(CBSLA) -- The Los Angeles Rams have struggled to find the form that led to a Super Bowl appearance last season. They currently sit third in the NFC West, with losses to the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, the two teams ahead of them. Their other loss came at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who hung 55 points on them back in Week 4.
The defense yields more yards and points than it probably should. The offense often struggles to move the ball, especially on the ground. And Jared Goff seems to get harassed every time he drops back to pass. The team needs to address these issues if it wants to keep pace in division, and it seems they're trying.
Last week the Rams traded first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021, along with a fourth-round pick in 2021, for Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. The move raises long-term concerns, since Ramsey will likely command a big raise when his rookie contract expires after next season. But it also addresses current issues on defense.
According to James Lofton, NFL On CBS analyst and former NFL wide receiver, "the one thing that every defensive coordinator wants... they want what we have now labeled as a shutdown corner. Somebody who teams are reluctant to throw in that direction, because of what it allows you to do. It allows you to then take the other 10 people, play the run, play the pass, and kind of gang up on the other team's offense. That's what Jalen Ramsey allows them to do with Aaron Donald up front."
Ramsey appeared in their Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons and, matched up with top NFL receiver Julio Jones and the up-and-coming Calvin Ridley, immediately made his presence felt. Having him in coverage made life harder for Matt Ryan, who was held to just 159 yards and no touchdowns on 16-27 passing. He was sacked five times, including once by Donald and three times by Dante Fowler.
In Lofton's view, "Dante Fowler, who they also acquired from the Jaguars a year ago, gives [the Rams] that edge pass rusher that can get after people."
Their problems on offense stem, in part, from injuries, but also from the play of the offensive line, which seems to have regressed. And these problems show up in the production of the various skill players (or lack thereof). As Lofton sees it, "the offensive line is probably not playing as well as they did a year ago, which then impacts the running back, who's not as healthy as he was a year ago. The wide receivers have been nicked up a little bit from time to time but are very capable."
Jared Goff threw for a respectable 268 yards and two touchdowns, but he was held to just 78 yards the week before. Todd Gurley only gained 41 yards on his 18 carries against the Falcons, for a paltry 2.3 yards per carry, and has yet to have a 100-yard game.
"Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks, and Robert Woods... those three guys, along with Gerald Everett, give you four potential guys to throw to downfield," says Lofton. "And when you don't have it down the field, you can dump it off to Todd Gurley. That should make a quarterback's job really easy, as long as he can get protection from that offensive line."
That hasn't been the case many weeks. But the Rams have another favorable matchup this week, when they play the winless Cincinnati Bengals in London. This could be the week they get back on track. As Lofton puts it, "when you're feeling under the weather, your friends send you get-well cards. And the Bengals, I hate to say it, are coming in there as a get-well card."
The Rams play the Bengals Sunday @ 10 a.m PT on CBS.
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