Ed: I entered this season wondering what the Rams were — the 2018 juggernaut or the 2019 team that missed the playoffs. Three games in, what do you think they are?
Kenneth: Offensively, I think that the Rams can be as successful as they were in 2017 and 2018. Defensively, there are many setbacks and growth opportunities needed that would imply that maybe the 2020 team won’t be as strong on that side of the ball as they were in 2017, when they ranked fourth against the pass by DVOA, and 2018, when they ranked 11th. Last season, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had the Rams ranked ninth in DVOA and eighth against the pass but there was not enough growth for Sean McVay to stick with the longtime veteran as his show runner anymore. The team hired 37-year-old Brandon Staley, a linebackers coach with the Bears and Broncos under Vic Fangio, and it’s too early to tell what kind of returns he’ll bring. The Rams lost Cory Littleton at linebacker and Dante Fowler at edge rusher and the replacements haven’t been as effective yet. Micah Kiser won Defensive Player of the Week in Week 2 but there are issues covering the middle of the field and with missed tackles. Los Angeles leads the NFL in missed tackles depending on what outlet you’re getting information from. Fowler was a presence on the edge last season and that has not existed yet in 2020. Leonard Floyd was signed as a free agent and has two sacks but not much else in that department. The Rams struggled to defend Josh Allen and especially slot receiver Cole Beasley as cornerback Troy Hill has allowed 18 of 19 passes to be completed in his direction. Kiser is also allowing a lot of receptions and that has led to his high tackles total. It’s not all negative of course and the Rams had solid defensive performances against the Cowboys and Eagles to start the season. Aaron Donald remains the NFL’s best defensive player, if not best overall, and Jalen Ramsey has a good case as the best corner. John Johnson, Michael Brockers and cornerback Darious Williams are among those other players on defense who’ve been helpful as well as rookie sixth round safety standout Jordan Fuller. He missed most of the last game but if Fuller plays, expect to hear his name a couple of times at least. It’s a longwinded but hopefully helpful answer to explain why I think the Rams could be in the playoffs and competing for a deep run, but if not, it seems more likely than not it will be because of poor tackling, run defense and bad coverage in the middle of the field. Offensively, they look great. Honestly, there’s not as big of a gap between the 2018 and 2019 team as is often suggested.
Ed: I’ll just leave this open for your interpretation. Jared Goff is .... ?
Kenneth: Jared Goff is playing well this season. He’s been able to avoid costly mistakes more consistently than in past seasons and he has a greater opportunity to succeed because of improved performance at offensive line, receiver, tight end and running back. No player, Russell Wilson or Gardner Minshew or Daniel Jones, won’t do better with better personnel around them and worse with worse personnel. Put Daniel Jones on the Rams and I don’t know what happens. Same with Goff on the Giants, but I can’t imagine that Goff is doing much with that supporting cast right now. He’s got two excellent receivers, good tackles, a more explosive running back than 2019 and maybe the best offensive game planner in the NFL. I feel more confident today than I did a month ago that the Rams will be just fine with Goff over the next couple of years as they wade through some financial frustrations and first round off days.
Ed: If you could take one player off the Giants’ roster and put him in the Rams’ lineup who would it be? Why?
Kenneth: My gut reaction was Darius Slayton because I noticed earlier this year that he’s got a few remarkable similarities to DeAndre Hopkins at the same stage in his career, and physically. So I’m interested to see if he at least develops into a consistent Pro Bowl receiver, if not a superstar. However, at this stage in most Giants’ careers, they are only potential. I get way more bang for my buck stealing someone other than a receiver and because Andrew Whitworth is 39 years old, the obvious answer is Andrew Thomas. I noticed through Sports Info Solutions than Thomas is credited with the most blown blocks this season so far. That’s unfortunate but I don’t know how true that is for you watching the games or if it’s a combination of other factors. Regardless, Thomas is too good of a tackle prospect to leave on New York’s roster if you’re allowing me to put him on the Rams. It solves too many riddles at once. There’s also that case to be made for Jones. A free spin on a quarterback prospect of that level is enticing.
Ed: Four of the Rams first five games are against the NFC East. How did you guys get to have an exhibition season when no one else did?
Kenneth: Hahahahahaha. This is the funniest thing I’ve ever read in one of the SB Nation Q and A exchanges. Not that I’ve been bowled over a bunch of times by the 5 Qs. But even if I had, this would still be one of the funniest moments.
The Rams would love to go 4-0 vs. the NFC East and now because of their loss, 3-1 vs. the AFC East. That would be choice. Because the NFC West is 3-0, 2-1, 2-1 and 2-1. Every team in the division has as many or more wins than the NFC East combined. Ed, c’mon, rally Joe Judge and win that thing (after this week)!
Ed: You’re game planning FOR the Giants against the Rams. How do you attack their defense? I mean, aside from going all Tonya Harding on Aaron Donald. How can you slow down the offense?
Kenneth: I’m glad I got that long wind out of the way on the first question now. I don’t think it should be that difficult to attack the Rams at the moment so long as you can run the ball and complete short-intermediate throws. Maybe that first thing won’t work for New York right now ... so I’d say that Evan Engram could be the star for the Giants and then let Golden Tate get the ball out there in space to create against a team that is just struggling to bring players down consistently on the first try. Teams are avoiding Jalen Ramsey mostly and so far that’s worked. Passes elsewhere have been successful and in some cases, Ramsey is also allowed a misstep here and there. Donald is obviously the one guy who isn’t likely to make a mistake though, so if you can’t guard him, there is a good chance you can’t do anything. The Rams do have defensive issues but Donald is such a good player that he can wipe some of those away by himself and if the Giants struggle to score a touchdown this Sunday, Donald’s probably had his way again.