The 2018 Los Angeles Rams who broke off eight wins in a row, winning 10 of their first 11 games, this isn’t them. This year’s version of the Rams has raised more questions than answers through five weeks. However, with the talk about the scheme, play calls, and Todd Gurley, it’s the Rams defense that needs to start answering questions.
LA Rams Defense Face Undefeated Divisional Foe, the San Francisco 49ers
The problems defensively are nothing new to the Rams. Even with a player as dominating as Aaron Donald, the unit as a whole remains far from a top-five defense. While they are currently middle of the pack, ranked 13th in overall defense, the past two weeks have once again raised questions amongst a shaky start.
Winning covers a lot of cracks, and last year, it was an unstoppable offense that helped the Rams overcome any and all problems they had. This year, for whatever reason, that offense has struggled. However, it could, and should, also be said that the offense, for the most part, has done enough to win games.
Despite Struggles, Offense Doing Enough
The Rams offense, while not pretty, hasn’t done terrible this season. It may not look like it did last year, but when do teams ever look exactly like the same year-to-year? Patriots excluded. Admittedly, they aren’t using their star running back the way many want them to, but I tend to lean with head coach, Sean McVay. If your star player is coming off an injury, even if healthy, you shouldn’t overwork them. When they have needed him, they’ve called upon him, and he delivers each time. Back to the offense as a whole.
Jared Goff and his offense are ranked sixth in points per game. In addition, they are fifth in total points and second in yards per game, through Week 5. Their lowest scoring game was a 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns. While the recent losses aren’t ideal, consider the fact that the offense scored 40 points in the loss to Tampa Bay, and 29 points this past week in Seattle. This isn’t to say the offense doesn’t have their faults, but before we all start to question McVay’s play-calling, perhaps we hold accountable a unit that had the same struggles last year.
Lack of Defensive Improvements
It feels odd to say a defense featuring Aaron Donald needs adding to, but the Rams should have done just that this past off-season. Last year Donald accounted for half of the team’s sacks. This year, the biggest names coming in from free agency were safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Clay Matthews. Neither expected to really upgrade the defense, and so far, neither has. Considering the secondary was the one glaring sore spot late last year, not addressing it in the off-season has come back to bite in a big way.
The defense has given up 250 passing yards and four passing touchdowns in each of the last two games. Both of which resulted in losses. As good as Goff is, and as great as he can be, it’s always going to be asking too much to ask him to put up close to 40 points to win games. There doesn’t seem to be much urgency to fix the issue either, as the Rams seem to be missing from the teams rumored to be in on superstar cornerback, Jalen Ramsey.
Of course, other factors like salary cap come into play, but for a team that is already in Super Bowl contention, a player the caliber of Ramsey could be what they need to win it next time around. For the sake of their season, something may have to change, and a move made soon. This week they host the undefeated 49ers, in what’s shaping up to be the toughest division in the NFL. Another loss, especially ugly, could see them backed against the wall before Halloween.
Week 5 In the Wild West
The factor that’s causing the most anxiety amongst the LA faithful, has to be the play of their divisional rivals this season. There’s the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks, as well as the aforementioned undefeated 49ers. The latter is set to visit Los Angeles this coming Sunday. While the 49ers rank 22nd in the league in passing yards per game, they are number one in rushing yards per game, averaging 200 yards. The defense for LA has already allowed two rushers to finish with over 100 yards on the day, but have yet to face the speed the likes of Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman.
This is another test for the LA Rams defense, and after the past two weeks, all eyes will be on them to see how they bounce back. The 49ers aren’t the best passing team, so if Donald can lead a gap stoppage and prevent success on the ground, the secondary should feast. Or at least not allow four touchdowns. A loss Sunday will put them at 3-3 and that much farther back in an already deathly NFC West. It’s hard to call a game in early October a must-win, but for the Rams defense, it’s definitely a must perform, or face some tough decisions in the near future.