Rams midseason awards: Handing out superlatives from first half of 2021

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Even though they hit a couple of speed bumps in the first nine weeks of the season, the Los Angeles Rams have proved to be one of the top contenders in the NFL this year. They’re 7-2, have the league’s leading passer and receiver, and boast a defense that now welcomes Von Miller to the mix.

Big things could be in store for the second half of the season, but looking back on the first nine games, there’s a lot to like already. Here are our midseason awards for the Rams, handing out honors such as MVP, Rookie of the Year and the most improved player.

MVP: Matthew Stafford

(AP Photo/Matt Patterson)

It was almost a toss-up between Stafford and Cooper Kupp because both have been hugely impactful, but this one goes to the quarterback because of the difference he’s made on the offense as a whole. He’s a big reason the Rams are 7-2, even if his two interceptions against the Titans were primarily why they lost that game.

He’s not only been the Rams’ MVP, but he’s in the race to be the NFL MVP by the end of the season, too. He already has 23 touchdown passes and six interceptions in nine games, leading the league in yards (2,771), passer rating (111.0), QBR (69.7) and net yards per attempt (8.02). One bad game is no reason to panic because he’s still been a top-five QB.

Offensive Player of the Year: Cooper Kupp

C. Morgan Engel-USA TODAY Sports

If Stafford is the Rams’ MVP, Kupp is certainly their Offensive Player of the Year so far. In fact, he’s on pace to win NFL Offensive Player of the Year if he keeps playing the way he has. He’s caught 74 passes for 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the league in all three categories.

No receiver has put up the types of numbers that Kupp has this season and it’s been a while since any player has. He’s the first receiver with 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns through nine games since Jerry Rice in 1990. Kupp is off to a terrific start this season and there’s nothing to suggest he’s going to slow down.

Co-Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

It would be unfair to give this award to just one of the two because they’ve both been incredibly valuable to the defense. Donald has a team-high 41 pressures and 14 quarterback hits, also recording six sacks in nine games.

Ramsey already has a team-high three interceptions and eight passes defensed, but what be more impressive is that he’s made six tackles for a loss – more than all but two players on the Rams. He’s doing it all on defense, from blitzing off the edge to covering the slot and lining up outside.

With Donald and Ramsey on the same unit, the Rams defense will be able to contend with any offense in the NFL. They have good complementary pieces, but the defense starts with these two players.

Rookie of the Year: Robert Rochell

(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

To be honest, there weren’t many choices here. Rochell and Ernest Jones are the only two rookies who have contributed much this season, and even with Jones playing relatively well right now, Rochell has been a bigger factor. He’s broken up four passes and intercepted one, recording 14 total tackles in eight games played – including four starts.

His role will likely still be somewhat limited by Darious Williams and Dont’e Deayon at cornerback, but Rochell should continue to get snaps in the secondary throughout the rest of the year.

Most improved: Brian Allen

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Allen went from being a below-average center in 2019 to not playing at all in 2020 to being a quality starter for the Rams this season. Greg Gaines, Terrell Lewis and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have also improved considerably, but Allen gets the nod here because he’s an every-down player and an important part of the offense, given his rapport with Stafford.

Allen has the sixth-highest PFF grade on the team at 74.0 and although his 15 pressures allowed are somewhat concerning, he’s held up better than expected in the middle of the offensive line. His improvement is a key factor in the Rams’ offensive line ranking among the best in football this season.

Most underrated: Leonard Floyd

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

It’s almost as if playing on the same defense as Donald and Ramsey causes people to overlook another really good player, Floyd. He’s been underrated for the last two years with the Rams despite putting up great numbers as their top edge rusher.

This season, he has a team-high 7.5 sacks and has also racked up five tackles for a loss, a number that would be much higher if not for a few missed tackles on his part. Without Floyd, the Rams wouldn’t generate the pressure that they do on defense and his play as a run defender shouldn’t be ignored, either. He’s lived up to his contract so far.

Biggest surprise: Dont'e Deayon

(AP Photo/Eric Smith)

This probably could’ve gone to Allen, too, but since he won most improved, I’m giving it to Deayon. He’s only earned a role on defense in the last four weeks but he’s made the most of his opportunity, going from practice squad cornerback to a member of the 53-man roster to a being starter in the secondary.

With Darious Williams now back, Deayon may not play as much as he has recently. But he’s played well up to this point, allowing only 16 catches on 26 targets – the second-lowest reception percentage on the team. Deayon has been a pleasant surprise for the Rams and has proved that despite being 5-foot-9, he can play in the NFL.

Biggest disappointment: David Long Jr.

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Long was supposed to help replace Troy Hill at cornerback but he’s struggled to fill that role. He was benched after the Rams’ loss to the Cardinals and played just 56 total snaps from Week 5-7. He played 57 snaps against the Texans when Rochell was sidelined but after Williams returned in Week 9, Long didn’t play a single defensive snap.

He’s been a major disappointment and although it’s not time to give up on him as an NFL cornerback just yet, time is running out for the 2019 third-round pick.

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