For the first time in the Sean McVay era, the Los Angeles Rams have lost three games in a row. In Week 6, the Rams fell to the San Francisco 49ers 20-7 in one of the worst offensive performances that has occurred since McVay was hired in 2017.
The offense totaled just 165 yards and were 0/13 on third and fourth downs. The sky is seemingly falling in Los Angeles with the team dropping to 3-3 after starting the season with a 3-0 record. But what exactly is wrong with this Rams team this season?
Just a year ago, Los Angeles was steamrolling through opponents on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance since the Mike Martz days. At the same time, McVay was rising up the ranks as one of the best head coaches in the NFL at just 32-years-old.
The young offensive-centric coach seemingly turned a Rams team that was unable to escape the ineptitudes of Jeff Fisher into a legitimate contender overnight. As great as McVay has been (and is), the bright offensive mind was outcoached in the last year’s Super Bowl.
After averaging 32.9 points per game in the regular season, the Rams could only manage to produce three points against the New England Patriots. While watching the offense take an inanimate form, all you could do was tip your cap to Bill Belichick and the defense.
Fast forward to this season and it’s more of the same for the once-prolific offense. Only this time around, the struggles are layered into multiple shortcomings.
The Offensive Line
Without a doubt, the biggest and most glaring weakness for this Rams team is the play of the offensive line. During the offseason, Los Angeles made the decision to allow Rodger Saffold to walk in free agency and moved on from John Sullivan.
Sometimes, every team in the NFL has to reluctantly let a talented player go to save some money. But with that, the Rams didn’t have a plausible plan on replacing Saffold and Sullivan—and it’s showing early in the season.
In their place, Los Angeles decided to promote Brian Allen and Joseph Noteboom to the starting lineup. Both are in their second seasons with the team and they haven’t been able to replace the former starters formidably.
To make matters worse, the other three starters (who were phenomenal in 2018) have taken a noticeable decline in their play this season. Those starters mentioned are Andrew Whitworth, Rob Havenstein, and Austin Blythe. Last year, the Rams surrendered just 33 sacks as a unit (eighth in the NFL).
Through the first six games of this season, Los Angeles has only given up 12 sacks; which makes it look as if they’ve been holding their own. On the contrary, the offensive line group has allowed Jared Goff to be under duress on nearly every dropback. You can watch this video and get a glimpse of how the offensive line has performed this entire season.
The Jared Goff Niners Disaster Thread.
Coverage and rush sack and LG gets leg folded under.
Goff scams three WRs but no time to hit third option. pic.twitter.com/06FA8Tm2yz
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 14, 2019
Jared Goff’s Struggles
As a result of the offensive line, we have seen a completely different version of Jared Goff under center this season. The fourth-year quarterback is getting hit frequently before he is able to unload the ball. And if that continues to happen, it will be a miracle to see him finish the season healthy.
Aside from the pressure he is under, Goff is still making mental mistakes that he hasn’t made since his rookie season. Whether it’s due to the regression of the offensive line or his individual play, the California native will need to clean some things up in the coming weeks.
In the first six games of this season, Goff has thrown seven interceptions and has fumbled the ball six times. Regardless of what is going on around him, he has to prevent himself from making questionable decisions that causes turnovers.
Yes, it is the popular thing to place the blame on the newly-paid quarterback for Los Angeles’ deficiencies this season. The fact is, he isn’t playing at the level he’s capable of playing at but he isn’t the main reason why this team is in a rut. Now, if Goff can’t take advantage of a weak Atlanta Falcons defense in Week 7; then we’ll talk.
Todd Gurley’s Effectiveness/Usage
Since the end of last season, the biggest talking point for the Rams has been the status of Todd Gurley’s knee. Unfortunately, to begin this season, there are even more questions than answers for the All-Pro running back.
Gurley was inactive in Week 6 versus the 49ers due to a quad injury that he sustained in Week 5. Prior to his injury though, Gurley’s effectiveness and usage in McVay’s offense was peculiar, to say the least.
Over the first five games, the dual-threat back had carried it just 64 times for 270 yards (4.2 yards per attempt). Along with his rushing drawback, Gurley has seen his role in the passing offense diminish this season.
In his first two seasons in McVay’s offense, Gurley had averaged nearly 62 receptions per season. Sadly, the talented running back has seen his production as a receiver decline to just 14 receptions for 68 yards this season.
There’s no doubt that McVay’s offense is at it’s best when Gurley is a focal point of the offense. However, up to this point, the 25-year-old running back has become an afterthought in the offensive game-plan. When Gurley has run the ball, he still looks like the explosive version of himself that we saw from 2017-2018.
Therefore, to alleviate some pressure off of the offensive line and Goff, McVay has to begin utilizing his dangerous running back. Luckily for the Rams, there are still 10 games left on the schedule to mend their flaws this season.
But they will need to adjust fast before their season completely falls to the wayside in the coming weeks.