6 adjustments Rams must make coming out of bye week

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It was smooth sailing in the first eight weeks of the season for the Los Angeles Rams. They were 7-1, the offense was cruising and the defense was keeping bad teams in check.

But the Titans and 49ers were two big speed bumps in Weeks 9 and 10, both handing the Rams losses. Heading into their bye week, the Rams have the opportunity to regroup and evaluate the team before the final stretch.

They should consider making these six changes before they take the field again in Week 12 against the Packers.

Put Matthew Stafford under center more

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Stafford has been in the shotgun a lot this season and for the most part, that’s been fine. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s attempted 292 passes out of the gun and just 70 from under center. Yet, he’s been better under center.

  • Shotgun: 2,346 yards, 19 TDs, 6 INTs, 8.0 Y/A

  • Under center: 668 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs, 9.5 Y/A

When Stafford is in the gun, there’s not nearly as much of a threat for the Rams to run the ball. Yes, McVay still calls running plays from the shotgun, but Henderson has also been far better when Stafford is under center.

  • Shotgun: 40 carries, 156 yards (3.9 YPC). 16 catches, 90 yards (5.6 Y/R)

  • Under center: 86 carries, 437 yards (5.1 YPC). 7 catches, 64 yards (9.1 Y/R)

It’s time for McVay to realize the Rams offense as a whole has been effective when Stafford is under center rather than sitting back in the gun, which invites pressure because of how often he’s alone in the backfield.

Keep Jalen Ramsey on the top receiver more often

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Ramsey is not only the Rams’ best cover man, but he’s one of the best defenders in the entire NFL. Using him in the “star” role has been fine and he’s made a huge impact against the run, but the Rams aren’t paying him $25 million to cover the No. 2 or 3 receiver when opponents do choose to throw it.

Against the 49ers, Ramsey wasn’t on George Kittle or Deebo Samuel enough, instead blitzing off the edge and covering the likes of Brandon Aiyuk or Jauan Jennings. Coming out of the bye, the Rams should use him to shadow No. 1 receivers more often, especially given their schedule.

The Rams will face Davante Adams, DeAndre Hopkins, DK Metcalf, Justin Jefferson and Samuel again in the second half of the year, and it’ll be critical for them to limit those playmaking receivers. Ramsey is the best and easiest solution for that and should be used more as a shutdown corner instead of a linebacker.

Give Terrell Burgess an opportunity

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Despite being active for all 10 games this season, Burgess still has not played as many snaps as he did in only seven games as a rookie last year. He’s played just 35 defensive snaps, most of which came from Week 6-8, and he’s been out there for zero defensive plays the last two weeks despite Dont’e Deayon missing Week 10.

Nick Scott continues to get playing time over him, even though he’s the Rams’ lowest-graded player on defense who’s played at least 50 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Scott has struggled in coverage and finds himself out of position too often, even though he has come down with two game-sealing interceptions.

Whether it’s in place of Scott as the third safety or by replacing David Long Jr. as the dime defender, Burgess deserves more opportunities than he’s gotten. The secondary isn’t playing particularly well outside of Ramsey, so a change couldn’t hurt.

Become more aggressive on defense

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Raheem Morris’ defense has been all about bending but not breaking. It worked against bad teams, but against better offenses, it’s going to be a difficult plan to sustain because of the holes the Rams have on defense. For instance, against the 49ers, the Rams played it safe and opted not to load the box despite San Francisco consistently running the ball. Elijah Mitchell faced a box of eight-plus defenders only 7.41% of the time, according to Next Gen Stats, which was the third-lowest rate of Week 10. Jeffery Wilson didn’t face a single loaded box, either.

The Rams should’ve been more aggressive and forced Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them rather than sitting back and protecting against deep passes. The rest of the way, the Rams should use more man coverage with Ramsey and Darious Williams. The pass rush is generating pressure at a high rate and has the second-best grade at Pro Football Focus, which makes it easier for defenses to run man coverage and play more aggressively on the outside.

It’s time for the Rams to take that approach more often because when Ramsey matches up with receivers one-on-one, he’s likely to win that battle.

Lean on the run in the red zone

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No quarterback in the NFL has thrown more red zone passes than Matthew Stafford, who has attempted 76 throws inside the 20 – seven more than second-ranked Tom Brady and 19 more than any other quarterback. Inside the 10, he’s thrown a league-high 36 passes.

Yet, the Rams are only scoring touchdowns 60% of the time in the red zone, just slightly better than last year’s rate of 57.8%. Henderson is slipping down the ranks in terms of red zone carries, only attempting 23 runs when the Rams get inside the 20. Inside the 10, he’s carried it just 12 times compared to Stafford’s 36 passes.

McVay has leaned way too heavily on Stafford in the red zone when Henderson has actually been running it well in the red area. That should change after the bye because even though Stafford isn’t turning it over in the red zone, the Rams also aren’t having much success down there.

Go for it on fourth down more

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Despite McVay appearing to be an aggressive coach with how often he throws the ball, he’s actually on the more conservative side when it comes to going for it on fourth down. He often settles for field goals and punts instead of keeping the offense on the field, which we even saw on Monday night when kicked a field goal despite being down 31-7 late in the fourth quarter.

McVay would be wise to give his offense a shot more often on fourth down instead of kicking field goals, attempting to catch the defense off guard with fakes and punting it away on the plus-side of the field.

Give Henderson and Sony Michel a chance to pick up 1 yard on fourth down. Let Stafford throw it on fourth-and-5. Matt Gay is a reliable kicker but McVay should be able to draw up plays to convert on fourth down more often than not.

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