It took just three games, but we’re learning more about this version of the Los Angeles Rams.
And honestly, there’s five rare things involving this team that has helped spark their turnaround from the season opening debacle against the Buffalo Bills — five things not often thought about but deserves mention for the now first-place Rams. Here they are:
The Rams’ Top Pass Protector During Streak is Someone Who Wasn’t a Starter
We all saw what the Bills did to this offensive line on September 8. We’ve additionally seen this unit reshuffled given the myriad of injuries so far into the season.
But here’s what we’ve discovered: The Rams’ top pass protector these two games has been someone who wasn’t listed in the starting lineup — but has turned into a savior for this injury-riddled unit: Alaric “A.J.” Jackson.
Once a second round draft pick for the Canadian Football League after going undrafted in the NFL, Jackson has a rather-thin frame at 285-pounds for the interior. But since sliding over to right guard — a spot hit hard with injuries to Logan Bruss, Tremayne Anchrum and losing Austin Corbett to free agency — Jackson has pass blocked on 63 total plays as a starter per Pro Football Focus…not allowing a single sack his side and just one pressure.
We’ll definitely learn a lot more about Jackson on Monday, October 3 against a loaded San Francisco 49ers front that created 23 pressures and four sacks on Russell Wilson. But the former Iowa Hawkeye Jackson has gone from rare undrafted rookie find to improving the protection for Matthew Stafford.
Seventh Round Veteran Has Been a Hammer
Like the offensive line, the secondary has dealt with the injury bug.
But like the OL unit, a past Big 10 guy has been the nice surprise…and is on pace for a career-best season.
Nick Scott has 17 tackles, 11 solo stops and a forced fumble through three games — better than anything the Ex-Penn State Nittany Lion has done in his previous seasons per Pro Football Reference. He’s on pace for 95 tackles and 62 solo stops. But outside of being a sure tackler, Scott has proven to be effective in coverage: Surrendering just four catches for 32 yards on 125 coverage plays per PFF.
Granted, Scott has had to fill in for Jordan Fuller. But the Ex-seventh rounder has been a hammer for what’s been an improving secondary from that Bills game.
All Good Without Von
Turns out this department has done fine without the two-time Super Bowl winner Miller.
The rotation of Leonard Floyd, Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins have combined for six quarterback hits. Lewis and Hollins also have one sack apiece for a team currently at seven through three games, with the former getting his on Sunday, September 25 in Arizona:
And the latter strip sacking Marcus Mariota:
Nephew of Rams Super Bowl Winner Has Sparked Offense
Trent Green’s nephew has added a new dimension to the Rams.
That would be Ben Skowronek, the new fullback and rising fan favorite inside the “Rams House.”
In the loss to Buffalo, the Rams gained just 52 yards on 18 carries, averaging 2.8 yards per carry. Skowronek, though, has run blocked on a combined 41 plays since which has led to the following: Running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson combining for 169 yards the last two weeks and the Rams improving their ground totals. He even flattened former NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt as seen here:
Then, “Benny Skow” gives Sean McVay and the Rams this wrinkle: Fooling defenses into thinking he’s just going to stay and block, but sneaking out for these kind of plays:
Skowronek’s role has expanded. One Rams veteran, though, could be in for expanded numbers.
Potential 90-Catch Season in the Works?
Tyler Higbee has had his trek back from his ACL tear that prevented him from playing in the Super Bowl.
Now, he’s on track for career-high numbers if he stays healthy…90 catches to be exact.
In the first three games, Higbee has more catches (16) than any of his previous seasons including his best campaign of 2019 (69 grabs that season). He’s averaging 5-6 catches a game. But if you do the math for a 17-game schedule, that really means he’s on pace for a 90-catch season.
Here’s what also helps “Big Rig Higs” per ESPN’s Field Yates:
Again, the key is staying healthy for a full regular season, which hasn’t happened for Higbee since 2018. But he’s healthier and getting increased targets…which could mean career year.