The Los Angeles Rams are 3-0 but it isn’t all sunshine in the City of Angels. While the Rams have the same amount of wins at this point of the season compared to last year, the wins haven’t been nearly as convincing. Last year, all of the first three wins were won by multiple possessions including a shutout. This year, however, two of the three wins were by only one possession. What can Sean McVay and his team do to step up their game moving forward?
Critiquing McVay And The Rams After 3-0 Start
Thus far, the Rams have needed their defense much more this year compared to last year. While Wade Phillips’ defense has been able to come through to this point, the Rams offense needs to be more productive if the team wants to remain strong throughout the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. Currently, the Rams are ranked eighth in points per game and 16th in yards per game. Compared to finishing last year with the second-best offense in both categories, the regression seems to be quite obvious.
A Bit Goff
In addition to the offense as a whole being less explosive than last year, the quarterback seems to have taken a step back as well. This year, through three games, Jared Goff has four touchdowns and three interceptions. Compared to his stats at this time last year at six touchdowns and two interceptions, the passing production has not been nearly as impressive thus far this year. Additionally, Goff has two games with fourth-quarter interceptions that let the opposing teams back into the game. While Goff needs to step it up, he isn’ the only part of the offense that is at fault: the offensive line and head coach Sean McVay need to be better.
As predicted before the season, the offensive line has taken a step back this year after the exit of Rodger Saffold and John Sullivan. As with many new starters, replacements Joseph Noteboom and Brian Allen have struggled as they have worked to get comfortable in their new roles. On top of that, right guard Austin Blythe has been battling an ankle injury, leaving his fill-in Jamil Demby to try to keep the ship afloat. In total, there are now three essential rookies playing on the offensive line, leaving Goff, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, and Darrell Henderson to contend with more pass rushers than usual. This is why Goff has been sacked six times this year through the first three games compared to four times last season at the same point.
In addition to the offensive line and quarterbacks underperforming, the head coach has been marginally disappointing through the first three games. While Sean McVay has been lauded around the league as an offensive mastermind, his offense hasn’t been equally praised in his third year. Namely, there doesn’t seem to be much more newness in terms of plays and formations. While this doesn’t mean that his offense can’t still be explosive, it does put more pressure on the play-caller to call the right play at the right time due to the fact that other teams have seen these looks before and thus the plays lose an element of surprise.
Also, McVay hasn’t been as eager to call running plays this year compared to last year. Specifically, the Rams have about nine percent fewer rushes at this point in the year compared to last year. This is important because of the scheme that McVay likes to employ. Many of the team’s big chunk plays come on play-action. When one runs fewer times, that makes the fakes less believable and allows defenders to lock down receivers further down the field.
Of course, McVay has been clear about using Todd Gurley less in order to save his body for January and February. However, he can still increase the use of Brown and Henderson in lieu of Gurley, thus both keeping the feature back safe while allowing for more runs that help set up play-action passes later in the game.
Putting It Together
If the offensive line can be better and McVay can call a better game, Goff should be able to play better and the Rams offense will begin to score more which will lead to more convincing wins against weaker teams and more competitive battles against the best teams.