With a 2-0 record so far in the season, the Los Angeles Rams are right where they wanted to be. We expected the team to be good, but here are a three areas that may be surprises.
- The Number of deep shots down the field
The Los Angeles Rams increased the number of times they asked QB Jared Goff to throw the ball deep last year. It was exciting to see WRs Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods catching balls 40 yards down the field. However, this year the team seems to have taken the next step, and it has been a pleasant surprise.
WR Brandin Cooks has been a regular target deep down the field. The results have been mixed, with some big catches, some misses, as well as several pass interference penalties that don’t show up on the player stat sheets, but nonetheless move the ball. And even on the misses, it makes the safeties stay deep and opens up underneath routes and running lanes for RB Todd Gurley.
It is so fun to see Goff take a drop out of shotgun and sling the ball deep down the field. Look for these deep shots to continue to be a regular part of this offense, as long as the offensive line can keep their signal caller clean.
2. The play of OL Austin Blythe
Speaking of the offensive line, when OG Jamon Brown, one of the Rams most improved players in 2017, got suspended, the concern emerged as to how much the boys up front would suffer without him. Who would fill in?
The result was that Austin Blythe, a swing interior lineman, got the call. As Brown prepares to return from injury, it is looking like Blythe will keep the starting job. The line has kept Goff remarkably clean, a trend fans hope will continue against the Los Los Angeles Chargers and Minnesota Vikings in the next week. The offensive line was one of the biggest improvements from 2016 to 2017, but they were also the healthiest in the league. Now having the depth to weather having one of the starters out is a huge plus for this team.
3. The number of Jet Sweeps
The Rams used WR Tavon Austin in previous seasons as a regular carrier of the football in the form of jet sweeps. The question loomed as to whether that would continue this year with the trade of Austin to the Dallas Cowboys.
Answer: it has.
The first two games saw a number of different receivers, including Cooper Krupp, Cooks, Woods and even Gurley taking jet sweep style handoffs. (I took a look at the most likely candidates to play a role in the Jet Sweep game in the preseason.) It is unclear at this point how much of this is game plan specific and something Head Coach Sean McVay wants to make future teams to prepare for, versus what will be a regular staple. But to this point it has been a fun wrinkle.