Jalen Ramsey hasn’t looked exactly like himself. He has allowed the ninth most receptions and the fifth most receiving yards and allowed the third-highest passer rating when targeted in the NFL this year. He has also allowed five touchdowns this season. That number equals the total he has allowed as a Los Angeles Ram. All those paired with just one interception are not exactly shutdown corner rankings. Just last season, this wasn’t the case. While he was tied for eighth with receptions allowed, he allowed only the 24th most yards and the fifth-best passer rating.
The Rams Super Bowl run was actually when Ramsey’s cracks began to show. After allowing just 37 yards per game in the regular season, Ramsey allowed nearly double that in the playoffs including his worst performance of his career, giving up 160 yards in the Super Bowl.
Rather than simpling labeling Ramsey as “washed” I wanted to dig a little deeper into the various factors in play that may be resulting in Ramsey’s drop off in play.
Some will point to the other cornerbacks on the field as what is dragging Ramsey down. And to be fair Derion Kendrick hasn’t been the best opposite of Ramsey, but the real culprit has been Taylor Rapp. This is Ramsey’s first season without a top-tier safety backing him up. Is it a coincidence that Jordan Fuller also missed the playoffs last season?
Out of necessity, Rapp is being asked to play outside of his skill set, neither he nor Nick Scott have the extraordinary football IQ and field vision that Fuller has, which means that Ramsey is being asked to do more and cover more ground more often than in years past with Fuller and John Johnson before him.
The stat that this is most reflected in is air yards allowed. This season he has already allowed 355 passing yards through the air. It is the most since his time in Jacksonville. All of last season he allowed just 321 yards. This simply shows that Ramsey is being asked to defend receivers further downfield. Another contributing factor to that is the Rams lack of a pass rush. Last season the Rams had the third most sacks, so far this season they have the 10th fewest.
With Aaron Donald missing time, their pass rush is even less effective. This of course means that quarterbacks have more time to let big plays develop. This means good safety play is all the more important. The Rams are lacking, so more stress on the outside cornerbacks. That responsibility is more on Ramsey now as well
Ramsey’s Changing Role
Last season, Ramsey played almost 14 snaps per game as the slot defender. This season that is down to just 8. There are a few things at play here. One Troy Hill is a better nickel corner than he is an outside corner. In just 8 games, he has played 28 more snaps in the slot than Ramsey. Not only that, but the Rams lack depth at the position.
Last season the Rams could confidently move him inside and trust that Darious Williams could adequately hold it down while out wide. This season, David Long and Derion Kendrick are in that role. Both haven’t lived up to Williams’ level. So Ramsy has to play outside. Ramsey is actually one of the league’s best slot defenders, but with the state of the cornerback’s room, he has to play outside.
One of the things that made Ramsey so dangerous was the Rams ability to move him around situationally, this season that has been attenuated.
Luck’s Double Edge Sword
With all the bad stats for Ramsey this season, there are a few interesting highlights. He has only given up seven explosive plays. Four of those plays had less than a 30 percent chance of being caught per NextGen Stats’ completion probability. Meaning he was doing everything he could do to stop the play.
The most notable of those came against the Raiders in Week 14. Ramsey gave up two catches over 30 yards to Davante Adams. Those were the fourth and fifth least probable catches of that week in football. Not only that, but the Rams allowed Adams just one yard of separation in that game. He averaged 3.1 yards of separation on the season. Those passes had to be put in just the right spots and need a receiver that is as good as Adams to haul them in. Adams even made an incredible one-handed catch on the second one.
Ramsey is on a bad streak of giving up explosive plays. Six of the seven have come in the last five games. But between Weeks 2 and 8, he gave up zero explosive plays.
Summation of Ramsey’s Washed Watch
Yes, Ramsey has been exceedingly taxed this year. There is more on his shoulders on and off the field. He is the veteran presence in a backfield filled with young and inexperienced backs. On one hand, superstars are supposed to rise to these kinds of challenges. On the other, only so much can be expected from one great player. Aaron Donald is going through a similar season. He was on pace to have the lowest sack total of his career and he was playing so hard that he broke the unbreakable.
Another factor is his age. 28 is around when hot cornerbacks start to get burned by younger receivers. (Chris Olave, eh-hmmm)
There also aren’t a lot of cases where cornerbacks make miraculous turnarounds after down years. With the future of the Rams being what it is, Ramsey may not be on the team long enough to prove an exception to that rule.
He’s certainly not the force of nature Rams fans are used to, but he is still much better than 95 percent of the DBs in the league.