The Los Angeles Rams look as dangerous as they did when Sean McVay took the NFL by storm a couple of seasons ago. Their rolling on offense, and the defense is getting off the field. Kenny Arthur of Turf Show Times was kind enough to take the time to answer five questions ahead of Sunday night’s matchup. Be sure to check their website out for an opponent’s point of view on the game.
The Rams offensive line looked like a sieve last season, but they’re opening up rushing lanes and keeping Goff clean this year. What’s been the biggest difference for Los Angeles upfront?
I think a benefit of not having preseason is that the Rams entered training camp with the starting five they had in mind all offseason and were able to take that group into Week 1 without any injuries. Because the offensive line is a group of players that were all with LA last season — and offseason criticism that has now become Sean McVay’s biggest achievement of the young season — and includes a premier left tackle in Andrew Whitworth, I don’t think it’s surprising that they’ve been able to execute McVay’s offense so well. One change that did happen midseason is that left guard Joseph Noteboom was injured and replaced by David Edwards. A fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2019, Edwards has taken that job and owned it. So the biggest difference is perhaps there is no difference: that and the lack of holding penalties being called around the NFL probably.
Much like Shanahan’s offense, it doesn’t seem to matter who is at running back for the Rams for them to be successful. Is there a clear No. 1 on this team, and are they a significant upgrade over Todd Gurley?
There is no clear number one, but I would say that Malcolm Brown is the clear number three when Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers are healthy. That is if you are talking about rushing attempts. When either Henderson or Akers is healthy, I’d expect them to get more of the big rushing opportunities during the game and Brown to come in for pass blocking and short-yardage runs. When both are healthy, Brown should still get opportunities, but he’s not as likely to be the reason that LA moves the football. Akers, a second-round pick out of Florida State, has been the most explosive back on the team, but he missed time with injury, and he may not be able to do anything other than carry the ball right now. If you see in the Akers in the game, there is a good chance the call is “run.” Henderson has been solid, and he could be a productive running back if Akers doesn’t steal away too many carries. It really is a three-back system, though. It’s too early to say if they have a “Raheem Mostert” among them. (I agree with you on Mostert.)
So, we all know about Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. It can’t be as simple as having two good players, right? Who else has stepped up on the Rams defense this season, and who could be the X-factor Sunday night on that side of the ball?
One name that came to mind today was A.J. Bouye, a former undrafted free agent who had six interceptions in 2017 when playing opposite of Jalen Ramsey for the NFL’s top pass defense. Bouye is not on the Rams, but Darious Williams is a former undrafted free agent who now plays the opposite of Ramsey. He’s shown prowess for forcing turnovers similar to Bouye. Quarterbacks have to challenge somebody other than Ramsey, and so far, Williams has done an excellent job of taking advantage of those opportunities. You won’t see Jordan Fuller this week, but the safety was the breakout star among the rookies prior to a shoulder injury. Safety John Johnson is defensive coordinator Brandon Staley’s on-field play-caller for the defense. Linebacker Micah Kiser won NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 2.
Where would you say the biggest weak link for the Rams is? What makes this team susceptible? Is it Troy Hill? Is it the linebackers? Where do you believe the 49ers will attack this team?
Troy Hill is in the most difficult position of any of the cornerbacks, so I think I will have to start cutting him some slack on his numbers. He’s asked to play both inside and outside, and he might just play better on the outside than in the slot. Because Ramsey is so good and Williams has been an impressive duo partner, Hill might come out in the worst position in the zone defense sometimes. I know that the players and coaches feel highly about Hill. The Rams had tackling issues over the first four games but then a mostly positive game in that area against Washington. Is it because Football Team is so bad? More samples are needed. You’re definitely right about the linebackers being down a few players from where they were last season and the beginning of this season. Leonard Floyd has not made many plays. Maybe that’s an oversimplification of defense, but the other news is that he might also be the Rams’ best healthy linebacker. Troy Reeder had three sacks and a career game last week but had struggled in 2019. Kiser has potential and proved capable of having big games. I think the 49ers attacking on the ground would make the most sense. It’s definitely been a weaker area than their pass defense, and a player like Mostert could cause a lot of problems for McVay.
Many 49ers fans are expecting the Rams to have their way on Sunday night. The Rams will win this game because ____?
I don’t see this game as being any less evenly matched than it was in last season’s 34-31 49ers win in Week 16. As far as I can tell, the 49ers have a lot of similarities but added in Jerick McKinnon, Brandon Aiyuk, and Trent Williams. The defense was too good to fall apart because of Nick Bosa. I see regression ahead for the 49ers offensive and defensive players, and if that happens, this conversation about the game being lopsided in LA’s favor will seem like it couldn’t have happened. A road game in the division? I don’t think it will be easy. Three weeks ago, the Rams fell behind 28-3 to the Bills before mounting a comeback. Two weeks ago, the Giants shut down their run game and made it a close game despite Daniel Jones being a non-threat for four quarters. They have susceptibilities, but I’ll say that the Rams odds to win should be greatly improved if they can successfully run on Robert Saleh’s defense and can continue to be the NFL’s most prolific play-action offense.