THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Sean McVay understands his team is going through a tough time right now, but the Los Angeles Rams head coach wants to make sure they don’t panic after back-to-back losses, dropping them to 2 -3 on the season.
“The one thing that I think is important for our players to contextualize is, let’s not let six hours of football change the whole sense of who we are, who we’ve become,” McVay said. “If you’re not careful, you can let the outside narrative dictate that.”
But while he doesn’t want his team to completely change identities after Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, McVay made it clear in his postgame press conference that the Rams “have to be able to help” quarterback Matthew Stafford. In five games, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Rams have the third-worst offensive EPA in the NFL.
So, heading into Week 6 against the Carolina Panthers, where do the Rams need to improve offensively to help their quarterback?
In five games, the Rams have pitched nine different offensive linemen. Only two linemen, left tackle Joe Noteboom and right tackle Rob Havenstein have started every game this season.
The blow-by-blow offensive line has allowed 21 sacks this season, which is tied for most in the NFL. Stafford has only had one more season in his career with more sacks in six games. The Rams rank 24th with a 54% team pass block success rate.
The day after the loss to the Cowboys, Havenstein said the offensive line held a players-only meeting to discuss issues the line had had this season.
“I think it comes down to a mindset,” Havenstein said. “Physical mistakes will happen, but our mindset in the last two games hasn’t been right. That’s something we’ll address in training.”
Not only did the offensive line have to deal with so many moving parts, but they also had to communicate on a quiet cadence at home due to the influx of Cowboys fans.
“Sometimes it’s a little frustrating,” Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “But that’s no excuse. We need to be able to communicate. We need to communicate both visually and non-verbally at a high level.
Coen said improving communication around protection has been a “big focus this week” and hopefully the offense can play with verbal cadence this week against Carolina.
Run the game
The Rams struggled to move the ball consistently on the ground, and it slowed their offense. Running back Cam Akers, who has 151 yards and a touchdown on 51 carries this season, is averaging just 2.57 yards after contact per attempt according to Pro Football Focus, and will be out Sunday. Running back Darrell Henderson is averaging just 2.29 yards after contact per attempt.
And while run-blocking hasn’t been consistent — the Rams rank 21st with a 70% win rate per team — Coen said he needs to see more “creativity” from his players. ball carriers.
“It won’t always be clean,” Coen said. “It won’t always be a perfect gaping hole. … Sometimes [where the ball is supposed to go has] go out the window and the guys have to be playmakers and be special with the ball in their hands.
McVay said this week that there are “so many layers to the running game” as to why the Rams haven’t had much success, but “at the end of the day it’s about versatility, consistency in terms of operation [and] everyone does what they’re supposed to do.
“It’s been a challenge because we’ve never had the same guys up front,” McVay said. “We’ve had full-backs who haven’t really trained, we’re trying to push a bunch of different things forward. … We just have to keep rocking and keep tuning in and figuring it out because no one cares and we have to fix it.
The Rams’ passing game so far has come through Cooper Kupp, who led the league in catches, yards and touchdowns in 2021. Kupp has 49 receptions this season — the most by a player in five games in NFL history.
The Rams didn’t get the production they expected from No. 2 wide receiver Allen Robinson, who signed a three-year, $46.5 million contract this offseason. In five games, he has 12 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen explained last week that “you always want ‘Kupp’ as a first read” on plays, so “it’s really more creative in terms of how we can get [Robinson] be the first.
But, Coen said, “it’s hard to just say we’re going to give him the ball when we’re struggling to communicate to get past protection and to get everyone on the same page. When you don’t can’t start the game, it’s really hard to say, ‘oh, let’s make sure we have Allen [Robinson] five targets. Or this guy this number of targets.
“We’re just trying to perform at a high level right now.”
The Rams were also without wide receiver Van Jefferson, who underwent knee surgery during training camp. Los Angeles hadn’t put him on injured reserve until they determined they needed his roster spot as they faced a significant number of injuries in the high school earlier. in the season. Jefferson is eligible to leave IR after the Rams’ Week 7 bye.
But of all these areas, it’s the “execution” that McVay says needs improvement. He wants to see more “communication urgency” as the Rams prepare to face the Panthers, and he said he thinks that’s fixable.
“That’s where it really starts,” McVay said. “It’s been one of the things we’ve been proud of for five years now that it’s year six. It didn’t live up to our standards, especially on the attacking side of the ball.
Mental errors, Stafford said, hold back that offense.
“You look around the league, these teams doing a great job of getting everyone on the same page and communicating well, they’re playing good football,” Stafford said. “That’s really one of the main things that’s probably holding us back. When we do the right thing, communicate the right way, and do everything we’re supposed to do, sometimes it feels pretty good. We just need to do it more consistently.
Los Angeles, which is averaging 16 points per game (29th in the NFL), has scored just three points in the fourth quarter this season.
“I can’t put my finger on [why] for you right now,” Stafford said. “I don’t think that’s happening enough, to be honest with you.”