NFL pendulum swinging again, LA Rams need power running game
By Bret Stuter
The LA Rams’ offense took the entire NFL by storm in 2017. That happens when a 4-12 team that is struggling turns the corner into a playoff contender virtually overnight, and the cause is due to hiring a young head coach whose bias is skewed towards a pass-centric offense. Since many defenses were built to stop the run, that innovative approach caught many defenses by surprise.
The strategy was as simple as it was brutally effective. By flooding opposing defenses with multiple receivers, zipping the football out of the pocket quickly, and challenging the defense sideline to sideline and from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone, the Rams simply outflanked defenses. The results were outstanding.
The Rams’ offense jumped from 14.0 points per game in 2016 (32nd) to 29.9 points per game in 2017 (1st) and then up to 32.9 points per game in 2018 (2nd). But the NFL loves to plagiarize, and other NFL teams began to pry offensive-oriented coaches from the LA Rams staff.
More McVay offenses in the NFL
The Green Bay Packers hired former Rams OC Matt LeFleur to be their head coach (via Titans OC) in January 2019. Almost immediately thereafter, the Cincinnati Bengals hired former LA Rams QB coach Zac Taylor to be their head coach in February 2019.
Finally, the Minnesota Vikings hired OC Kevin O’Connell to be their head coach in 2022. Curiously, the Bengals’ and Vikings’ offenses are among the NFL’s Top-10. Meanwhile, the Packers’ and Rams’ offenses are among the NFL’s Bottom-10.
So what is the difference? Well, in all other team’s cases, their offenses continue to interweave a strong rushing attack into the offense. For the Packers? Their rushing yardage has come in chunks, but when RB Aaron Jones rushes for over 100 yards, the Packers have a solid 3-1 record. For the LA Rams? There is no rushing offense.
ESPN panel talks running resiliency
A recent panel discussing the renewed vitality of the NFL rushing attack occured among former NFL QB Dan Orlovsky, WR Ryan Clark, DL, Marcus Spears, NFL Data Analyst Mina Kines, and ESPN host Laura Rutledge. The revelations uncovered during the 9+ minute roundtable discussion are worth a watch
Ultimately, the NFL pendulum swings both ways. Now, it is the spread McVay offense that struggles to point points on the scoreboard. But this is not just a function of OL injuries. The Rams’ offense plummeted in 2020 to score just 23.3 points per game (23rd), rebounding in 2021 to score 27.1 PPG (8th), and now has plummeted once more to 16.4 PPG (29th).
The NFL has figured out zone blocking and saturating secondaries with eligibles. Now, the Rams’ offense must adapt or die. That means that this offense must adopt some characteristics of a power running/counter as cited by Mina Kines at the 6:00 minute mark in the video above. Unfortunately, this offense is not equipped to handle those types of plays.
Of course, once defenses compensate for the latest trend and become stouter to stop the recent surge in running play effectiveness, the LA Rams style of offense will be in vogue once more. Can this offense reconfigure itself to manage this lean period long enough to get back on track? Historically, that is exactly what this offense has managed to do since 2019.
Now the question is simply: Will the Rams adapt to the latest NFL defensive trends? Stay tuned