LA Rams Jeckyl/Hyde masks underlying identity crises

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams offense is having an identity crisis. RB Cam Akers has proven that he can run the ball, only the Rams…won’t

Okay LA Rams, who are you?  Are you the team that just lost to the winless New York Jets? Or are you the team that traveled to Tampa Bay to humble the confident Tom Brady and the Buccaneers? Are you the team that had swept the NFC East? Or are you the team that has lost three of four games to the AFC East? If you hadn’t noticed, you are sending us mixed signals so far this season.

There is a natural rhythm to the LA Rams offense. If you’ve been watching this team play, you can almost predict the outcome of the game based on the first set of downs. Certainly, by the second set of downs, there is a feel as to whether the Rams will be the victor or the loser determined by the final score.

The pattern is undeniable

If the Rams do not rush for a big gain on the first carry, that is a bad sign for the game. One strike. If the opponent scores a touchdown on their opening drive, that is another bad sign. Two strikes. If the Rams punt with their first two series, that is another bad sign. Three strikes, and suddenly the Rams are off their game plan. Pass happy from that point on. And yet, let’s break down those first few plays?

In the first possession, the Rams ran once for two yards, passed twice for six yards. Punt. In the second series, the Rams ran once for 10 yards, but that was called back by a 10-yard penalty.  With 20 yards to go, the Rams ran twice more for nine yards, and then Goff dropped back to pass but was flushed out of the pocket for a nine-yard run.  In the first two series, the Rams rushed 4 times for 21 yards but one was called back by penalty. The Rams attempted three passes with one completion for six yards and one quarterback scramble for nine yards.

What would a running team do?

I don’t need to retell the tale. You already know it. Or you’ve succeeded in blocking it out, and there is no need to revisit anything. Instead, let’s conduct a simple calculation. The Rams’ first four rushes resulted in 21 natural yards gained. That is consistent with running back Cam Akers’ 15 rushes for 63 yards, a 4.2 yards-per-carry average. So what would have happened if the Rams started this game in their 12-package and ran the ball right down the New York Jets throats?

Even with a five-yard average, Akers would have moved the ball right down the field. And with a heavy dose of rushing plays, the Jets would have been less successful by selling out to rush the quarterback. I’m not trying to rewrite history as much as think through how well the Rams offense from the Cardinals and Patriots games might have done against the Jets. That would have changed literally the entire game.

Pass, if you must

We have a familiar pattern brewing and for the life of me, I am struggling to pinpoint the true cause. But there is definitely a component to this of the Rams relaxing a bit on pass protection that triggers Mr. Hyde in both head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff. When the Dr. Jeckyl Rams stop committing to the running game, Mr. Hyde’s passing mishaps rear their ugly heads.

The Rams need a solid blend of passes and rushes. The offense in losing efforts has been a steady flow of passes with an occasional run sprinkled in. If this Rams team wants to be a pass-heavy offense, the team must upgrade the offensive line. If the team wants to go with one of the least compensated offensive lines in the NFL, the Rams will need to do a far better job of handing the ball off to Akers to keep defenses honest.

LA Rams discovering that weakest link dictates the outcome. dark. Next

You get what you pay for.  Right now, the Rams are paying for an identity crisis of the team’s own making.