This week, we go to Jeff Podolak, our NFC West correspondent, to give us the “up-close” look at the Los Angeles Rams. Enjoy his insightful commentary.
LH : The Rams have gone 2 games and haven’t scored a touchdown. What’s the problem with the offense?
JP : The Rams need to trust in their skill position players and Case Keenum as their #1. It starts with their $42M WR Tavon Austin creating space with anything from a jet sweep to a crossing route to a double move on the outside. Also, WR Kenny Britt is a highly reliable receivers as well as change-of-pace RB Benny Cunningham. Another option would be to free up Todd Gurley by lead-blocking on bubble screens with a FB/2TE set. Also, mitigating turnovers just like they did against Seattle (when they were +2 for the game) should set the tone for games going forward.
LH : Along that same line, Los Angeles has scored 9 points in two games and they are 1-1. How good is their defense?
JP : Despite their offensive struggles, the Rams have allowed only 16.5 points per game (including being blanked 28-0 in SF on Week 1). They are led by bookend DL Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald who establish a tenacious pass rush that’s backed up by Pro Bowl LB Alec Ogletree and a retooled secondary, including Pro Football Focus Week 2 slot CB Lamarcus Joyner despite breaking his toe in Week 1. Expect the Rams defense to continue to show their culture of toughness by being opportunistic and disruptive in creating turnovers and winning the turnover battle just like they did against Seattle at home (+2).
LH : Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck started from Game 1 and did pretty well. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady sat and watched for years and they did pretty well. Is Jared Goff just not ready for the NFL but had a chance to be that franchise QB down the road?
JP : Don’t write off Jared Goff just yet. Consider the fact that his PAC-12/spread offense roots which do not translate to Jeff Fisher’s more traditional under-center, power-running, west coast passing offense currently installed in LA. Expect growing pains from the young QB but he’ll be given his opportunity to shine once he catches up to the game speed and athleticism of NFL defenses as well as familiarization with the playbook.
LH : How good is RB Todd Gurley ?
JP : Many pro football pundits have written off Todd Gurley after a slow start of 98 rushing yards in his first 2 games, putting him below 100 yards for 5 of his last 8 games. However, often overlooked is the fact that these matchups were AZ/SEA/SF twice, CIN, and DET (all top 10 run defenses in 2015 and 2016). Despite these adverse matchups, Gurley has eclipsed over 100 total yards of offense in 3 games (DET, SEA, and AZ). Look for him only to improve on his slow start his first 2 weeks starting at Tampa.
LH : On the other side of the ball, the Rams front four are, arguably, the best in the NFL. How much havoc are they going to cause the Bucs and QB Jameis Winston?
JP :Look for the Rams to continue their dominance from the trenches, similar to the pace of their 9 QB hits last week on Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. They’ve shown to be dominant against superior OL personnel, and look for them to continue that trend Sunday at Tampa.
LH : Who wins and why?
JP : Take the Rams with the points on the road, just like they have taken the last 5 meetings, since the Tampa running game has been reduced to a one-dimensional attack with Charles Sims. Not a dominant downhill runner, Sims is known as a catch-and-run back who will be limited and challenged by the Rams front seven. Expect loads of pressure on Winston and the LA secondary to key on Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson as well.