From the Other Side: Five Questions About the Rams
The Miami Dolphins return from their bye to face the Los Angeles Rams at Hard Rock Stadium in Tua Tagovailoa's much-anticipated NFL starting debut on Sunday.
The Rams are 5-2 on the season and coming off an impressive 24-10 home victory against the Chicago Bears on Monday night.
To get a better feel for the Rams, we checked in with Ram Digest publisher Eric Williams for his answers on these five key questions:
1) How close are the Rams now to the 2018 version that went to the Super Bowl?
Williams: The jury is still out on how good the Rams are for a few reasons. First, they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record in the Chicago Bears. The Rams swept the NFC East this year and that division is awful, with a combined seven wins so far this season. Offensively, the Rams are not as potent as the team that went to the Super Bowl two years ago, but they are improved on defense this year, giving up just 17.7 points per game. Head coach Sean McVay expects a tough game this weekend against a Miami team that he believes is better than the perception nationally. But perhaps L.A.’s true test will come after the bye week when they host the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 15.
2) What’s the biggest key to Sean McVay’s offense?
Williams: Tempo and execution. McVay’s ability to change speeds on offense and catch teams sleeping consistently allows them to create big plays. Sometimes they go no-huddle, or they will huddle, get to the line quickly and hike the ball before the defense can get lined up, creating confusion on that side of the ball. McVay preys on opposing defenses’ ability to be fundamentally sound and for all 11 defensive players to be assignment-correct on every play. Make a mistake defensively and McVay’s offense will likely make you pay.
3) Who is the one player the Miami defense needs to stop Sunday (besides Jared Goff)?
Williams: That’s a tough question because Goff likes to spread the ball around to his playmakers. However, because the Rams lean so heavily on play-action passes, Darrell Henderson’s ability to consistently grind out yards in the run game has been important to the offense. With Todd Gurley now playing for the Atlanta Falcons, the Rams have leaned on a three-headed monster at running back of veteran Malcolm Brown, rookie Cam Akers and Henderson. But the Memphis product has taken on the lead role of late, adding an element of explosive playmaking ability with his elusiveness. Henderson is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, keeping opposing defenses honest.
4) Can you put into words what makes Aaron Donald so dominant and what it’s like to watch him on a weekly basis?
Williams: His relentless effort in practice and in games is unique and contagious. It’s rare that a team’s best player is also the hardest-working player, but that’s Donald. He does not take a snap off, and his boundless energy puts constant pressure on an offensive line on game days. The need to account for Donald creates opportunities for other players to come free rushing the passer and makes L.A.’s defensive front one of the most dangerous in the league. The Rams’ 24 sacks so far this season is tied for third in the NFL. At 6-1 and 280 pounds, Donald’s quickness and play strength also allow him to create havoc in the middle of a defense.
5) Jalen Ramsey belongs in the conversation dealing with elite cornerbacks in the NFL along with Xavien Howard and others. What kind of difference has he made for the Rams defense since he was acquired?
Williams: The Rams made Ramsey the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history by signing him to a five-year, $105 million deal at the start of the regular season. To make the most of that financial commitment and his unique skill set, Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley has used Ramey in his scheme’s “star” position — basically a slot defender. Playing closer to the line of scrimmage allows Ramsey to have more impact on the game as a blitzer and run defender. Staley also will continue to use Ramsey on the outside on the opposing team’s best receiver, but he also has the flexibility to move the Florida State product around so offenses can’t avoid him. So far, Ramsey is having one of his best seasons as a pro, with 21 combined tackles, three pass breakup and an interception through seven games.