The Los Angeles Rams are currently sitting at 3-3 coming out of the bye week. That’s not a sentence I’m sure many were expecting to hear but it’s the harsh truth. Coming off the Super Bowl win in February, this team has underperformed expectations. Sean McVay’s offense hasn’t been the same due to inconsistency on the offensive line. The run game has suffered as well with Cam Akers looking to be on the way out of LA. The defense has held up great and has been a top-5 unit, but it doesn’t help much if your offense can’t put points on the board. There’s a lot that can improve on the offensive side of the ball, but let’s break down some advanced statistics of the team so far.
The biggest issue on the offensive side of the ball this year has been the line. Only one opening-day starter remained for the Rams’ last game (Havenstein) and they’re down to the 3rd string center in Jeremiah Kolone. A majority of the offensive problems can be attributed to the line including the run game and pressure on Stafford. There’s likely not going to be a move for a lineman at the deadline so this group will have to do. A big part of offensive line chemistry is simply reps, something they haven’t gotten much of as most are inexperienced. The interior has been banged up, but Brian Allen should be returning from injury after the bye to provide a bit more consistency there. Their pass-blocking grade according to PFF ranks 30th and run-blocking ranks third to last again showing how terrible the line has been this year.
Havenstein has been a consistent veteran presence on the line and has had a solid year so far. PFF ranks him 10th this year with 3 sacks allowed to Noteboom’s 5. In fact, the Rams give up more sacks to the OLB position than they do to interior linemen or defensive ends. Teams have been exploiting the Rams’ weakness with stunts and moves along the defensive line to create easy openings for pass rushers. That’s most likely why Sean McVay noted that Alaric Jackson will be the starting left tackle moving forward. Jackson did seem to perform better than Noteboom has so far this year and it’s something to monitor for the rest of the year.
The passing game hasn’t been the same without Van Jefferson. A large part of it has been the offensive line giving Stafford the time to hit longer routes downfield, but Jefferson should add a different dimension to the offense when he returns. When targeting Jefferson, Stafford had the highest passer rating outside of Kupp. Van also had the highest average depth of target aside from DJax last year proving that he’s the downfield target this offense needs. He’s slated to return following the bye week and I’d expect him to step up and contribute more than Allen Robinson has in the passing game.
Kupp has had to carry his weight and more in the passing game without a defined second wideout. Last game we saw him nursing an ankle injury, which doesn’t surprise me, as the Rams would barely be able to function on offense without him. The ball has been very spread around between Skowronek, Robinson, and Powell. Tutu Atwell has rarely contributed despite a 50-yard bomb against Dallas. Brandon Powell has taken any opportunity from him on offense as they’re used pretty similarly. Atwell did look good on that one route and his speed could come in handy to go deep. The main problem with that is the fact that a good portion of Stafford’s interceptions last year and this come on those deep balls where he seems to just chuck it down there.
Allen Robinson hasn’t been the receiver the Rams signed him to be so far and has barely started to adjust to the offense. We’re seeing less production from him than Robert Woods last year, and both couldn’t find chemistry with Stafford. This is due to a couple of key factors including chemistry and separation. In years where he was most productive, Robinson has ranked within the top 5 of contested catch rate. His major strength is winning those one-on-one balls when the quarterback can put it on the money. This doesn’t work obviously if you have a QB that refuses to target you in those situations. Stafford doesn’t entirely trust Robinson to win those tight battles with a DB and it’s safe to say he doesn’t want to throw even more risky balls.
The Rams’ run game this year has been abysmal. They rank 31st in rushing yards per game only ahead of Tampa with 70 yards a game. It’s not much of a drop-off from last year when they ranked 27th with 95.7, but Rams backs were more efficient with the ball in their hands last season. Sony Michel was a bigger loss than expected with his short yardage and power running style coming in handy last year. The biggest problem they face right now is running behind a line that’s a revolving door to the backfield. Both main backs are getting hit in the backfield frequently and fail to advance to the line of scrimmage at times. A majority of the Rams’ offensive problems can be solved by the offensive line. The running game opens up more opportunities in the passing game and relieves some pressure off of Stafford. Defensive backs don’t respect the Rams’ rushing attack so they sit back in coverage making passes tougher to complete.
The blocking scheme has been working pretty perfectly, but if one person messes up their assignment the whole play gets blown up. Rams backs aren’t able to take advantage of the holes they’re given by the line and without good burst or acceleration, they turn what could be a 10+ yard run into a 5-yard one. Using Skowronek as a fullback has opened up more possibilities on offense with him blocking the end that would normally enter the backfield untouched. Cam Akers is the worst offender of not hitting the holes designed for him. He’s certainly not the back he used to be and makes very poor decisions when it comes to choosing a running lane. Take this play, for example, you’d think he’d want to go the red route where the line has opened up a hole in the defense when instead he takes the blue route and bounces outside for little yardage. His vision and unintelligent moves are the main problems with his play this year. If you want to see more on why Henderson is the better Rams RB, check out Jake’s video here.