Los Angeles Rams: Three key matchups vs. Washington

Oct 4, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) during the second half against t the New York Giants at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

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The Los Angeles Rams will be wrapping up their interconference series with the NFC East in Week 5 as they prepare to square off against the Washington Football Team. The Rams currently boast a 3-1 record, while Washington is 1-3 and somehow half a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles for the sole lead of the NFC East.

A week ago, Los Angeles was able to defeat the New York Giants in uninspiring fashion. Despite the lack of production on offense, the Rams — aside from the Gerald Everett fumble — played a clean game and were able to do just enough to squeak out a victory, which is what ultimately matters.

Even though the Giants are 0-4, their defense shouldn’t be taken lightly and the same can be said for Washington this week. Given that, Los Angeles shouldn’t overlook an inspired Washington team that believes they can make some noise after naming Kyle Allen the starting quarterback over Dwayne Haskins in Week 5.

Following the team’s underwhelming performance in Week 4, Sean McVay will look to get the offense into a rhythm early against his former team. Besides the revenge narrative between McVay and Washington, let’s take a look at a few matchups that could have major implications on the outcome of Sunday’s game.

Rams’ LBs vs. Antonio Gibson

if you were to conduct a poll on the weakest link of the Rams’ roster, most would list the linebackers as the least reliable position. We’ve seen flashes from Micah Kiser and Kenny Young, but both of them are dealing with injuries in the days leading up to the game.

Even if both Kiser and Young both suit up, they’ll have their hands full with containing Antonio Gibson out of the backfield. When we saw Allen start for the Carolina Panthers last season, he consistently looked in the direction of Christian McCaffrey in the passing game.

While Gibson isn’t on the same level as McCaffrey, the rookie rusher is more than capable of causing damage on the ground or through the air. In Week 4 versus a stingy Baltimore Ravens defense, Gibson had the best game of his young career, totaling 128 scrimmage yards and a touchdown.

Seeing that — outside of Terry McLaurin — Washington lacks in the receiving department, Gibson will be a busy player on Sunday. It will be up to Kiser, Young, and the other linebackers to slow down the dual-threat back in Week 5.

Jalen Ramsey vs. Terry McLaurin

Jalen Ramsey has been utilized in a myriad of ways to begin the season, moving around from the outside to the slot in certain moments. The All-Pro cornerback of the Rams is typically tasked with shadowing the opposing team’s best wide receiver and there’s a good chance he sees a ton of McLaurin this week.

Once again, McLaurin is the only wide receiver in Washington that is a consistent threat for opposing defenses to worry about. The former third-round pick in 2019 has hauled in 26 passes for 387 yards and one touchdown in the first four weeks.

As for Ramsey, he’s proven to be well worth the money the Rams gave him, allowing a mere 13 receptions on 21 targets to begin the season. For the most part, quarterbacks have avoided Ramsey in coverage, knowing the consequences that could come if they attempt to throw in his direction.

However, following the switch at quarterback, it remains to be seen what sort of chemistry McLaurin and Allen have. Still, Los Angeles would be wise to keep McLaurin in check by having Ramsey follow him wherever he goes.

Rob Havenstein vs. Chase Young

The strength of Washington’s entire team lies within the talent that resides on their defensive line. Washington’s front four were all first-round selections and none of them have superstar potential — no offense to Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen, or Da’Ron Payne — as much as Chase Young.

Despite missing Washington’s Week 4 contest versus the Ravens, Young has still wreaked havoc off of the edge, notching 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The offensive lineman for the Rams that will be tasked with getting his hands on the rookie sack-artist will be Rob Havenstein.

Havenstein, who is healthier than he was a season ago, is also playing much better than he did in 2019. The Wisconsin product has given up just one sack on 268 offensive snaps so far this season.

For the Rams to get off to a better start on offense than they did in Week 4, they’ll need to keep Young off of Jared Goff as much as possible. There’s no doubt that Young is already a player that can wreck a game single-handedly off of the edge.

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