Los Angeles Rams: Have We Seen The Best of Jalen Ramsey?

by Blaine Grisak
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It’s not very often that I’ll write a reaction piece on another article. However, when greatness is taken for granted, it’s hard to ignore it. That’s the case here with Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Only two cornerback have had three first-team all-pros and five pro bowls in their first six seasons. Those players are Jalen Ramsey and Patrick Peterson

Recently, ESPN ranked the top-10 cornerbacks in the NFL. In the article, ESPN polled NFL players, coaches, and executives to get a top-10. While Ramsey ended number one, it was one quote from an AFC executive that really stood out.

“I think he’s falling off and a little overrated at this point,” an AFC exec said. “Super Bowl, to me, is an indication of what it’s going to look like moving forward.” A NFL personnel director added, “He’s not as good as [Darrelle] Revis or Charles Woodson, but he’s the best in this era,” an NFL personnel director said. “He does everything well.”

The article continues to say that one NFL exec said Ramsey’s man coverage was not great in 2021, that he wasn’t isolated in that matchup often and he gave up a high percentage of catches when he was.

There’s a lot to digest here. While other players ranked No. 1 on their position lists did have some negative aspect of their game highlighted in the series, none went as far as to call that player ” falling off and a little bit overrated.”

The question here is, have the Los Angeles Rams have seen the best of Jalen Ramsey? Was what fans and analysts saw in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl a sign of what’s to come?

Before diving into all of that, there are a few things worth mentioning. The first is that Ramsey played with tears in both of his shoulders. Despite all of this, he was still the most elite cornerback in football. Secondly, the big play to Tee Higgins in the Super Bowl should have gotten called back for a facemask penalty at least, if not offensive pass interference.

 

The Higgins score was a 75-yard touchdown which accounted for almost half of Ramsey’s 160 yards given up via Pro Football Focus. Take away that play and Ramsey gave up four receptions on eight targets for 95 yards and no touchdowns. The Bengals weren’t afraid to throw at Ramsey as they were one of three teams to go his directions nine times or more in a game last season.

It’s also worth noting that while these numbers come from PFF, the analytics company doesn’t know Ramsey’s specific assignments. Therefore, these numbers could be, or likely are, much lower in the Los Angeles Rams’ eyes.

In 2020, Jalen Ramsey excelled against top wide receivers. When guarded by Ramsey, Amari Cooper was the receiver who had the most success with seven receptions for 57 yards. That game came in Week 1.

Ramsey is the definition of a true number one cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams. Last season he covered opposing teams’ top wide receiver 36% of the time which was the eighth-highest rate in the NFL. Ramsey started last season off elite as well. In Week 1, he allowed one reception for one yard against Allen Robinson. The following week, he gave up one reception for seven yards against Michael Pittman.

The former Jaguars cornerback consistently shuts down DeAndre Hopkins and did so last season in Week 4. Outside of the postseason, Ramsey was dominant. The only receiver to have any amount of success on Ramsey was Mike Evans. Even then, Ramsey was successful on seven of nine targets as nearest defender vs Evans. It was one big play that gave Evans 88 yards against Ramsey which was the most he’s allowed against a player since Week 17, 2017.

One of Ramsey’s negatives brought up was that his man coverage wasn’t great in 2021. Last season in 32 reps of press man coverage, Ramsey allowed two receptions for 18 yards on just four targets. Receivers were open against him in these snaps, zero percent of the time.

Ramsey is certainly more comfortable in zone, but what makes Ramsey truly stand out is his scheme versatility and ability to play all over the defense. Last season, Ramsey played over 200 snaps in the slot. That’s not something you get from other top cornerbacks. Ramsey’s 0.88 yards per snap in the slot ranked sixth in the NFL. This is what separates Ramsey from other great cornerbacks.

Darrell Revis played more than 100 snaps in the slot in a season one time. Richard Sherman has barely played in the slot at all in his career. The same can be said about Patrick Peterson who has a career high of 71 snaps from the slot in a season.

The isn’t a defensive back who is asked to do as much as Jalen Ramsey and excel at it like he does. Ramsey’s 16 forced incompletions ranked third in the NFL.

The fact is, Ramsey is still in the middle of his prime as he’ll turn 28 years old in October. Looking at other cornerbacks, Revis put together a comeback player of the year performance in his age 28 season and the following year was a first-team All-Pro in Tampa Bay.

Historically, cornerbacks have started to fall off at around 30. This is when notable players like Nnamdi Asomugha and Josh Norman fell off. The peak for corners is around 26-27 years old with a drop off at 30. This is currently in line with Ramsey who had two of his best years at age 26 and 27. Only four players have made first-team All-Pro at or after 30. Those players are Charles Woodson, Aqib Talib, and Charles Tillman.

Ramsey is certainly in the same caliber as Woodson and Talib. Woodson prolonged his career by switching to safety and Ramsey could potentially do that as well, especially with how versatile he is. The Los Angeles Rams also had first-hand experience with Talib.

When we see greatness, our reaction for some reason is to try and tear it down rather than appreciate it. We see this with LeBron James and other great players. Ramsey will enter this season at 27 years old and doesn’t turn 28 until October. He’s one of a handful of players that completely changes the way a team can play around them.

Looking at history, at the very least, Ramsey has a year or two of elite play left and possibly more years after that in which he’s a very effective cornerback.

Ramsey stumbled in the playoffs last season, but context is important. Two injured shoulders – one which required surgery – and a missed facemask call and we are arguably having a much different conversation. Take away the big play against Evans, and the game against Tampa Bay isn’t that bad.

To date, Jalen Ramsey has put up a Hall of Fame caliber resume. He’s elite the best cornerback of this era. Those are two things that he most definitely is. One thing he is not, is overrated.

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