The finish line is approaching and the Los Angeles Rams have fought many difficult battles to reach the top of the NFC West. With low expectations to begin the season and a buzzing sound of doubt from around the league, this squad managed to play their best in a different style—choosing a defense-first approach rather than the revered Sean McVay Rams offense people quickly clung to.
Now going into Week 15 at 9-4 the Rams may still be on the league’s column of overlooked teams contending for a playoff push but those who are not seeing the potential for this team to make the NFC Championship Game, or even the Super Bowl, have plainly not been paying attention.
The impact of veteran players is undoubted with Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald elevating this team into a top-five defense and stopping the right offenses including the Buccaneers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Patriots, and losing to the formidable Bills by only a field goal.
On the offensive side of the football, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, and Darrell Henderson have given Jared Goff and McVay some relief out of playing an offensive scheme reminiscent of 2018 for a smarter, time-engulfing progression of the offense that no longer aims to score 30+ per game and is better at keeping opposing offenses off the field (ranked third in the league for time of possession—29:00 minutes per game).
The foundation is set for a deep playoff run and while the veterans on the Rams are rightly lauded for their efforts, the impact of the 2020 rookie class has also been a deciding factor for a number of wins and can impact the playoffs going forward. Here are the Rams rookies that will make the biggest impact during the 2020 playoffs.
Rams Rookies That Will Make The Most Impact In The Playoffs
Rookie strong safety Jordan Fuller has filled a void left by Taylor Rapp (sent to IR due to an MCL sprain) to keep LA from missing a beat with deep coverage of the field. The sixth-round pick out of Ohio State has exceeded his draft value with a recorded 30 tackles and three interceptions for the booming secondary, two of those interceptions from Tom Brady in a 27-24 win for the Rams against Tampa Bay.
Another unlikely star to emerge in 2020 for the Rams’ secondary, including cornerback Darious Williams and linebacker Kenny Young, the dependency on Fuller has paid off. Filling up more of the field with great tackling and coverage has allowed Jalen Ramsey to continue shutting down opposing WR1s and allowing Aaron Donald to disrupt the quarterback alongside new addition Leonard Floyd. Most fans still await the return of Taylor Rapp, but Fuller may see a starting role well into the playoffs since Brandon Staley isn’t afraid of developing rookies early.
OG Tremayne Anchrum
The final pick of the 2020 draft for the Rams, listed as an LT, Tremayne Anchrum sits behind Joseph Noteboom who is the fill-in left tackle for the injured veteran Andrew Whitworth. Far from the atrocities of last year but still in the middle of the league, the Rams offensive line will need to keep Goff from seeing ghosts of last year and provide a slight boost to help him play more like 2018 Goff instead of 2019. A 2-3 TD:INT ratio in the past three games isn’t the momentum the Rams were hoping for going into the playoffs, with a continual need to fend off the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals.
Noteboom has helped the improving offensive line reduce the number of sacks allowed this year, but his run-blocking will need to see improvement especially if McVay unleashes the final rookie on this list to aid Goff should he continue the sub-par performance.
The Clemson OT displayed solid mobility and firm blocking in his collegiate play, and it may be the type of blocking the Rams will need. Joseph Noteboom currently grades 54.4 according to PFF, he will undoubtedly get the next game or two to showcase viability for the starting position, however, it’s a performance report the Rams will be keeping an eye on to continue tightening every screw ahead of the playoffs.
The rookie running back from Florida State entered the season as the consensus favorite pick of the draft as the fan base longed to see where the backfield would be headed after Todd Gurley’s departure.
RB Cam Akers
The rookie running back from Florida State entered the season as the consensus favorite pick of the draft as the fanbase longed to see where the backfield would be headed after Todd Gurley’s departure. Many saw Cam Akers as the clear-cut solution while others saw an avenue for a committee backfield with the potential of Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson to also nab the starting role. The two veteran running backs have certainly splashed and taken away the rookie’s opportunity to account for more rushes as the season. This may be more of a calculation by Sean McVay rather than a disappointing effort by Akers.
There is a Sean McVay troupe in this offense that takes place in the latter half of seasons where a player begins to emerge with ridiculous impact. Last year the emergence of Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett as a tandem threat for the receiving corps felt like an “ace up the sleeve” by McVay and sparked the offense thanks to the unlikely stars.
By this point in the season, there was not a true expectation to see Cam Akers go off after Darrell Henderson’s 452 rushing yards from Weeks 2-8. Henderson was gaining traction as the favorite to lead this backfield, sprinkle in more carries for Malcolm Brown and Akers began trending toward the typical role of another typical rookie running back rather than a Nick Chubb/Kareem Hunt-type of rookie campaign.
Carrying the ball an unprecedented 21 times (combining for 24 carries the previous three weeks) for 72 yards against the Cardinals was a surprise feature for Akers coming from the Rams offense that helped guide them to a 38-28 win. The following week: 29 carries for 171 yards. For his first seven games, Akers ran the ball 59 times. In the past two weeks: 50 carries.
Looking to finish the season on a high note and carrying the momentum into the postseason, Akers has become this year’s “unlikely” star from the McVay offense, and keeping him on a hot track will help the Rams retain an edge over elite NFC offenses like Green Bay, feeding into a formula that has worked for Los Angeles all year.