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Who should be held accountable for Rams offensive struggles?

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By: BlaineGrisak

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who’s to blame for Rams offensive struggles in 2022?

The Los Angeles Rams offense has been struggling this season. That might even be putting it nicely. The Rams offense in some areas has struggled at a historic rate.

Last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rams offense was shutout for the sixth time in eight games in the fourth quarter. Their fourth quarter EPA this season of -0.355 ranks 764th out of 765 teams since 1999. Only the 2006 Oakland Raiders were worse.

In the first half, the Rams averaged 0.3 yards on first down. Once again, you would have to go back to 2006 in a game between the Patriots and Packers to find a worse offense.

Going all the way back to 2012, there have only been 18 games in the NFL where a team had nine or fewer first downs, nine or more punts and 210 or fewer yards. The Rams’ performance on Sunday is one of them.

The Rams currently have the worst three-and-out rate in the NFL through nine games. Their nine first downs last week were the second-fewest in a single game this year.

Like I said, the product on offense hasn’t been good.

The Rams have an offensive EPA per play of -0.113. The last time the Rams were worse was 2016 when they had an offensive EPA of -0.202.

With Sean McVay at head coach, the Rams are statistically running an offense very comparable to one that was run by Fisher. A McVay offense shouldn’t look like this. An offense with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Allen Robinson shouldn’t be this disjointed.

While some blame can be put on the offensive line, under Fisher, the Rams offensive line ranked higher than 22 in pass-blocking according to Pro Focus just once in 2013.

So much is wrong with the Rams offense through nine games in 2022. At times it looks disjointed and broken. The question then is, who is accountable for the current product on the field? Is this on the front office for poor planning or is this on the coaching staff?

The Rams have spent each of their last three second round picks on offensive skill positions.

Cam Akers currently ranks dead last with 2.8 yards per carry. He trails the next closest running back by half a yard. Akers also ranks 38th out of 48 qualifying running backs in rush yards over expected. Darrell Henderson was also a third-round pick and has been nothing more than a third-down, change-of-pace player throughout his career.

At running back, the Rams have delegated just $4.5M on the position in 2022. Out of the teams in the bottom-10 of cash spending at running back, only the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets have winning records.

In 2020, the Rams also selected Van Jefferson who had a respectable 2021 season. However, in two games this year, he has yet to record a single catch. Meanwhile, 2021 second round pick, TuTu Atwell, was once again inactive last week against the Buccaneers.

The Rams have currently spent the fifth-most in cash spending on the wide receiver position this season. This is a front office that has spent a significant amount of their limited resources at wide receiver. Somehow, Kupp remains the only wide receiver with any sort of legitimate production.

It shouldn’t be any surprise then that the Rams have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Their $21.2M of cash spending on the offensive line is the third-fewest — ahead of only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Las Vegas Raiders.

McVay has been given offensive talent with the hope that he can scheme around a ‘just ok’ offensive line. Meanwhile, it should be the other way around.

The Kansas City Chiefs learned this the hard way. While being in the bottom-5 in offensive line cash spending in 2021, the Chiefs are now at 13 in 2022. They’ve used resources to draft players like Creed Humphrey, trade for Orlando Brown, and sign Joe Thuney in free agency to a five-year $80M contract.

Meanwhile, they traded away Tyreek Hill to open up their cash flow to spend on other positions, knowing that Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes can make the skill players in the scheme around them better.

How much of this is on the coaching staff and how much is on the front office? Both likely share the blame. However, this isn’t an issue where the front office hasn’t spent resources on skill position players. The Rams should have talent at those spots.

The issue has been that these skill position players haven’t lived up to their potential and contributed as expected. That’s an issue with player development and the coaching staff.

One of the biggest mysteries on the Rams coaching staff and the offense in particular is who is responsible for what. This is McVay’s offense and the Rams head coach calls the plays. However, how much of a role does offensive coordinator Liam Coen have in the offense?

Looking back at what Kevin O’Connell did with the Rams last season, the current Minnesota Vikings head coach worked with McVay and other coaches to help put together game plans. According to the LA Times, O’Connell also oversaw meetings with coaches, Stafford, and other quarterbacks.

If Coen has a similar role, that seems to be a huge concern for where the offense is currently struggling. At Kentucky, Coen was commended for his work with quarterback Will Levis.

This season, while Stafford’s interception percentage is the same as it was last year, he is set for a career low in touchdown percentage as it stands at 2.8 percent. Stafford’s QBR of 46.2 would be his lowest since 2014 and his passer rating of 84.9 would be his lowest since 2013.

This season, Stafford has an EPA per dropback of -0.073. That’s lower than any other season in his career. While some of that is certainly on the offensive line, his age, and possibly even his elbow, players don’t drop that much if the coaching is still at a high level.

Stafford’s time to throw this season is 2.71 seconds which is a whole tenth of a second slower than Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, and Tua Tagovailoa. The Rams are still relying on slower developing routes even with the offensive line blocking at the level that it is. There hasn’t been much of an adjustment here.

In 2020 Coen moved from coaching wide receivers to becoming the assistant quarterbacks coach. Jared Goff’s 0.060 EPA per dropback in 2020 was his lowest since his rookie season and his 20 touchdowns were also his fewest under McVay.

Coen was commended for improving Kentucky’s scoring during his one season in college football. However, the Rams offense is currently averaging 16.4 points per game. The last time the Rams averaged less than 20 points per game was 2016 under Fisher. With Case Keenum and rookie Jared Goff at quarterback, the Rams offense averaged 14 points per game.

Their current 16.4 points per game is worse than every other year under Fisher.

Kentucky running back Christopher Rodriguez also ranked 12th in the nation under Coen. However, the Rams currently have a 27.9 percent success rate running the football which is worse than any team going back to 2010.

This season, 54 percent of the Rams’ carries in the run game have gone inside where the offensive line has arguably been the weakest. Some of their most successful runs have gone off left tackle.

In fact, the Rams have created the sixth-most adjusted yards in that area. However, only 12 percent of their runs this season have gone off left tackle which is tied for the ninth-fewest in the league.

After winning the Super Bowl last season, the Rams coaching staff was poached unlike any other. They lost O’Connell and Wes Phillips to the Minnesota Vikings. On their own staff, the Rams added a new assistant, hired Ra’Shaad Samples to coach the running backs, and Zac Robinson was promoted. Additionally, Thomas Brown moved from coaching running backs to coaching tight ends.

A lot of the Rams’ struggles come in areas where there were coaching changes. While McVay has done a great job in the past at making coaching transitions seamless, his staff has been gutted over the last few years. At some point, that becomes very difficult to overcome year-over-year.

The running game has been struggling so much this season that last week McVay went as far as having Brown returning to coaching the running backs in a smaller capacity alongside Samples.

As mentioned, the issue has been, outside of the organization, nobody really knows what each coach’s role is within the system. What is Coen’s role? Is he calling some plays and how much is he involved in the weekly gameplan?

Who’s making the second half adjustments where the Rams are struggling so much? The Rams rank 31st this season in second-half scoring.

Who manages the running back rotation? Several times this season, Henderson has been pulled off of the field following a stretch of good runs. Once the Rams build momentum in the run game, their running back is pulled.

To start the second half against the Buccaneers, Henderson had four carries for 39 yards. When the Rams entered the red zone, Henderson was substituted for Akers and the offense settled for a field goal.

Why is Bobby Evans continually starting at left guard? While the Rams are certainly limited for options on the offensive line, for Oday Aboushi to get benched and Evans continue to start is a questionable decision. It’s one that arguably has cost the Rams in games.

Continuity has been an issue from the coaching staff to the offensive line. However, there are some answers needed here from the coaching staff that goes beyond the typical “I need to do better” responses.

Like most things, the Rams offensive struggles don’t boil down to just one thing. The front office has certainly made some questionable decisions on the offensive line. However, there’s no doubt that McVay and the coaching staff likely have a say in the personnel. Two of the Rams’ last three skill position players taken in the second round are arguably busts.

Coen entering the fold at offensive coordinator hasn’t worked out to start the season along with the other coaching changes. With no clarity on responsibilities from the outside, it’s difficult to point the finger at a singular person. If Coen is in charge of the gameplan much like O’Connell was, that has been an issue this season.

While the offensive line hasn’t been great, it’s a group that’s been dealing with extraordinary adversity with injuries. The scheme hasn’t done a lot to make things easier on them. The same can be said about the run game.

It may take a full season to build this cohesion between the coaching staff, offensive line, etc. However, until then, the product on offense will continue to reflect just how disjointed this entire group is.

Originally posted on Turf Show Times – All Posts