Los Angeles Rams: How to Stop the High Powered Packers Offense

by Tommy Mo
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The Los Angeles Rams received a much needed break last week with a bye in Week 11. After two back to back losses, the bye week came at a perfect time. This gave the Rams defense time to rest and game plan. That game plan should not only include the X’s and O’s of this week’s matchup against the Packers in Green Bay, but a self reflection of what kind of team will finish the season. Will they flounder or rise to the occasion to prove they are ready for a run at the Lombardi Trophy?

This week’s matchup is critical for their psyche as well as they’re standing in the NFC. The Rams are currently the fifth seed in the NFC and the Packers are in second behind the Cardinals. Although the Packers have one of the league’s best duos in Rodgers and Adams, I’ll find some weaknesses and tendencies the Rams Defense can exploit to stop the Packers Offense.

The Packers Offense

The Packers offense is lead by future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, All-Pro Wide Receiver Davante Adams, and Pro Bowl Running Back Aaron Jones. This is arguably the most talented offense the Los Angeles Rams have faced this year.  However, despite the talent the Packers offense is 17th in the league in points per game with 22.5. They are also just 12th overall with a scoring margin of +3.

One could say the Packers haven’t lived up to expectations statistically, nevertheless they are at the top of their Division with an 8-3 record. This is a team that finds ways to win despite dealing with adversity on both sides of the ball.

The Packers have been dealing with a slew of injuries that have caused bumps in the road but haven’t slowed them down. They have been succeeding with a true “next man up” mentality. After starting the season relatively healthy, the Packers have been hit hard.

In November, starting Center Josh Myers, last year’s standout Tight End Robert Tonyan, and backup Running Back Kylin Hill were all placed on Injured Reserve. Star defenders Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander were also placed on IR. This week’s official Injury Report is now listing Aaron Rodgers with a fractured toe. Rodgers has missed practice along with David Bakhtiari and Wide Receiver Malik Taylor. Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Allen Lazard were limited in practice this week with Adams being cleared but Jones and Lazard officially Questionable.

The Offensive Line

The offensive line for the Packers entered the season as the 16th ranked unit by Pro Football Focus. Despite injuries and a shuffling offensive line, this unit has been playing fairly well. Elgton Jenkins has been exceptional sliding over to left tackle. However, Jenkins is out as he was just declared out for the season this week with a torn ACL.

The Packers are now down to the their third string left tackle Yosuah Nijman who entered the league in 2019 as an undrafted Free Agent. Due to rotation by injury, Nijman has already started three games this season. That lack of experience will be tested this week against Aaron Donald and Von Miller. This is a spot that the Los Angeles Rams could have an advantage. 

Like Jenkins, now starting Left Guard Jon Runyan, Jr. has been filling in at multiple positions and has started every game except Week 1. Replacing injured Center Josh Myers is Lucas Patrick who was undrafted in 2016 and is also playing multiple positions.

At Right Guard is rookie Royce Newman who has already given up five sacks on the year and has a grade of 50.9 by PFF. Journeyman Right Tackle Billy Turner has been a consistent presence on the line this year but has still given up three sacks of his own.

In summary, this offensive line is injured and being replaced by just ok blockers. The right side of the line has been the liability, but now the left side is too. The offensive line is now a huge weak link for this offense.

Tendencies

  • 9th in adjusted line yards (4.54)
  • 79% success on power runs (3rd overall)
  • Running backs stuffed at the line of scrimmage 14% of the time (4th overall)
  • 11th in adjusted sack rate (5.8%)
  • 12th worst Time to Throw (2.69 seconds)
  • These numbers include stats from highly graded LT Elgton Jenkins who is now on IR

The Run Game

The Run Game is lead by the two-headed monster of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Jones has been the every week starter except for Week 11 that he missed with a knee injury. Jones has been effective in the run and pass game, and has been productive at scoring touchdowns.

However, he has only reached the century mark on the ground one time this season. His pace is down overall from his Pro Bowl season last year, especially on the ground. But his receiving production is up in terms of yards per reception and touchdowns. Jones was missed in Week 11 as the Packers lost and Dillon did little in his first start.

As of now, it is looking like this backfield operates better as a two-back committee. This has been the case for Aaron Jones in Green Bay as he had been playing with another good back in Jamaal Williams. Jones will be a game-time decision this week. While Jones and Dillon are different types of backs, Green Bay has shown that they will use them similarly.

Both backs are receiving a combined 22% of all of Rodgers’ targets this year. They have each carried the ball a total of 231 times. In total scrimmage yards, both Jones and Dillon have produced 39% of the team’s yards.

This backfield is a huge part of this Packers Offense and they are equally as potent in the air as they are on the ground. Their production despite a middling offensive line is a testament to their talent and this scheme. The Los Angeles Rams will need to prepare for both smash mouth style running mixed with screens, swings, darts, and wheel routes over the top.

Tendencies

  • 16th in rushing attempts per game (25.6)
  • 20th in rushing yards per game (108)
  • Runs plays called 41.9% of the time (16th)
  • Most successful running to the Left Guard and outside right
  • Least successful running to the Left Tackle and outside left
  • Most often will run over Center or the outside left
  • Most explosive runs (+10 yards) are over Center

The Passing Attack

The passing attack consists of Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. Outside of those two, it’s an unproven group of wide receivers. This pair has been lighting up defenses since 2016. Rodgers is currently 11th in passing yards 2,571, seventh in passing touchdowns with 21, and the second highest passer rating amongst quarterbacks with a minimum 10 games started.

He is on pace to complete another easy top 10 performance this year. His air yards are middle of the road this year, but he still boasts one of the longest completed air distance throws at 58.3 yards. Rodgers is playing very well with only four interceptions and 20 sacks on the year.

Davante Adams is the alpha on the team and is commanding the vast majority of the target share. He’s also accounting for 39.36% of the team’s total air yards, which puts him seventh in the league. In terms of his standing in the NFL, he is third in targets and fourth in receptions. Adams has been on a tear this year as he has three games over 100 yards and one game over 200.

At his current pace, Adams may top 1,600 yards receiving. This week’s matchup between Adams and Ramsey will be a chess match, and a rematch for Ramsey who Adams got the best of in their Divisional Round playoff game in January.

Other pass catchers who Rodgers will pepper with sporadic targets include: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown, and rookie Amari Rodgers. Valdes-Scantling sports the highest average depth of target in the league with 20.8. He is clearly the deep target for Rodgers.

Lazard and Cobb have two of top-five highest percentage of routes run from lining up inline. St. Brown has only played in eight games this year and has the same number of targets. Amari Rodgers has played in every game this year, and started one. However, the majority of his snaps have been on special teams.

The Tight End group has been non-existent in the pass game since Tonyan was put on IR. Look for veteran Marcedes Lewis to mostly be involved in blocking. The strength of the offense lies in the Rodgers to Adams connection and will be the main threat to shut down by the Los Angeles Rams.

Tendencies

  • Aaron Rodgers has the 7th longest completed air distance with 58.3
  • Top 10 in passing yards
  • 20th in passing attempts per game (33.5)
  • 20th in completions per game (22.1)
  • 13th in passing yards per game (243)
  • 10th in passing touchdowns per game (2)
  • Lowest passer rating to the deep right on all downs
  • Highest passer rating to the deep left and short middle
  • Highest frequency of short passes to the left and right on 1st and 2nd downs
  • Third and long passes are to the deep left and right mostly

Defensive Game Plan

This week’s game plan is simple, but involves stopping some of the best talent in the NFL. Rodgers is a master at his craft. Like the other elite veterans in the game, you can only hope to slow them down. Attacking Rodgers with a potent pass rush is the first key to victory. He needs to feel uncomfortable in the pocket. The Los Angeles Rams need to attack Rodgers early and often, using a four-man rush and blitzing off the edge. Miller and Floyd will lead the charge off the edges, with Donald pushing the middle.

The linebackers will have to be ready to hit and run. Jones brings a dynamic style out of the backfield and Dillon will hit you in the mouth. The Los Angeles Rams will need to hit first and not give up big runs. Ramsey and the safeties will have their hands full with Adams. However, double coverage will help to shut Adams down.

The rest of the pass catchers do not present enough of a threat that losing a defender to double coverage shouldn’t open up holes in the coverage. Pressure on Rodgers will help to disrupt throwing lanes and lead to coverage sacks.

Exploiting Tendencies

  • The left side of the offensive line is now the weakest link, blitzes and stunts should attack the left
  • Run plays have been most successful over Center, counter that with double A gap blitzes on early and short yardage downs
  • Bring pressure to the offensive line’s left on pass downs
  • Cover 3 on run downs, Cover 2 or 4 on passing downs when not playing Man
  • Double team Davante Adams whenever possible; shadow with Jalen Ramsey
  • Roll coverage to the offense’s left on 3rd and long situations
    • Safety can cheat to Rodgers’ left to take away his tendency to throw to the deep left
  • Attack Rodgers, stuff the run up the middle, and take away Adams
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