps to cause quarterbacks to hesitate more, allowing the defensive front to get to the quarterback. Ramsey already has 28 tackles, two forced fumbles and one pass defended in just two games. So far, Hill has been impressive in coverage.
Defensive captain Eric Weddle has 59 tackles and three passes defended. Losing John Johnson hurt quite a bit, but Christian Marqui and rookie Taylor Rapp has picked up the slack. Rapp has 44 tackles and three passes defended.
Special Teams: C+
Ram fans may have anticipated more special teams trick plays this season, but that has not been the case. Johnny Hekker only had one fake punt and that resulted in a first down pass completion against Atlanta. Hekker’s punting is still good, but his average is down a bit from last season. He also had one blocked punt. Greg Zuerlein has been spot on for 50+ yard field goals and extra points, but he has missed two under 50 yards. Long snapper McQuaid is solid as always.
JoJo Natson had a career-best 35-yard punt return against the Saints but has also made questionable decisions on returns. The special teams squad does need improvement, but fans should have faith in “Greg the Leg” and Hekker. The main concern still remains at returning.