Enemy Confidential: Seahawks Set to Face New-Look Rams Defense
When we profiled the Rams back in early October, they were just coming off a shockingly ugly loss at home to the Buccaneers. That prompted questions about whether this Sean McVay-led squad may be suffering from the Super Bowl hangover that has plagued so many good teams over the years. There were questions about the offensive line, about the health of Todd Gurley, and most notable about whether the Los Angeles organization erred in giving over $100 million guaranteed to quarterback Jared Goff.
Since then, there have been even more questions than answers, as the Rams have been one of the toughest teams to figure out in the entire league.
Since the Seahawks sent them home with a nail-biting 30-29 Thursday Night Football loss eight weeks ago, the Rams have gone 4-3. They’ve suffered from inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, and in just the last two weeks alone have just how unpredictable they can be. Last Sunday, they dispatched tge Cardinals 34-7 in their most complete outing of the season, after being blasted by the Ravens 45-6 just the week before. But despite some of their bumps along the way, they are firmly in the hunt for a wild card playoff spot in the NFC.
So which Rams team are the Seahawks about to face? Let’s take a closer look at the Seahawks upcoming opponent, including series history, additions/departures, key numbers, and Carroll’s evaluation of the Rams in this week’s Enemy Confidential:
--42nd regular season meeting. Seahawks lead the series 24-18. The two teams have also met once in the playoffs, with the then-St. Louis Rams ousting Seattle 27-20 in the 2004 wild card round.
Seattle dominated this matchup through the early part of the 2000s, winning 10 straight from 2005 to 2009 and 16 out of 18 from 2005-2013. The Rams have won seven of the last 11, however, including three of the five games with McVay at the helm. The last time the Seahawks beat the Rams on the road was a 16-10 victory in 2017.
--Additions: One recent addition certainly stands out above all the rest, as the Rams acquired former All Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey in a blockbuster trade with Jacksonville just two weeks after they played in Seattle.
Otherwise, the Rams went the grizzled veteran rout this offseason, adding former Green Bay standout linebacker Clay Matthews and perennial Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle in free agency. Former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was brought in to back up Goff after failing to live up to his high draft status in Jacksonville.
In what’s shaping up as a strong draft class, the Rams added a pair of former Washington Huskies in safety Taylor Rapp and nose tackle Greg Gaines. After a slow start, Rapp has been a revelation. He has 41 tackles over the last five weeks and returned an interception for a touchdown last week against Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Overall, they’ve received solid production out of the 2019 draft class. They traded up in the third round to nab former Memphis running back Darrell Henderson amid speculation that star ball carrier Todd Gurley’s arthritic knee was taking a toll, but Henderson has just 37 carries for 140 yards so far on the season as Malcom Brown has seized the primary role of Gurley’s rotational running mate.
The Rams appear to have hit on a couple of offensive linemen in the 2019 draft. Former Wisconsin standout David Edwards has been starting at right guard, while their third-rounder, Bobby Evans out of Oklahoma, has played so well subbing in for the injured Rob Havenstein the last three weeks that he may not let go of the job even when Havenstein is ready to return.
--Departures: On the same day they acquired Ramsey, the Rams shipped cornerback Marcus Peters to the Ravens, just in time for the star cornerback to return a Russell Wilson interception for six points in his debut with his new team.
Over the offseason, the Rams biggest loss was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who they simply couldn’t afford to bring back after his lone season in Los Angeles. Suh ultimately signed with Tampa Bay. The team also allowed linebacker Mark Barron and center John Sullivan to leave in free agency.
Just like the last time these two teams faced off, Los Angeles enters this week relatively healthy. The team's biggest concern may be tight end Gerald Everett, who torched Seattle’s secondary for seven catches and 136 yards in that October contest. Like Havenstein, Everett is nursing a knee injury.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
71.3: Percentage of throws from Jared Goff deemed to be “on target," ranking him 28th in the NFL.
58.4: Yards per game by two-time All Pro running back Todd Gurley. Since Sean McVay was hired as coach of the Rams in 2017, Gurley posted averages of 87.0 and 89.4 yards per game in the previous two seasons.
1,587: Yards after the catch produced by Rams receivers, second behind only the Chiefs.
64.1: Touchdown percentage inside the red zone for Rams opponents,the fourth-worst in the NFL.
38: Total sacks by the Rams defense, the fifth-highest total in the NFL.
4.9: Yards per play given up by the Rams defense, fourth-best in the NFL.
93.2: Opponents passer rating against Jalen Ramsey, ranking him 141st in the league.
--Despite a slip in production and questions about his knee, Carroll is still wary of the damage Gurley can do.
“He’s such a great player,” said Carroll. “He’s just such a complete football player. The running for sure. The special plays that he makes because of his style and his ability to break tackles and make you miss and all that. Then, given the whole passing game that he’s extremely involved with as well, just gets him space and gets him up the screens and the perimeter stuff that they do. He’s an incredible factor.”
--And despite inconsistencies on the offensive side, Carroll warns that the 2019 Rams can be just as explosive as they’ve been under McVay.
“Well, they’ve thrown the ball very much the same as they have been,” he said. “Really productive with their throwing game. Running game, the numbers aren’t as quite as big as they’ve been is really the only difference anyone would see. They’re running 100 yards a game rushing. I think they were quite a bit more than that last year. That’s probably the only factor, but they’ve got a really diverse throwing game off of their play passes and off the gun and empties and all the things that they do. They can throw the ball at anybody. That was evident last week when he threw for 400 or something.”
--Aaron Donald has traditionally terrorized Seahawk offenses, but he was held in check in their last meeting, recording only three tackles and failing to get a sack. Carroll warns not to get too comfortable thinking they’ve somehow cracked the code with regards to limiting Donald’s damage.
“I don’t know about that now,” Carroll said. “I don’t know if you ever get that done. We don’t think that way, no. He’s an incredible player. So suddenly explosive. Just out of nowhere, he can control the game. We really have to do our job to take care of him, to neutralize him. He’s going to have an impact. We just have to neutralize it as much as we can.”
--This will be the first time the Seahawks see Ramsey in a Rams uniform, but Carroll is well aware of how he can affect a game.
“Great experience and their trust in him,” Carroll points out. “They’ll match him up sometimes with guys that they think they have to do something special for. He’s an incredible athlete, player, performer, dynamic playmaker. We have to know where he is at all times.”
The Seahawks and Rams will be featured on NBCs Sunday Night Football this week, with kickoff set for 5:20 PM PST Sunday night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.