Training camp is just on the horizon, but for now, it is still the “dead period” for the NFL. So what is there to do for fans while rosters are still forming? Continue the analysis of another opponent of the 2022 Atlanta Falcons, of course! We continue this series with the offense of the Los Angeles Rams. For this exercise, we will analyze the strengths, weaknesses, and points of attack of the Rams offense versus the Atlanta Falcons defense. Let’s get into it!
Atlanta Falcons Opponent Analysis: Los Angeles Rams Offense
Sean McVay’s House of Mirrors
We start this opponent analysis for the Atlanta Falcons with the Los Angeles Rams’ enigmatic play-caller: Sean McVay. There are enough good things to say about McVay that will take the entire off-season to list off. But one of the main things that make his offense special is his way of disguising his intentions from play-to-play and drive-to-drive.
Just like a chess master must camouflage his ambush on the tiles, McVay deploys numerous tactics to give defensive coordinators nightmares. One of his essential strategies is pre-snap motion. A recurring type of this motion is the jet-sweep motion.
Mcvay has players like Robert Woods or Van Jefferson screaming down the line of scrimmage towards the quarterback before snapping the ball. Having threats with that speed attacking the flat zone forces the flat defender, whether linebacker or cornerback, to commit quicker to guarding the flat. The windows underneath open up quicker for quarterback Matthew Stafford to attack.
But even that aspect of the offense has wrinkles that McVay uses to throw the defense for a loop. He can use the jet motion to shift the linebackers out of their respective running lanes, giving the running backs wider holes to run through. If the defense doesn’t respect the jet motion, as they should, he can hand it off to the motioned player for an end-around or a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage.
The possibilities are endless for McVay, and the jet motion is just one way of a myriad that he can cause headaches for a defense pre- and post-snap.
Rams hit a Slide route to Kupp off of a bootleg to start the drive.
On the very next play, look at all the eye candy they give to the Colts off-ball defenders. They shift, then put Woods in a Jet motion and then have Kupp slicing across the formation just like the play before. pic.twitter.com/wt27S3SCW5
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 23, 2021
“It’s not the x’s and o’s. It’s the Jimmies and Joes.”
A well-known football proverb. However, when you have the x’s and o’s alongside the Jimmies and Joes, it makes life so much easier. And the Rams have one of the better Jimmies (or Joes?) in the football world.
Cooper Kupp just recently obtained the triple crown in receiving in 2021 by leading the league in receptions (145), yards (1947), and touchdowns (16). The first to accomplish this since Steve Smith in 2005 and only the fourth to achieve the feat since 1970 (Sterling Sharpe, 1992; Jerry Rice, 1990).
Guys that produce numbers like this make it easy for the rest of the team to play loose. The skill players are more comfortable. The field opens up for the quarterback. Everything works better because when all else fails: you have that go-to guy that can seal the deal.
Even as the focal point, it was impossible to stop Kupp last season. His versatility allowed him to be used everywhere in this offense. He was the jet motion player that attacked the flat, the slot receiver in the compressed sets who pin-blocked the safety, the outside receiver who threatened the offense vertically. To say it plainly, Kupp could do it all. He was 100% the cog that made this super bowl winning engine go.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 14, 2022
Let’s preface this by saying that Matthew Stafford is one of the main reasons the Rams won the Super Bowl last season. His ability to stretch the field vertically allowed McVay to attack vertically sooner in the game. Whereas before, McVay had to open windows for former quarterback Jared Goff using short passes and a great run game.
However, Stafford does tend to be erratic with his throws. He has the arm strength to make a lot of throws, but he sometimes takes chances that he does not need to take. And the statistics prove that, while being eighth in attempts, Stafford had the fourth-most bad throws in the league in 2021, per Pro-Football-Reference. He also stands at the 16th spot for on-target percentage on his throws with 76.6%. For reference, Joe Burrow was first at 82.8%, while Matt Ryan was 9th at 78.1%.
Not to say that Matthew Stafford is not a good quarterback. Not to say that he does not add extra substance to this offense. But, there are more opportunities for plays by the defense. Opportunities that the Atlanta defense must be prepared for.
Points of Attack
Defensive Line’s Success
In three of five losses for the Rams, the pressure rate per dropback was over 20%. That means that one out of every five times Stafford dropped back, he suffered some form of pressure (hits, hurried throws, and sacks).
Manufacturing pressure from unconventional positions on the field is a staple of the Dean Pees system. That’s a well-known fact for Atlanta fans. However, for this game to be competitive, the defensive line needs to step up, cause pressure, and disrupt running lanes from the get-go.
All across this defensive line are young guys looking to prove themselves. Everyone will need to pitch in, from rookies Arnold Ebiketie and Deangelo Malone to young veterans such as Ta’Quon Graham, Marlon Davidson, and Adetokunbo Ogundeji. But we can’t rely on just the raw athleticism they bring.
.@ogundeji_ade (92) sets the edge, @GradyJarrett (97) fights the combo block allowing the LB to fill & Tyeler Davison (96) stays on his feet & in his gap as he works flat down the LOS. Teamwork! #stoptherun #falcons #dirtybirds pic.twitter.com/2yb7JKxl6g
— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) June 29, 2022
We will need the more seasoned veterans to step up and show why Terry brought them in here in the first place. We have been hearing all off-season how guys such as Lorenzo Carter and Vincent Taylor have “chips on their shoulders” coming into this season.
We got a DAWG in Lorenzo Carter 😤
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) March 26, 2022
These are the types of games where that is proven. These are times when big-time players make big-time plays.
This leads to the final point of this opponent analysis for the Atlanta Falcons: the closers on this team have to be able to close out games/drives.
These are eyeballs pointed directly to the two leaders on this defense: Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell. When people think of the Atlanta Falcons defense, these are the first two names that pop up league-wide.
Dean Pees’ matchup-zone scheme will have Terrell bouncing between who he will cover throughout the night but understand that Stafford is not afraid to test the best cover guy on the field. Whether Byron Murphy, James Bradberry, or Rasul Douglas, Stafford did not have a problem targeting the top cornerback. With weapons galore on this offense looking to cross up this secondary, Terrell has to lead the charge. Especially with the new addition of Allen Robinson and the possible return of Odell Beckham, Jr.
While up on the defensive line, Grady Jarrett will have to lead the charge for the defensive line to be at its best. And it will need to be at its best against this line. Even with Whitworth gone, this offensive line has enough firepower to keep Stafford upright. It is up to Jarrett and company to disrupt the timing of Stafford and force him to be more erratic with his throws. It will then be up to Terrell and the secondary to capitalize and cause turnovers for the offense.
This team needs to be able to close the deal and get this explosive offense off of the field. If they are to pull this upset off, Jarrett and Terrell will have to play at the elite level that Atlanta fans expect.
Two big plays by A.J. Terrell.
1st: AJ is playing deep 3rds. He understands the help is underneath allowing him to read the seam & pick it off!
— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) June 17, 2022