Los Angeles Rams: Stafford and Jackson Finally Connect on Deep Ball

by Blaine Grisak
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On third-and-10 on the second drive of the first quarter, the Los Angeles Rams called a deep shot down the middle to DeSean Jackson. Jackson clearly had his player beat. However, Stafford under threw him and the Buccaneers defender was sitting in Jackson’s arms making contact, forcing an incompletion.

First-and-10 on the final offensive drive of the first half, Stafford once again targeted Jackson. This time, his arm was hit and Jackson was once again under thrown and unable to locate the ball.

Then it happened.

The thing Los Angeles Rams fans have been waiting for since signing DeSean Jackson actually happened.

On third-and-10, the third play of the second half, it happened.

Matthew Stafford took the snap and dropped back to throw. Immediately, Jackson popped open. A little shoulder nudge by Stafford and precise route running from Jackson put the defensive back on the ground. Almost effortlessly, Stafford his Jackson in stride and 75 yards later, he was in the end zone.

“I left a couple short to DJack today,” said Stafford. “But I was happy for him. He did a great job, getting behind the defense a couple times today. It was a big play for us. Instead of going three and out right there, get a long touchdown and put a little wind in the sail so it was great.”

It was these types of explosive plays that the Los Angeles Rams offense lacked last season. Stafford’s longest completed air distance throw this season was 54.9 yards which was the touchdown to Cooper Kupp in Week 1. The throw to Jackson on Sunday traveled 51.6 yards through the air via NFL’s Next Gen Stats.

“He’s a playmaker,” said McVay. “He showed that. He did a great job. It was fun. He’s electric.”

Last year, Jared Goff had two throws all season that traveled 50+ yards through the air. Stafford has accomplished that feat in three weeks.

Jackson came to the Rams from Philadelphia where he played just eight games in two years. However, Jackson played with Sean McVay in Washington and almost the joined the Rams in 2017 before deciding on the Buccaneers. When Jackson scored his touchdown, McVay was sprinted down the sideline and was the first one to congratulate him in the end zone.

Through the first two weeks fans wondered why the Los Angeles Rams had even brought in Jackson. Against the Colts, he played in just 5% of the team’s offensive snaps. However, in the biggest game of the season (up to this point), the Rams unleashed Jackson and showed that the 35-year old wide receiver still has some juice in his legs.

Defenses are clearly respecting the threat over the top this season. Both Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel are facing an 8-man box less than 14% of the time this season. Cam Akers faced an 8-man box on 37% of his carries in 2020. It’s over a 20% difference.

That’s not all on Jackson, but it does have something to do with the Rams being able to hit the deep ball. Goff’s lack of a gunslinger mentality, his preference for the underneath throws – they’re why Sean McVay wanted Stafford instead.

The biggest criticism for DeSean Jackson coming to Los Angeles was that he’s too hold and he’s been hurt too often. As it stands, the Rams are managing their deep threat well. Jackson has also shown that he can still do what he does best when his number is called.

The under throws by Stafford are worrisome. However, as the two players get more experience with each other, Stafford will learn Jackson’s range.

Managing Jackson will be the key for the rest of the season. This is something that the Rams have done well through three weeks.

The Stafford-Jackson connection was one that fans have been wanting to see all season. It finally happened against the Buccaneers and as that will only be the beginning.

DeSean Jackson Film

Play 1

Jackson still has speed which is why the Los Angeles Rams signed him. He completely blows by the cornerback and if Stafford is able to step into this throw, it might be a touchdown. However, even though the play didn’t result in a touchdown, you can see the positives in the play at the Rams just missed an opportunity to strike early. This showed that the play would be there for the Rams to make, and they finally hit it later in the game.

Play 2

Another play that should have been another touchdown for the Los Angeles Rams. Stafford’s arm gets hit which effects the throw. However, Jackson once again beats his guy. Jackson fakes an out to the sideline perfectly, causing the safety to bite on it. Instead, Jackson turns the route upfield and Stafford just misses him. Again, while the results wasn’t a touchdown, the play was there which is a huge positive.

Play 3

All Jackson has to do on this play is track the ball. This throw is all on Matthew Stafford. Before throwing to Jackson, Stafford throws in a quick shoulder pump to move the safety and causes the safety to fall. This leaves nobody over the top to cover Jackson and it’s an easy six points for the Los Angeles Rams. Stafford has shows his ability to manipulate secondaries regularly with his eyes and shoulder movements. That was on display here.

Play 4

It wasn’t just the over the top stuff in which Jackson had success. Jackson does a good job to break open, but this also shows the elite play design ability of McVay. McVay creates a chaotic situation in the middle of the field. This forces Devin White to get in the way of the cornerback. With all of the other routes going to the left side of the field, this leaves Jackson open space to break for 43-yards.

 

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