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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cameron DaSilva

8 takeaways from Rams’ first 6 games of the season

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The Rams have somehow already played more than a third of their regular-season games, hitting the Week 7 bye at a perfect time with so many players recovering from injuries. Their 3-3 record wasn’t what they hoped it would be at this point, but there’s still plenty of football left to be played.

Here are eight takeaways from the first six weeks, recapping what we’ve learned about the Rams.

The offensive line is bad, but not solely to blame

The Rams’ offensive line has been very bad. It’s one of the worst in the NFL. But it’s also nowhere close to healthy, losing starters at every position except right tackle for multiple games.

As poorly as the line has played, the Rams can’t blame that position for all of their struggles on offense. The running backs aren’t making defenders miss, Matthew Stafford is turning it over too much and Cooper Kupp is the only receiver consistently making plays.

The offensive line improving would certainly help the whole operation, but it’s not the team’s only problem.

Matthew Stafford has been below average

Great quarterbacks overcome poor play around them – to an extent. Stafford hasn’t done enough of that this season. He’s thrown two pick-sixes and has 10 turnover-worthy plays in six games, per PFF.

He’s been too reliant on Kupp, sometimes missing other open receivers in an attempt to get No. 10 the ball. Stafford has to take better care of the ball and avoid costly turnovers, which he’s been unable to do.

Again, the protection has been atrocious and he’s being pressured at the third-highest rate of any quarterback, but Stafford is capable of playing much better than he has.

There’s no easy fix for the running game

The Rams rank 30th in rushing attempts, 31st in rushing yards and 31st in yards per carry this season. They have what’s probably the worst running game in the NFL, and there’s no easy way to fix it.

It’s not as simple as trading Cam Akers and starting Darrell Henderson Jr. Kyren Williams isn’t going to suddenly dominate and become a top-30 back in the NFL. Malcolm Brown isn’t the answer, either.

What will help is improved blocking up front and a running back who doesn’t miss holes. That’s easier said than done, though.

Losing Von Miller has hurt worse than expected

Everyone knew the Rams’ pass rush would take a step back without Miller this season. It wasn’t expected to be this bad, however. Leonard Floyd has zero sacks and Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins have one each. The edge rushers have mostly been ineffective for Los Angeles, leaving Aaron Donald as the only consistent pass rusher.

This will be an even tougher problem to solve than the running back situation. Great pass rushers don’t grow on trees, nor do teams willingly trade them for minimal return in-season. The Rams will try to make a move to help the edge rushers, but don’t expect anyone to come aboard and have the type of impact Miller did.

The offense desperately needs a deep threat

Stafford had the eighth-highest average intended air yards in the NFL last season, throwing 8.5 yards downfield per attempt. This season, he has the third-lowest (6.3). The difference is the lack of a downfield weapon, a role both Van Jefferson and Odell Beckham Jr. held last season.

With neither player on the field this season, Stafford has been forced to take underneath throws rather than pushing the ball downfield. That’s condensed the field for him and the offense, and it’s also forced them to sustain long drives in order to score touchdowns rather than striking quickly with big plays.

Whether it’s Jefferson, Tutu Atwell or another player, the Rams badly need a deep threat.

The Rams have never been this injured under Sean McVay

The Rams had been one of the healthiest teams in the NFL during McVay’s first five seasons. This season has been very different. They’ve lost several key starters for multiple games, a list that includes the following: Brian Allen, Van Jefferson, Coleman Shelton, David Edwards, Joe Noteboom, Troy Hill, David Long Jr., Cobie Durant, Jordan Fuller.

Those are some seriously challenging injuries to overcome for any team, and it’s really tested the Rams’ depth. The team isn’t to blame for those losses because, well, it’s football. But thankfully, Jefferson, Allen, Hill and Durant are on their way back from injury in Week 8, which will help.

The defense is capable of being one of the five best in the NFL

If not for the Rams’ defense, they’d be even worse than 3-3. Los Angeles ranks sixth in yards allowed and 16th in points given up, but that includes two pick-sixes by Stafford that count toward the team’s total.

And this is all despite the pass rush being one of the worst in football outside of Donald. Things should only get better once Hill and Durant return, as well as Fuller. And if the Rams can add a pass rusher before the trade deadline, it’ll be hard to find a defense better than theirs.

Bobby Wagner deserves a ton of credit for the way he’s played, as does Jalen Ramsey. The stars are carrying the defense to great heights.

The NFC West is wide open

It might seem obvious to say a division is wide open after just six games, but the NFC West is more open than most other divisions. After the Cardinals’ win on Thursday night, here’s how the West looks:

  • 49ers: 3-3
  • Rams: 3-3
  • Seahawks: 3-3
  • Cardinals: 3-4

It doesn’t get any closer than that, and any of the four teams are capable of winning the division. Yes, even the Seahawks. The Rams would love to be better than 3-3 after six games, but as Jalen Ramsey said recently, they’re actually in a good spot with first place on the line in Week 8 against the 49ers.

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