The Los Angeles Rams had the tall task of traveling back to the east coast for the third time in four weeks and they certainly were up for the challenge. The Rams capped off their fourth win with a lot of positives to take away. As always, I give you my 10 takeaways from Sunday’s game.
1. The Rams defense exploded onto the scene and flashed what could be a special unit under rookie DC Brandon Staley.
It’s been a quick turnaround for the Rams following last year’s Wade Phillips coached defense to now having a brand new rookie defensive coordinator take over in a year in which football was in question for the majority of the off-season. Brandon Staley has filled in those big shoes Phillips left in a hurry. Staley’s reinforced unit has held offenses to under 20 points in four of the five games they have played this season. Here’s the thing, Staley’s crew has flashed all year to be a very good “bend-don’t-break” defense. However, in this game, they flashed even more potential to be much more than a preventative defense and instead, an attacking defense.
Staley’s defense turned a corner and reached a level we have not seen this year when they came to Washington this past Sunday. The defense held Washington’s offense to just 108 yards which included 70 passing and 38 on the ground. What was more impressive is the fact the Rams racked up eight sacks on 20 pressures which is only the second-fewest they have had this year. Washington only averaged 2.1 yards per play and say what you will about Washington’s offense but they have never quite been stifled like that. Anytime you stifle an NFL offense in that way you just have to give credit to the defense. Again, it doesn’t matter who they played because this defense was magnificent on Sunday.
Please Rams, play Jachai Polite for more than four snaps though.
Play Jachai Polite more.
— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) October 12, 2020
2. I’m starting to wonder how much longer I have to wait before I proclaim Aaron Donald to be the best defensive player of all time.
I mean folks, I’m sorry I know many fans say “wait” or “you didn’t watch Lawrence Taylor in his prime” but here’s the deal. I also have people telling me they did watch Lawrence Taylor in his prime and Aaron Donald might already be more dominant. He had four sacks in this game, including a forced fumble, and pushed his pressure total up to 33 pressures on the year which is just downright insane. Donald is the best player in the league and has been for a bit now. I don’t know why we have to wait so long when Donald in his seventh-year already feels like he’s had a first-ballot Hall of Fame type of career.
Again, sorry but Donald has played in 99 games, and in those games, he has 79.5 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 11 batted passes, 329 tackles, 123 tackles for a loss, and a massive 532 quarterback pressures. This is all while being an interior defensive lineman, it’s just insane what Donald has done and what he will continue to do. Donald again has only played in seven seasons (and is in the middle of his seventh) and he has a career approximate value score per Pro Football Reference that ties him for 37th among active players. Pro Football Reference also has him ranked 10th among all defensive tackles. To have accomplished this much in this short amount of time is flat out insane and so are his double-teams and triple-teams he routinely plays against. Guys, I’m serious it’s getting old. Donald is almost there for me as the greatest defensive player of all time.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 12, 2020
3. Lock Angeles 2.0 is having a year but this was their premiere performance.
It’s never going to be perfect when you go up against another NFL team but the way the Rams handled Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson for that matter was special. Sure, they weren’t 100 percent but there are no excuses to be made when Jalen Ramsey locks you down, Darious Williams holds you to one catch for negative yards and Troy Hill holds you to one catch for five yards. Do you know why the Rams grabbed so many sacks this week? This coverage was impeccable and made Kyle Allen‘s job hard at the beginning and made it even harder for Alex Smith as the game rolled on.
If this Staley defense can get this level of production against the better teams on their schedule I don’t know who will beat this team.
4. Troy Reeder answered the bell in the wake of Micah Kiser‘s absence.
Alright, it’s no secret on Rams social media that Troy Reeder or any Rams linebacker is normally a Rams fan punching bag. He still received a bunch of jabs but the naysayers quieted down a tad when he notched three sacks and became part of the first Rams duo to both rack up three sacks each since Chris Long and Robert Quinn. He did this with Aaron Donald. Let’s call it like it is, Reeder is not a perennial Pro Bowler and if starting linebacker Micah Kiser had been healthy? Reeder likely doesn’t much of any playing time on that field. However, it’s a next-man-up league and Reeder made the most of that.
While Reeder struggled in coverage and mainly due to the fact he was left in no man’s land to cover shifty JD McKissic and star wideout Terry McLaurin, he made up for it with his pass-rushing ability and his run defense. Reeder definitely turned heads and the coaches are going to look over the film and see that Reeder at the very least will deserve more reps. Regardless, of the fact he had Aaron Donald making it easier on him, you have to produce and Reeder has more sacks than everyone not named Donald on the roster.
— DOWNTOWN RAMS [DTR] (@DowntownRams) October 12, 2020
5. Jordan Fuller is an absolute stud and now that he’s back the defense feels like they instantaneously got better this week.
Jorda Fuller is turning into a young star for the Los Angeles Rams secondary. It’s about time he starts getting the recognition and credit he deserves. I wrote about him back to back weeks in both game takeaways that he didn’t even play in. That’s how much of an impact player he is. Fuller had himself an elite grade per Pro Football Focus in his return to action this past Sunday. He added two pass breakups, five tackles a stop and he held his assignment to just one catch for eight yards. Fuller has been on a tear and looks like he might already be the best safety on the Rams if he keeps up his hot start.
(LAST WEEK) 5. Jordan Fuller means more to the defense than anyone would have expected out of a sixth-rounder.
Not having Fuller the last two games has shown me that the Rams need Jordan Fuller back. On fourth-down or third-and-long plays, Fuller has done a great job to click and close. Without him being there for the Rams the last two weeks we’ve seen Terrell Burgess slip last week and Taylor Rapp struggle mightily to fill his role. Fuller offers a high-motor and tenacity that isn’t seen from the safeties to tell you the truth. Not even John Johnson III plays with the fire I’ve seen from Fuller. It might be shocking but not having Fuller today was a big deal and the Rams hung on but they will want him back after giving up 19 first downs to the Giants offense.
If you read two weeks ago’s takeaway piece you would have seen this about Jordan Fuller.
(TWO WEEKS AGO) 7. Jordan Fuller is a 6th-Round Rookie that has been a gem for the Rams and everyone just found out how important he is on the field following his injury that kept him out of the rest of the game.
“Jordan Fuller left the game early on in with a shoulder injury. Once Fuller came off the field and Taylor Rapp came on, I found myself instantly worried about the coverage skill drop-off. Fuller has been one of the best pure tacklers on the Rams and a playmaker. Unfortunately for Fuller, the injury might keep him out an extended amount of time since he was unable to come back to the field in a game that the Rams needed him in.
You can look at it multiple ways but let’s look at the positive here. Jordan Fuller is a valuable asset as a sixth-rounder and in the third game of his rookie season. That’s the beauty of this and it speaks volumes that the Rams made the right move snagging him when they did.”
6. The Los Angeles Rams running back room is insane. They might not finish the season with one 1,000-yard rusher but this backfield is as dangerous as any in the NFL.
The Rams are among the league best in team rushing statistics. They are second in carries, sixth in yards, seventh in yards-per-game, tied for first in rushing touchdowns, and have fumbled the ball zero times this year. It’s been Darrell Henderson Jr. leading the way with 260 yards on the ground, followed by veteran running back Malcolm Brown with 213 yards and then, rookie back Cam Akers with 113 yards. The Rams haven’t had a fully healthy backfield at any point this season. Henderson was nursing a hamstring issue and Akers missed time since week two due to a freak rib cartilage injury. However, they are about as healthy as can be which is why the three ran for over 120 yards in Washington.
Akers and Henderson have both ripped off a 40-plus yard run this season and have shown the ability to be a home run threat on the ground. Brown however is a more bulky back that doesn’t have the long speed or agility the other two have but has a mean punch when he creates contact and fights through it for additional yardage. As ESPN Stats Info pointed out on Twitter, the Rams running back room is sitting with 698 rushing yards on the season (which also includes others that have carried the ball including Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett, Jared Goff, and Van Jefferson) which is the most through the first five games of a Rams season since 1987.
The sky is most certainly the limit with this backfield and as I said, I don’t know if there will even be a 1,000-yard rusher this season in Los Angeles but they won’t need one.
Cam Akers had his first 40+ yard big run of his young Rams career! Look how gracefully he makes Linebacker #53 and safety #30 miss so he can extent the play for the long run. Akers could be primed for more touches very soon pic.twitter.com/AkedSBcgQg
— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) October 12, 2020
7. I’m officially comfortable enough to say Jared Goff has cemented himself in the top 10 at the QB position and he continues to look better and better each week.
Jared Goff is a great quarterback. He often gets unfairly labeled as a system quarterback but while people are doing that I just don’t think it’s being stressed enough how much he continues to improve. He’s off to a great start through five games he has a 71.7 completion percentage, 1,372 yards, 9 yards per attempt average, 10 total touchdowns including two rushing, and a passer rating of 108.8. The way he’s battled back from adversity last year and 2016 in which he could have totally fallen off and busted like quarterbacks in the past, has been impressive.
One thing that’s important with Goff is that he’s been available. That’s the most important part of a starting quarterback in the NFL, can you be durable and withstand the pain? If you think Goff not being injured means he doesn’t play through pain, you might not understand how football works. He’s been sacked 113 teams in his career and has never missed a start due to injury. He’s one of the top 10 quarterbacks in the league and is constantly available for his team to give them the best chance to win. Each week, there might be a mistake Goff makes but I see improvement.
8. The Rams could have won this game by a lot more but Sean McVay played it safe and went for the “W” instead of the flashy win.
I can’t hate on Sean McVay’s decision to play the field position game and go conservative while up two scores in the pouring rain. Also, the way the defense was playing in this game, I would have rather watched the defense for 60 minutes.
9. I still think the Rams are the best team in the NFC but after the Chiefs went down, it might not be long before they are the best team in football.
I watch every game of every week and I’ll tell you there just aren’t a bunch of teams like the Rams. It’s been a confusing year and right now by virtue of record Seattle looks like the best team but are they? No, they most definitely aren’t as their defense does have a significant hole in it. Russell Wilson has been lights out but he does this at some point every year where he plays to just a different level. How much longer will that last? Again, the Packers, don’t really have a defense and the Chiefs lost so who is better? You could argue the Bills that beat the Rams but that wasn’t a convincing win by any means.
I think through five weeks we are seeing a Brandon Staley brand new defense start to really kick it up a notch. There has only been one game which was against the Bills in which the defense gave up more than 20 points to a team. We know what McVay can do with his offense and we are starting to realize Staley can match that with his defense. This team will only get better as the season moves on assuming everyone stays relatively healthy. This Rams team is going to be very tough to beat especially with the way the offensive line has protected Goff to this point.
10. Gerald Everett looks different and now we just need to see him string together some more games like this and deliver the consistency that has held him back his whole career.
Gerald Everett has come alive. Okay, we’ve seen this movie before but didn’t Everett look just different this week? Again, I know he’s done some incredible things and it all comes down to consistency but perhaps in a contract year, Everett has found that consistency. He led the team with 90 yards on four receptions and he ran in a touchdown last week. Perhaps, Everett is marking his territory and putting Tyler Higbee on the spot. Or perhaps not. Either way, I want more of this Gerald Everett week in and week out, especially before I decide if I want the Rams to bring him back.