Los Angeles Rams Gameplan: Rams Culture Lures Odell Beckham to LA

by Blaine Grisak
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Was anyone really surprised when the Los Angeles Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr. on Thursday? If they were, they shouldn’t have been. This season, the Rams have shows that they are willing to do whatever it takes to win a Super Bowl. For the last four years, that’s been the Rams’ M.O. and apart of their culture.

Where people should have been surprised was Odell Beckham Jr. choosing the Rams. For a wide receiver that allegedly wanted more targets, going to a team that had Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and an emerging Van Jefferson didn’t make a lot of sense. This is a receiver that allegedly has been a “problem in the locker room” wherever he’s been.

However, the Rams have a thing for taking locker room problems and making them key team contributors. For the Chiefs, Marcus Peters, “wasn’t worth the trouble. His “volatile demeanor” outweighed what he brought to the field. In 2018, Peters and his famous “we ain’t done yet” attitude, helped lead the Rams to a NFC Championship.

Ndamukong Suh was a problem with the Lions. “The consistent message that came out of there is that Suh was uncontrollable.” Teammates denied it, but that didn’t stop the narrative. Again, Suh helped the Rams defense hold the Patriots to 13 points in the Super Bowl.

Jalen Ramsey was a star cornerback in Jacksonville. However, his talent wasn’t enough to justify the headache for the Jaguars. “There’s only so much selfishness and so many demands one side is willing to put up with until there’s no benefit to continuing the relationship.” Ramsey has become the NFL’s best cornerback as he’s turned in back-to-back all-pro seasons with the Rams.

Dante Fowler earned a suspension and was fined $700k as a member of the Jaguars. With the Rams, he was a model citizen and had a career year as he gave a boost to the Rams pass rush in 2018. It was his hit that disrupted Drew Brees’ interception in overtime of the NFC Championship game.

Notice a trend?

The same thing can be said about Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants felt Odell Beckham was a problem the whole time, but the locker room disagreed. It got to the point where people started to question whether Odell Beckham was gay – as if that mattered. Giants safety Landon Collins said, “We loved him. Odell is my brother. He’s not that kind of guy, or what people think he is about.

Right after signing with the Rams, the same things are being said. Typical anonymous sources came out and said about Odell Beckham Jr., “He does nothing. He talks to no one. He’s just got a malcontent attitude.” Meanwhile, Browns cornerback Greg Newsome defended Beckham tweeting, “Nobody ever said that. stop making stuff up for some likes.”

It didn’t stop there. Jarvis Landry added, “1 Of The Best Teammates I Have Ever Played With In My Life !!!!” Rookie receiver Anthony Schwartz also said, “Posting nonsense for clicks and views… literally took me under his wing when I got here…”

Beckham could have gone to Green Bay or Kansas City and been the number two wide receiver. However, he chose to come to Los Angeles and join this culture.

Maybe bad teams just have bad cultures and maybe bad management can’t manage a locker room of 53 adults. Yet, it’s the players that constantly take the heat.

As The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue detailed,

It was cornerback Jalen Ramsey who got Beckham on speakerphone before Thursday’s early morning practice, gathering as he did so his fellow teammates — among them receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, and quarterback Matthew Stafford — to make their final pitch. It was the players who drove home to Beckham the Rams’ culture, environment and ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl this year.

Despite having relationships with Jalen Ramsey and Von Miller, it was important for Odell Beckham Jr. that guys like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp were ok with him joining the team.

Maybe Cleveland was just a bad fit.

The only quarterback worse in EPA per play between the numbers than Baker Mayfield this season has been rookie Zach Wilson. To add to that, if you compare the two quarterbacks this season in the middle of the field between the numbers, Stafford is staggeringly better.

Between zero and ten yards in the middle of the field, Stafford has a quarterback rating of 114. Baker meanwhile, has a passer rating of 86.1 in the same area. That’s almost a 30-point difference.

Now, look at two of Beckham’s route charts from two of his best games this season. They align almost perfectly where Matthew Stafford is at his best.

According to Sheil Kapadia at The Athletic, Just 64.9 percent of Mayfield’s throws to Odell Beckham Jr. over the last three years were on target. To put that number into context, over the last three years, there have been 92 instances of a quarterback targeting a pass catcher at least 100 times. Among those 92, Mayfield’s on-target percentage on throws to Beckham ranked 90th.

Given the history, Beckham could be a very good fit in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Rams offense utilizes the same in-breakers in which Odell Beckham Jr. thrives. McVay’s offense opens up yards after the catch where Beckham will be able to add his game-breaking ability. In 2019, Beckham ranked 20th in the NFL in yards after the catch with 329.

In 2018, Beckham Jr. was just outside the top-25 with 318 yards after the catch. His best year however came in 2016. In that season, which was the last year the New York Giants were good, Beckham ranked third in the NFL with 532 yards after the catch. The same can be said about 2015 when Beckham also ranked third and his 2014 rookie season when he ranked ninth.

Where Beckham will also help and be helped is teams aren’t going to be able to isolate on Cooper Kupp. This season, Kupp has seen double coverage or help in coverage on a league-high 38.9% of routes.

Only 10 receivers in the NFL get open over 50% against single-man coverage.  Beckham Jr. is on that list and was targeted just 22% of the time which was the third-least. That’s also seven percent less than the group average. 

As I’m writing this, Robert Woods has been diagnosed with an ACL injury that will end his season. Beckham has gone from a luxury signing to a potential season-saving signing. Like in 2018, Cooper Kupp tore his ACL after Week 10. Guys like Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds stepped up in that situation. The Rams will now require the same of Beckham Jr. and Van Jefferson.

Five Los Angeles Rams Players to Watch

1. WR Odell Beckham Jr.

Beckham arrived to Los Angeles on Friday and will have two practices under his belt before needing to suit up against the 49ers. The former Browns wide receiver playing at full capacity wasn’t a necessity, but now after the Woods injury, he’ll be needed. With a big game against the 49ers on deck before the bye week, this is a must-win for the Rams.

2. C Coleman Shelton

Another injury that the Rams are dealing with is to center Brian Allen. Allen is dealing with an elbow injury and is coming off of his worst performance of the season against the Titans. Due to the team drafting TuTu Atwell, Coleman Shelton is the only other option unless the Rams want to re-tool the offensive line in the middle of the year and move Austin Corbett to center and Bobby Evans to guard.

Coleman Shelton played 98 snaps at center in the preseason with a 67.2 pass-blocking grade and 62.6 run-blocking grade. He gave up three pressures – all of which came in the preseason finale.

3. WR Van Jefferson

When the Rams extended Robert Woods after drafting Van Jefferson, it was slightly surprising. Jefferson does a lot of things well than Robert Woods also does well. It seemed as if the team had drafted Woods’ replacement in Jefferson. Now, Jefferson will be replacing Woods, but due to injury. The second-year wide receiver has emerged this season and will be relied on heavily down the stretch.

4. QB Matthew Stafford

Throughout the offseason, the Rams talked about Stafford’s performance after critical error – known as PACE. The idea was that Stafford is very good at coming back from bad plays and turning them into good ones. That wasn’t on display on Sunday as he threw back-to-back interceptions. Now, we’ll see how he bounces back from the Titans loss – one that he was primarily responsible for.

5. CB Darious Williams

Darious Williams returned last week from an injury and didn’t play particularly well. Williams allowed three catches on three targets and had a missed tackle that led to a fourth down conversation. The Rams will be going up against Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk this week. It’s a duo that gave them troubles last season.

Five Keys to Victory for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Make Tackles on Defense

It sounds simple, but it’s more than accurate. Deebo Samuel leads the NFL in yards after the catch and George Kittle ranks sixth in yards after the catch per reception for tight ends. During the first meeting last season in Week 6, Kittle had 109 yards. 72 of those came after the catch which led all tight ends that week. He was also one of five tight ends to force a missed tackle.

Deebo Samuel had 66 yards in that Week 6 matchup, and again led the NFL in yards after the catch with 96 yards. Due to  receptions behind the line of scrimmage, he had more yards after the catch than yards.

In Week 12, it was the same story. Samuel had 133 yards and 136 yards after the catch. The Rams must tackle on defense if they’re going to win this game.

2. Let Stafford Throw in Empty

The Rams have ran empty sets more than any other team this season and Stafford has thrived in it. Meanwhile the 49ers have allowed an 88.6 QBR against quarterbacks in empty this season which ranks 30th. They also rank 31st in yards per attempt allowed in empty. 

3. Get Red Zone Stops

The 49ers are the best team this season when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. As it stands, they are scoring touchdowns at a clip of 77.27% inside the 20. Meanwhile, the Rams defense has allowed touchdowns in the red zone 51.6% of the time which is seventh-best in the NFL. This is strength against strength, but the Rams can’t have a repeat of the Cardinals game.

4. Make Jimmy Garroppolo Uncomfortable

Jimmy Garroppolo has missed some time this year, but he’s thrown eight touchdowns to five interceptions. He’s thrown an interception in three of his last four games. Garroppolo’s 2.3% interception percentage ranks inside the bottom half of NFL quarterbacks this season. If the Rams can make him uncomfortable, they can force him into mistakes.

5. Stay Composed

The 49ers have swept the Rams each of the last two years. That’s four straight games. However, the 49ers also haven’t won a home game since their last win against the Rams in Week 12. Even without Robert Woods, the Rams are the better team on paper. With that said, McVay has gotten in his own head against the 49ers with Shanahan on the other side. He’ll need to remain composed and call a good game for the Rams to win.

Five Matchups To Watch

1. Jalen Ramsey vs. Deebo Samuel

Jalen Ramsey has been one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL this season. He’ll need to be that for the Rams on Sunday. While George Kittle poses a threat, Ramsey needs to play the majority of his snaps against Samuel. If Samuel has another big day against this secondary, it’s going to be a long night in The Bay.

2. Leonard Floyd vs. Tom Compton

Last week, the 49ers lost right tackle Mike McGlinchey for the remainder of the season with a torn quad. However, Compton also missed practice on Friday. If it’s not Compton, the Floyd will see Jaylon Moore. With that said, either way Floyd will be getting a replacement play at right tackle. Floyd leads the Rams with 7.5 sacks this season. Jimmy Garroppolo has taken a sack on 5.8% of his throws. Floyd should have a favorable matchup.

3. Troy Reeder vs. George Kittle

We’ll see how the Rams defend George Kittle, but in all likelihood, Reeder could see time against the 49ers tight end. As mentioned above, Kittle hurt the Rams in the one game he played against them last season. Reeder has been up and down in coverage this season and will need to be at his best. The Rams have allowed the fifth most yards to tight ends this season and will need to be on their A-game.

4. Nick Bosa vs. Rób Havenstein

Bosa is the most double-teamed edge rusher in the NFL this season. He is to the 49ers what Aaron Donald is for the Rams. Jeffery Simmons blew up the Rams’ game plan last week and Bosa has that same ability. The 49ers will align Bosa wherever he’s going to have the most success. He could stand up over the middle, but if he’s on the edge, it will likely be against Havenstein.

5. Mattthew Stafford vs. Fred Warner

The quarterback of the offense vs. the quarterback of the defense. Stafford vs. Warner will be a mental back-and-forth to keep an eye on throughout the night. Warner is one of the best linebackers in the NFL and despite a lack of talent, he’ll be looking to have his guys in position to make plays.

Five Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Rams

1. Van Jefferson Has First Career 100-Yard Game

With no Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp is going to be the sole focus of the 49ers defense this week. While Beckham could play, he’ll likely be more of a decoy. There’s no way he’ll have the intricacies of the playbook down to run the full offense. That leaves an opportunity for Van Jefferson. Jefferson and Stafford have shown a strong connection this season and that could be on display on Monday Night.

2. The Rams Beat the 49ers

Despite being a four-point favorite on the road, this is still a bold prediction. The Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers in two years. The last win against the 49ers came December 30th of the 2018 season. Even after losing Woods, the Rams are clearly the better team. Robert Saleh is with the Jets which should alleviate McVay. It might be close, but the Rams should win.

3. Darrell Henderson Scores Two Touchdowns

Darrell Henderson has had a good season up to this point and will play a huge role going forward. With no Woods, the Rams may look to stick to the run game and look to get out with a win. The 49ers have allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this season which is the third-most in the NFL. Henderson has a touchdown in all but three games this season. Look for him to get in the end zone multiple times on Monday Night.

4. The Rams Hold Deebo Samuel Under 50 Yards

Deebo Samuel has 50 yards in every game this season. However, to beat the 49ers, the Rams are going to have to focus on Samuel and take him out of the game. Samuel was held to 52 yards against the Packers and 58 yards in the first game against the Cardinals. Jalen Ramsey shuts down Samuel.

5. Odell Beckham Jr. Scores a Touchdown

Odell Bckeham Jr. is going to play a threat in the red zone for the Rams. As a rookie, Beckham ranked eighth in the NFL in red zone touchdowns with eight. He again ranked inside the top-15 with six in 2015. Between 2014-2018, Beckham had 25 touchdowns in the red zone. The Browns didn’t utilize Beckham in that area, but he’ll be a threat there for the Rams.

Five Storylines to Follow

1. Monday Night Football After a Loss

The Rams lost to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football last week. Following the 49ers on Monday Night, the Rams will be heading into a much-needed bye. At 7-2, going into the bye with an 8-2 record would put the Rams in solid position heading into the season’s second half. It’s going to be crucial for the Rams to bounce back.

2. Rams Haven’t Beaten the 49ers in Two Years

The Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers since the 2018 season and one of those losses came against Nick Mullens last year. This is a must-win game for the Rams since they trail the Arizona Cardinals by a game and are in the race for the NFC’s top-seed. Meanwhile, the 49ers haven’t won a home game since their Week 12 win over the Rams last season. Even without Woods, the Rams will need to overcome a lot to win this game.

3. McVay vs. Shanahan

Whenever these two coaches get together, all eyes are on them. These are two of the best offensive minds in the NFL. They are also two very good friends. Shanahan has gotten the best of McVay the last two years, but prior to that, McVay had won all but one Week 17 game in which starters were rested against Shanahan. This will be a big coaching matchup.

4. Odell Beckham Jr.’s Debut

The Los Angeles Rams signed Odell Beckham Jr. on Thursday. With the Robert Woods injury, he will for certainty be making his debut on Monday Night Football against the 49ers. We’ll see how big of a role he plays and how involved he is, but the former first round pick will suit up in a Rams uniform.

5. Robert Woods Down

During practice on Friday, Robert Woods tore his ACL and will be done for the season. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but even more difficult with the expectations that the Rams have and with the injury happening late in the week. The Rams have a solid leadership core and they’ll do everything they can to get everyone ready to play as business as usual.

Mailbag

Question 1

It would not be surprising to see Jalen Ramsey on Deebo Samuel for most of the evening. This season, Samuel has the ninth most targets from the slot. Meanwhile, Ramsey spends a lot of time in the slot, playing 156 snaps there this season. Ramsey will move back and fourth, but if Ramsey is in “star”, he’ll be on Deebo.

Question 2

Yes, I do think that the Rams will be closer to the 60-40 run-pass ratio during this game. James Conner rushed for 96 yards on 21 carries against the Cardinals last week and the 49ers rank in the bottom-half of the league against the run. The 49ers rank sixth in DVOA against the run, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a similar gameplan as the one against the Seahawks in which the Rams ran the ball 43% of the time.

Question 3

Odell Beckham Jr. will most definitely play this game. The question is, is he wide receiver two or wide receiver three. Beckham will play a majority of the snaps as the Rams will stick to 11 personnel. Beckham will likely be used as a decoy, however. The 49ers will focus on Kupp, but with Beckham as a decoy, that should open things up for Van Jefferson. Beckham should get more involved as the season goes on, but for this week, Jefferson is the Woods replacement.

Game Prediction

I’ve said it enough times, but the Rams haven’t beaten the 49ers in two years and will go into this game with no Robert Woods, no Johnny Mundt, no Jacob Harris, no TuTu Atwell, and no Sebastian Joseph-Day. This team is dealing with an injury bug, but so are the 49ers. There are no excuses if the 7-2 Rams lose this game to a team that hasn’t won a home game since last November.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see this being a close game throughout. The 49ers will be ready to play and won’t have a let down like last week against the Cardinals and Colt McCoy. Meanwhile, the Rams have gone through a lot this week with Beckham coming and Woods going down with an injury.

For the Rams, this game starts up front. They need to protect Stafford from the likes of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. If the Rams lose the battle up front, it will be a similar story as last week. With the Brian Allen injury, there are reasons to be concerned in that area.

At the end of the day, the Rams have two losses. Both of those losses are to the NFL’s top teams in their respective conferences. The 49ers have lost four of their last five, with the only win coming against the Chicago Bears.

Despite offense being the focus, I see a low-scoring game. The Rams offense will struggle to find its groove early as the defense keeps them in it. Much like the Seahawks game, the Rams will head into the fourth quarter losing, but take a touchdown drive that puts them in the lead for good.

Prediction: Rams 24, 49ers 20

 

 

 

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