It’s Time to Panic on the LA Rams

So the 49ers just beat the Rams for the 7th time in a row in the regular season.

Obviously the Rams got the best of the 49ers when it really mattered, the NFC Championship last season, and then went on to win the Super Bowl.

But I want to talk about this season. It’s not even really about the fact that the Rams just can’t seem to beat the 49ers in the regular season.

It’s about the way this 2022 Rams squad is built. I just don’t think they’re a particularly great team.

Outside of Cooper Kupp, what do they have on offense?

They ran the ball 18 times for 57 yards. That’s not pretty. Their longest run was 11 yards–bleh. Zero explosiveness in the run game. They’re just plodding along back there.

Stafford only threw for 200 yards in the game–on 48 attempts! That’s 3.6 yards per attempt, which is absolutely horrendous.

People think Justin Fields and the Bears are the worst passing team in the league, right? We’re all in agreement on that?

Justin Fields this weekend against the Giants averaged 5.5 yards per attempt passing. That’s really bad–worse than average; it’s bad.

Stafford averaged 3.6.

I’m trying to put into context just how bad 3.6 yards per attempt is. It’s hideously, horrifically awful.

Last year, Stafford was third-best in the league on yards per passing attempt at 8.1. The Giants were the worst team last season at just 5.8 yards per attempt.

So what’s the reason behind why Stafford is so bad?

Well, he was sacked 7 times against the 49ers. Nick Bosa got him twice, Samson Ebukam got him twice–basically everyone in the San Francisco front seven had a turn on Stafford.

I haven’t yet been able to find numbers on how many pressures San Fran had on Stafford, but I’ll bet it was a lot. Stafford was never comfortable in the pocket, he didn’t have time to throw, and that’s why you saw Cooper Kupp get 19 targets and 14 receptions in the game. Because Kupp is Stafford’s safety blanket–he feels the pressure, he just looks up for number 10 and throws it his way. That’s basically the Rams passing offense. That and throwing to Higbee.

I don’t think Allen Robinson is “washed” yet, but he’s not yet built the rapport with Stafford to where Stafford is comfortable throwing to him. And so Robinson is basically a phantom in that offense. He’s just out there running sprints and collecting paychecks.

People keep saying the problem for the Rams is that they don’t have a real deep threat that can take the top off a defense; a real explosive playmaker downfield. And it’s true they don’t have one. They drafted Tutu Atwell a few years ago to be that guy and he’s clearly not panned out. The Rams signed DeSean Jackson last year precisely because they needed a deep threat. And then later in the season they got Odell Beckham to be that guy.

But I don’t think the lack of a deep threat is what’s holding the Rams back. I think it’s their offensive line–it’s just horrible right now. Their starting center, Brian Allen, was out for the game with an injury, and his backup, Coleman Shelton, got hurt, which forced third-string center Jeremiah Kolone into the game. When you are down to a third-string center, you are in serious trouble on the offensive line. The center is the leader of the O-Line.

Andrew Whitworth is retired and not coming back.

According to this article on ESPN, the Rams are now down to just 2 of their opening day offensive line starters, and I think at least 5 of their offensive linemen have been injured at some point this season. I know Joe Noteboom has a sprained MCL and it’s not fully healed. But the offensive line even at the start of the season was not very good.

It’s a disaster up front for the Rams. And I think that’s the real source of their problems. Even when healthy, this is not a great offensive line. Losing Whitworth really left a serious hole in that team.

It’s not the most obvious explanation for why this offense has fallen off so much this year, but left tackles like Whitworth really make such a difference. He was the guy that held it all together.

The Rams’ passing attack was top-5 in the league last season. This year it’s like bottom 6-7 in the league, and I believe it’s due to the major issues they have on the O-Line.

Nobody is going to trade the Rams a starting-caliber offensive lineman in the middle of the season, either. The Rams are stuck with the line they’ve got, basically.

I don’t think it helps them if they get Odell Beckham back later in the season, either. Even if he is 100% healthy and hasn’t lost a step (highly improbable after the number of leg injuries the guy has sustained throughout his career, plus he’s about to be 30 years old on November 5), Stafford still won’t have any time to throw to him.

The Rams don’t need more pass-catchers. They’ve got good ones right now, and Van Jefferson will be back eventually. The Rams need offensive linemen.

But as I was just saying, I don’t think that’s a fixable problem this season. They’re stuck with the line they’ve got all season long.

The good news is that their defense is still playing well. Other than the long touchdown to Deebo, they held their own against the 49ers offense. The score of the game was 24-9 but the 49ers got a pick-six. The Rams defense only let up 17 points, and again, 7 of those points were from that one long Deebo Samuel TD catch and run.

But this Rams defense is not good enough to carry them to another Super Bowl. I am confident in saying that right now. This is not the 2000 Ravens defense, or even the 2021 Rams defense. I don’t think there’s any chance the Rams make it to the Super Bowl with their offense playing as poorly as it is–their defense is not on the level where it can carry the offense all the way to the promised land.

I’m looking at the Rams’ schedule right now as they sit at 2-2, and it doesn’t look too difficult, but it’s also not an easy schedule by any stretch:

The Cowboys game is not a sure win. I think Dallas could win that game even if it is in LA. Cowboys fans will invade SoFi and give the Cowboys a home-field advantage atmosphere.

The Rams should be able to beat the Panthers.

Then they have the 49ers again in just 3 weeks. San Fran should be favored in that game.

They’re at Buccaneers on November 6, which I think is going to be a tough game to win.

The Rams just have a lot of their big games on the road this year. They’re at Bucs, at Chiefs and at Packers–and the Packers game is on December 19. That’s not going to be a fun game for them.

If the Rams lose to the Cowboys, 49ers and Bucs, they will be 3-5 by November 6.

Then let’s just say they beat the Cardinals and beat the Saints (Saints game is no guarantee). That puts them at just 5-5 going to Arrowhead to play the Chiefs.

They’ll probably be 5-6 after 11 games.

They should be favored against the Seahawks and the Raiders the next two weeks, but then they go to Green Bay. I’m going to say that’s a loss and the Rams are sitting at 7-7.

Then they’ve got Broncos, Chargers and Seahawks. Those are all winnable games. The Rams could very well go 10-7.

For as bad as they’ve looked in a lot of their games, they still do seem to win the games they’re supposed to win–they beat the Falcons and they beat the Cardinals.

They may drop one game they should win this season, but I don’t think they’re so shaky to the point where they drop multiple games they have no business losing.

So I do think that the Rams will find a way into the playoffs.

But that’s about it.

Unless San Fran catches the injury bug in a major way (which is not out of the question as San Fran is constantly one of the most injury-prone teams in the league), the Rams are not winning their division. They’re going to have to get in to the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

And then I think they’ll be one-and-done in the playoffs.

I just don’t think the Rams are good this year. They almost choked away a 28-3 lead to the Atlanta Falcons a couple weeks ago. Their offensive line is a disaster. Basically the only thing they can do on offense is throw the ball to Cooper Kupp, and that’s not enough to beat good teams in this league.

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