Sean McVay’s vision for the Rams offense is all about putting pressure on the defense

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Cameron DaSilva
·5 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Les Snead and Sean McVay didn’t blindly go into the 2021 NFL draft with the plan to just draft the best players that fell to them. They also weren’t going to reach for players at specific positions of need for the sake of filling roster holes.

They had a plan, even if it seemed like they were just kids in a toy store shopping for whatever they pleased. And that plan – for McVay, at least – is to stress opposing defenses with as many dynamic weapons on offense as they can reasonably accumulate.

It’s why they drafted speedy 5-foot-9 receiver Tutu Atwell at No. 57 overall instead of taking an offensive lineman like Creed Humphrey, despite already signing DeSean Jackson as a free agent. It’s why they selected 6-foot-5 tight end Jacob Harris in Round 4 instead of drafting a player who could potentially take over for Andrew Whitworth in 2022, despite adding Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round last year.

Typically it’s the defense putting pressure on the offense with a pass rush – whether it’s with four rushers or exotic blitzes. But McVay wants to return the favor and pressure defenses by forcing them to defend an elite group of eligible receivers that welcomed Jackson and Atwell this offseason.

The Rams put very little pressure on opposing defenses last year with their dink-and-dunk offense. It will (hopefully) be a very different story in 2021.

“I think the biggest thing I would say is that we were able to add guys that bring an elite trade in terms of the ability to stretch the top-shelf of the defense. That’s not exclusive to the ways that you can utilize these guys, but we do want to become a more explosive offense,” he said after the draft. “It starts with opportunities and I’ve got to be able to call those plays and give our players to make those plays down the field, or really create them. And it’s not exclusive to having to catch the ball down the field. You can get run after catches and things like that, but we do feel like these guys are nice complements to an already really good group that we had in place. I think their skill sets are great complements to the groups that we have when you look at the running backs, the tight ends and the already solid group of receivers. So how many different ways can we activate and really put pressure on the defense with our five eligibles and ultimately play really well as a unit collectively, all 11? And so those two guys, definitely we have a vision for them and then their ability to make it come to life is something that we’re looking forward to see.”

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

McVay’s offense has primarily been built around having three receivers on the field together – specifically 11 personnel, with one tight end and a running back. But with all the weapons Los Angeles now has on offense, that should certainly expand to include more groupings and combinations.

On first down, the Rams could go empty with Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell and Tyler Higbee. There may not be a running back on the field, but the threat to run the ball is still there. Just before the snap, Atwell comes in motion from the slot, takes a handoff from Matthew Stafford and jets around the corner with Higbee and Woods leading the way as blockers.

On the very next play, the Rams’ offense could look like this: Woods on the left side, Kupp in the slot, Jackson lined up outside to Stafford’s right, Cam Akers in the backfield and Higbee attached to the formation. There’s a threat to run, throw it deep or take an underneath pass to either Woods, Kupp or Higbee.

Again, it’s all about options and forcing the defense to stay on its toes, alert to all five eligible receivers on the field – which, for the Rams, all of them are capable of making a big play in one way or another.

There’s also an element of keeping players fresh throughout the course of a game and season. With the NFL expanding to 17 regular-season games – and the Rams expecting to make the playoffs – they need to have good depth in the event of injury.

And giving their new QB Stafford as many weapons as possible helps, too.

“To be able to surround him with playmakers, keeping guys fresh. We have some really important players at that receiver group that have played a significant amount of snaps, but I think it’s important to be able to keep them fresh throughout the course of games and then also the season, playing 17 games and hopefully you give yourself an (opportunity) to compete afterwards,” McVay said. “But the more weapons you can surround yourself with offensively, especially around a player like Matthew Stafford, that’s really important to us. I think what we’ve got is a great complement, guys that have different skill sets, but really valuable skill sets – almost as if you’re looking at it, when you got your five eligibles, it’s kind of like a basketball starting lineup to be able to really stretch people horizontally, vertically, and can kind of threaten people in a bunch of different ways. When you have a quarterback that can really activate all those parts of the field with the ability he has as a thrower, that was something that we wanted to be intentional about going in and attacking and Tutu definitely brings that as did DeSean and those two additions to our already solid group is exciting.”

It might seem like overkill to add Atwell, Harris and even Ben Skowronek to a pass-catching group that already featured Kupp, Woods, Jefferson, Jackson and Higbee, but McVay has a vision for this offense. We won’t know exactly what it will look like until Week 1, but expect to see a ton of variety and different combinations that constantly keep pressure on the defense.