The Los Angeles Rams are defending Super Bowl champions but look like everyone else in the NFC right now.
The Rams are 3-3 and second in the NFC West with a showdown against San Francisco next Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium. The 49ers licked the Rams on Monday Night in Santa Clara a few weeks ago.
Everyone wants to talk about the Rams problems. They have had a lot of injuries – especially on the offensive line. Cam Akers doesn’t look like he wants to be a Ram and is likely out the door. Allen Robinson II has only played well every other game. Aaron Donald has been strangely ineffective.
It’s a long NFL season – longer than it used to be – and the Rams are still in good shape, probably because the rest of the NFC, shrug….But instead of talking about what the Rams haven’t done, let’s discuss what they could do to get on track.
Remember Student Body Right
Running games are funny in the NFL. You don’t necessarily need to have a good one to win games, but when you have a good one, it makes winning so much easier.
The Rams running game ranks 31st in the NFL. They are last in rushing first downs at just 24.
But the thing with running attacks is you have to stick with it, or else they’re never going to get going.
The Rams have just 126 rushing attempts this season while quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown the ball 227 times. That’s out of whack.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley himself has 119 rushing attempts so far this season.
Looking at some other NFC teams, the 49ers have almost an even split of runs to pass 168 runs and 179 passes. The undefeated Philadelphia Eagles have 225 runs and just 184 pass attempts. See? Running the ball can work.
The Rams need to commit to the running game and be patient for it to work. Darrell Henderson is a quality NFL back. The most carries he’s had in one game all year is 13. Sticking with the run would also open up more chances in the passing game, because right now, everyone knows the Rams offense is short passes and lots of Cooper Kupp. It’s great, but only to a point.
Now you can say that last year the Rams offensive balance was about the same, 420 rushes, 607 passing attempts, but that was a different team with different weaknesses and strengths. These Rams need to run the ball.
No OBJ, Sign Best OLR
Establishing the run also helps cover up the Rams biggest problem on the field right now, and that is the offensive line is ravaged by injuries.
This is not the line the Rams expected to have at the start of the season. Now, the Rams have lost starting tackle Joe Noteboom for the season. Alaric Jackson has had to play left tackle from his usual guard spot. Oday Aboushi was the hero in the Panthers game, coming in and playing after just signing with the team on Sept. 14. Remember, draft pick Logan Bruss tore his ACL in pre-season and starting center Brian Allen has been out for a while.
Sure, Odell Beckham Jr. would be nice, but the Rams need the best Offensive Lineman Remaining. The issue is that there just aren’t that many out there.
There is, however, the NFL trade deadline Nov. 1. The Rams do have assets they can trade. There are always deals to be made, that’s something the Rams have shown a willingness to do. If I told you the Rams could deal Bobby Wagner for a starting offensive lineman right now, would you make that trade? I mean, Wagner has been Ok, but the Rams have linebackers who could fill in.
Could you package Akers and a draft pick for an offensive lineman? You could do that too. The Rams aren’t winning anything big with this offensive line.
Or, Just Don’t Panic At All
In my pre-season projection, this is close to where I had the Rams, but I had them beating the Cowboys. I didn’t think they’d beat the Bills and I knew the 49ers would be lying in wait after losing in the NFC title game last year.
But you watch the Rams and everything is a struggle right now. Stafford is getting harassed; Jalen Ramsey has had some issues in coverage. The Rams don’t look like a Super Bowl contender at the moment.
Then you look at the schedule coming up. After the 49ers, the Rams get their bye week. They should get Allen back on the offensive line and that should help things a lot. Wide receiver Van Jefferson is supposed to come back. I think he helps, but it’s hard to throw the ball downfield when your offensive line isn’t getting any protection.
After the 49ers, the Rams get the Bucs (tough), Cardinals (should be a win), Saints (win), Chiefs (loss) and Seahawks (win). If it plays out that way, the Rams could be 7-5 or 6-6 with five games to play.
No one has done much in the NFC to jump ahead of the pack – except for the Eagles – so another way to look at it is that it’s all still there for the Rams. They just need to get going.