The Los Angeles Rams toppled the Philadelphia Eagles in their road opener on Sunday. Here are my takeaways from the 37-19 Rams victory that sent them to 2-0 on the new season.
1. Jared Goff wasn’t my choice of QB in 2016 but today Goff has worked out in the NFL much better than Wentz and is only 25 years old.
These two quarterbacks will forever be linked in history because they went 1st-overall and 2nd-overall back-to-back. Both quarterbacks were selected by two teams that traded up and those teams both played on Sunday. For a long time, I felt like Carson Wentz was a can’t miss prospect that had the resemblance of Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, and Kurt Warner to his overall game. I liked Jared Goff in the draft but not the same way as Wentz and Goff was someone I saw as a mix of Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, and Sam Bradford. The first three names are a lot more attractive than those three.
However, as the years have gone on, while Wentz has done a better job of play-extension and throwing off-schedule. Goff in every other area which includes durability has been better than Wentz. While Wentz does have two wins over Goff head-to-head, Goff made sure to add one this Sunday. You can see the quarterback who you would rather build a team around. Wentz will always be one of my favorite prospects I’ve ever scouted but to say he’s lived up to my expectations would be false. His injuries and the lack of protection he gives himself make it seem obvious.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 21, 2020
The Jared Goff we saw today and last week is better than Wentz has been. Here’s how the two stack up:
Last Two Seasons:
As you can see statistically it’s close and you could give the nod to Wentz but here’s the thing, Goff is only 25-years-old and will turn 26 in October. Wentz will turn 28 at the end of this year and has had a big problem staying healthy. Goff is the more reliable, durable, and younger quarterback.
2. The Rams starting inside linebackers may not be as bad as we all thought.
Wow. Kenny Young and Micah Kiser were very impressive on Sunday in Philadelphia. This is a group I expected Dallas Goedert and Zach Ertz to have their way with but that didn’t happen. Ertz only had 42 yards on five catches and Goedert who blew up last weekend only had 30 yards on four catches. That’s not to say the linebackers covered them all game long but I expected them to be exploited and they weren’t. About Micah Kiser, this is a guy who came into his second-ever NFL start having just missed seven tackles last week and he finished with 16 on Sunday to go with his early-game forced fumble. I have reservations about his overall game and I don’t think he’s an elite true sideline-to-sideline linebacker but he was very impressive and I look forward to seeing him grow each week.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 20, 2020
Young didn’t have the tackles Kiser had but I just love watching his demeanor and the way he’s able to fly around the field. Young was a throw-in as many called it in the Marcus Peters deal but for me, I saw him as a cheap linebacker option for a team that you could call cap-strapped. Young may have only gotten the job because of Travin Howard‘s injury but it’s a next-man-up league and Young has proven to be Johnny on the spot since being named the starter.
3. As great as Brandon Staley’s defense has looked in two games, this team cannot apply enough edge pressure.
I said it repeatedly on the podcast and my live stream. The Rams are fun, their defense is fun and Brandon Staley is fun. However, the Rams have minimal at best pass rush being generated on the edge. Leonard Floyd is a great run defender but he’s a slightly-above average-at-best pass rusher. He will make a flash play here and there but he’s nowhere near the ability of a Dante Fowler Jr. and it shows. That’s not my biggest gripe though, when you watch the other side you see Samson Ebukam. I like Ebukam and his freakish athleticism but I’ve said for years he might be better suited to kick to inside linebacker. Ebukam offers little-to-no push off the edge. He was stonewalled by Tyron Smith last week and he was stymied again by Jason Peters this week. I want him to succeed but he’s not and it’s a problem.
It’s one of those things where you may look at this win and laugh about my concern but this concern will be real in games versus the Seahawks, Patriots, Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals among other teams that are on the Rams schedule. Edge pressure is important and if Ebukam can’t generate pressure, he’s a solid run defender but that’s surely not good enough to keep him on the field over players like Jachai Polite and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. I would start Jachai Polite moving forward and see what you have before your third-round stud rookie Terrell Lewis comes back. Polite logged one snap last week and it was a pressure generated on Prescott. He has an arsenal of pass-rushing maneuvers whereas Ebukam tries to bull rush every play or use his speed and ultimately gets nowhere. It’s time to finally give someone else a shot. Do not let the 2-0 team fool you this is a legitimate cause for concern as the games get tougher and more meaningful.
4. As sad as it is to say this…The Rams created addition by subtraction from letting go of Todd Gurley.
I love Todd Gurley, I met Todd Gurley and Todd Gurley will always have a special place in my heart for his time with the Rams and his exciting plays I watched him make at the Coliseum and Metlife stadium. However, Gurley is not the same back and that is why he is not with the Rams anymore. Last year, I said over and over again it was either run Gurley or McVay wouldn’t run the football at all. Well, since Gurley left McVay has allowed all three top backs Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, and Cam Akers to have a role. It’s hard to imagine the Rams would be doing that had they kept Gurley. You might see either Brown or Henderson completely phased out of the offense.
Now that Gurley is in Atlanta and the Rams are without him they have been able to call those three backs numbers. It’s worked out in back-to-back games thus far. Darrell Henderson was my top running back in the 2019 draft class and after further evaluation, I went back and re-ranked Akers as my top running back in the 2020 draft class. Of course, the Rams also have a stud in Malcolm Brown. The way the Rams have utilized this backfield thus far has been impressive. It’s sad to move on and it’s not easy but the over-emphasis of Gurley in the offense may have been what was holding back this team following his knee issue.
Side note. It was amazing to see Henderson get an opportunity to show you that he matters and is a lot more than just the third option in this backfield. Also, Akers went down with a rib injury and I hope he’s going to be okay.
#Rams RB Darrell Henderson Week 2 Recap:
12 Rushes / 81 Yards / 1 TD
3 Targets / 2 Receptions / 40 Yards
Led Rams RB in touches (Henderson 14, Brown 11, Akers 3) and was 2nd in snaps (Brown 37, Henderson 29, Akers 3).
Great to see the dynamic back we came to know at Memphis! pic.twitter.com/4bHFV8kBxS
— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) September 21, 2020
Double side note: I saw Henderson’s ascension in the offense coming before the game…
Why do I have the weirdest feeling that Darrell Henderson is about to have an Alvin Kamara type of game vs the Eagles? I mean he was my RB1 in 2019 but all of the attention is away from him. I imagine the #Rams use him a ton in the passing game to keep Philly off-balance
— JAKE OLIVER ELLENBOGEN (@JKBogenDTSN) September 20, 2020
5. New Offensive Coordinator Kevin O’Connell might be what fixed the entire offense down to the nooks and crannies of the gameplan.
There’s no way for us to know but it’s been obvious in the past the only thing that can stop Sean McVay is … Sean McVay. That hasn’t happened this year and I credit Kevin O’Connell being in the organization for that. O’Connell does not call the plays but what O’Connell does is help sculpt gameplans with McVay and company. I think since O’Connell has been there and granted it’s only been two games so far. He’s done a great job at keeping the Rams offensive attack balanced. Last week the Rams threw the ball 31 times and ran the ball 40 times. This week the Rams threw the ball 27 times and ran the ball 39 times. Instead of not running the ball enough like last year, the Rams have found the perfect balance and have picked apart defenses early in the season.
Again, there’s no true way to know how much O’Connell has helped but I would have to imagine if the Rams are executing different looks and rolling with gameplans you didn’t see last year now that he’s there. He has to be a big part of those decisions. The gameplans have been perfect to this point and all I’ll say is I’m glad the Washington Football Team made the mistake of letting him leave. I’m sure deep down Dwayne Haskins misses what O’Connell brought to the table.
6. It’s time to have that “Tyler Higbee is the third-best tight end in the league behind only George Kittle and Travis Kelce” conversation.
No, I won’t stop hyping up Tyler Higbee. It’s not hype if you are producing. Higbee had three touchdowns in the Rams blowout road win. He, once again, is telling you that last year’s midseason rise to stardom was real and not just because of a few good matchups. Higbee is one of the rare scenarios where a player is paid more than people feel they should receive and he outplays his contract. It’s not a debate anymore for me though, Higbee is a top-three tight end. I think he has become an all-around dynamic player and has worked so hard to become a better blocker that it’s all panning out.
Higbee could easily catch more than 12 touchdowns this season. The Rams went 2-of-5 in the red zone last weekend and this week Higbee had two red-zone touchdowns. Do they have their red zone threat? You have to believe it. I just cannot wait until we see Brycen Hopkins in this offense next to Higbee. The tandem the Rams imagined and Brycen told me the Rams imagined.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 20, 2020
7. Back-to-back games the defense holds teams to under 20 points and their top running back to under 100 rushing yards.
I am beyond impressed with how good this defense has looked against the run. Whether I’m being overzealous or not I don’t care, when you have the offseason this defense did while installing a brand new scheme you know it’s going to be hard to manage. But to take that and put your best foot forward and succeed is impressive. This defense held Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup to 17 points last week. This week? This defense held Carson Wentz, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Jalen Reagor, and Dallas Goedert to 19 points. Not to mention they held both Elliott and Sanders to under 100 yards rushing as previously mentioned.
It’s not perfect and this is a defense that is operating without their original planned personnel that included nose tackle, A’Shawn Robinson. I don’t know if Robinson will play this year but just wait until the Rams have a space-eater in the middle that can clog running lanes especially with the way Young and Kiser are playing downhill.
8. Robert Woods is the straw that stirs the drink on offense.
For those of you who don’t know Yankee/Athletic/Angel great Reggie Jackson well, that reference probably went over your head. However, I’ll make this very simple. Robert Woods is the new engine of the Rams offense. It was Todd Gurley but now it’s newly-extended Robert Woods. (told you so) Woods didn’t have his best game versus the Eagles but he didn’t have to. He scored an end-around handoff touchdown run and then found his way to help the Rams win in other ways. His blocking is one of, if not, the best in the game at the receiver position. This is an active blocker that is constantly looking for work.
Woods’ speed, route-running, ball-carrying, reliability, hands, and blocking are what make him the Rams engine. When he’s in there teams have to be aware. He might not be the flashiest, he might not be the biggest name in the world but Woods is putting together complete A+ level games and it’s time to take notice. The man is special and he offers a striking resemblance to Isaac Bruce.
— NFL (@NFL) September 20, 2020
9. This defense could lead the league in takeaways this season and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.
The Rams took the ball straight out of the Eagles grasp three times in this game. Wentz threw an interception to a diving Darious Williams in mid-air who baited Wentz and cut off the pass in the end zone and then he threw another to a diving Troy Hill on a not-so-great decision. Miles Sanders had a good day at the office but he started it off by fumbling after Micah Kiser tore the rock right out and Kenny Young dove on it. Three turnovers and zero of them came from Jalen Ramsey, Aaron Donald, John Johnson III, or any pass rusher off the edge. That is scary.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 20, 2020
After Staley’s crew failed to rack up a turnover when they played the Cowboys, they bounced back on the road and took it back three times. The Eagles didn’t complete a pass when thrown in the area of Ramsey and Donald didn’t even have a sack. This wasn’t Donald’s best game although Ramsey was fairly lights out in his limited opportunities. The sky is truly the limit with this defense who should only generate more turnovers as the year goes on and as Staley continues to disguise coverages and throw the kitchen sink at other teams.
10. The Rams look like the most complete football team in the NFC and it’s not relatively close at the moment.
The Green Bay Packers offense has been electrifying to start the season as they have a ridiculous 85 points scored over the last two games. While the Rams only have 57, it’s worth noting they arguably went against more talented teams and unarguably had better defensive performances than Green Bay has shown. Here’s a stat for you, the Rams and Ravens are the only two teams in the NFL who have held their first two opponents to under 20 points scored in both games. The Packers gave up 34 to the Vikings in week one and 21 to the Lions in week two. It’s not to take anything away from the Packers two wins but if you are looking for the most complete team in the NFC it’s the Rams. A team that has shown you it can win a tight one and win a blow out against talented teams but most importantly win in all three phases of the game.
Make no mistake, the Seahawks, Packers, and Cardinals are teams that have offenses that can hang with the Rams statistically but I do think that the Rams found something this week they didn’t originally have in week one. They are building consistency in the red zone on offense and now their defense on top of holding teams to under 20 points is also generating takeaways. It might be hard to believe for some people but the Rams through two weeks are the most complete NFC team right now.
🗣 Let’s keep getting better! pic.twitter.com/j3CKuzp4Ru
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 20, 2020