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1. Sean McVay has done a great job this year getting the Rams offense humming again. What has been the biggest change?
I expected to get a question asking “What’s went wrong with the offense?” The Rams are 19th in scoring and 23rd in points per drive and they’ve been taking a dive during the last six games; they are one of only three teams to not have a single game with at least 28 points since Week 6. Even the Jets have done that once. They have completed eight touchdown passes and Jared Goff has thrown seven interceptions in those six games with four fumbles; for perspective, this is the same TD:INT mark as the Chicago Bears in their last six games. We’re just hoping that Goff bounces back against a battered Cardinals defense. I can’t say that they are “humming” right now, but I give credit to offensive line coach Aaron Kromer for making due without any changes to the personnel and for the Rams to be able to get a run game going early in the year. We hope it returns this Sunday.
2. Defensively, the Rams have really thrived under first year DC Brandon Staley, what has he done to see such improvement?
I wish I could give you a better answer about Xs and Os, but I’m more of a personnel guy anyhow. I think that the Rams have better defensive players this season. Last season they had Eric Weddle and Clay Matthews starting and whether by choice or not, neither are in the league this season and I believe I’ve heard rumors that even Weddle wanted back in the league at one point. Safety Taylor Rapp had his struggles as a rookie and has mostly been replaced by Jordan Fuller, a star 2020 rookie out of Ohio State.
Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler left in free agency and are struggling mightily at their new stops. Also considering linebackers Troy Reeder and Samson Ebukam getting less playing time and I think that fills out some huge “addition by subtraction” explanations. Then consider that now Jalen Ramsey has had a full year with the Rams. That John Johnson returned after missing 10 games last season. That Darious Williams has gone from reserve to starter to a full season as a starter and blossomed. And Leonard Floyd has been a positive contributor as a free agent. Those moves also helped Aaron Donald do even more and setup others for more success. I think it has a lot more to do with Donald, Ramsey and the changes at key positions with a bit more health for certain players.
3. Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the world, but who else should the Cardinals fear?
Ramsey still appears to me to be as fearsome as any cornerback in the NFL. Williams is an underrated threat opposite of him. Floyd’s been racking up pressures and sacks unlike he had in Chicago for quite some time. But the surprise is Fuller, who has made plays in every game he’s played in. Major, game-swinging plays. Right now he’s got to be in the running for best day three pick of the entire NFL draft class.
4. Are we going to see more of Cam Akers moving forward after his early injuries?
I’ve not heard any peep of Akers being held back because of his early season injuries. Right now he’s simply an enigma. He’s the most exciting and dynamic running back on the team but McVay has not given him many reps behind Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson and when he’s on the field, he’s about 55% likely to get a handoff, which makes those plays a little less surprising. The fact that he has still broken off long plays despite that is very encouraging, but the questions revolve around his abilities to be a three-down back. If he could handle 20 carries per game, that would be ideal, but McVay’s not there with him yet. And seemingly not close to it but maybe because the offense isn’t humming right now, he’ll make a change.
5. Will the Rams be ready for a deep playoff run, and if not what will hold them back?
I won’t ever be skeptical of what Aaron Donald can will into reality. The fact that he has Ramsey as a running mate gives me optimism about the Rams as a throwback 2000 Ravens, 2002 Bucs, or even 2017 Eagles team as a champion. I’m not sure if the defense can be as good as those first two defenses over the next two months, but again, I’m not going to doubt Donald. Goff can either help them or hurt them and he’s gotta at least get back to not hurting them.