Los Angeles Rams
Five ways Rams can turn their season around in second half
Los Angeles Rams

Five ways Rams can turn their season around in second half

Updated Oct. 25, 2022 12:08 a.m. ET

By Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFC West Writer

Rams coach Sean McVay's trademark ability to manage tough situations is being tested in the first half of the regular season. 

McVay has had to deal with a weekly turnstile of injured offensive linemen disrupting his ability to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford and create consistent offense. Disgruntled running back Cam Akers appears to want out, and L.A. is actively shopping him.

The Rams dropped two of their past three games heading into the bye week and do not look like the clutch-performing team that won a Super Bowl last season. Still, they sit just a half-game out of first place in the NFC West at 3-3 and would be in the postseason (barely) if the playoffs started today. Los Angeles hosts the wobbly San Francisco 49ers after the Kansas City Chiefs bludgeoned them Sunday. The 49ers are losers of two of their past three games since defeating the Rams at home in Week 4. 


For the eternally positive McVay, there's hope on the horizon.

"I'm looking forward to getting some of these guys back," McVay told reporters about his team's injured players returning during the bye week. "But what it's allowed us to do is build some depth that we wouldn't be able to do otherwise. Guys are playing, and they are gaining that confidence. They're gaining that experience that we've seen will be key and critical. Because you just never know, injuries are an inevitable part of this game." 

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With the Rams self-scouting, evaluating scheme changes and getting valuable rest during the time away, Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey said there's no magic potion to solve the team's up-and-down play during the first six games of the season.

"I don't think there's any secret or special recipe," Ramsey said. "We just have to stay focused and be connected as a team.  … I'm usually not happy with an early bye, but it's coming at a good spot right now. Hopefully, we get a lot of guys back from injury." 

That said, here are five things the Rams must do to get things turned around in the second half of the season.

Healthy players returning to the lineup

McVay expects receiver Van Jefferson (knee), center Brian Allen (knee) and cornerbacks Troy Hill (groin) and Cobie Durant (hamstring) to return from the injured reserve list this week. Defensive lineman Bobby Brown also returns after serving a six-week suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. 

"If those guys are ready to go, they make us a better team immediately," McVay said. 

The Rams also could start the 21-day window for running back Kyren Williams (ankle) to return off the injured list. 

However, stabilizing the offensive line is at the top of McVay's list heading into Week 8. The Rams started six different offensive line combinations and three different centers in six weeks. 

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Only right tackle Rob Havenstein has started every game so far this season. The Rams lost left tackle Joe Noteboom for the season after he suffered an Achilles tendon tear against the Carolina Panthers. Left guard David Edwards is out indefinitely as he recovers from multiple concussions. Right guard Coleman Shelton should be back at some point as he recovers from a high-ankle sprain.

Undrafted rookie Alaric Jackson has been a revelation, competently playing both right guard and left tackle this season. He should get the nod at left tackle with Noteboom out. But the most important addition should be Allen back at center to anchor the offensive line. 

"Everyone who's in our room right now needs to train and prepare like they are going to be starting," Havenstein said. "I'm not saying that everyone is going to go down, but that's the mindset guys need to have." 

Play the young guys

A lot has rightfully been made of L.A.'s struggles creating efficient offense. The Rams average just 17.3 points per game, No. 28 in the NFL. And L.A.'s 70.3 rushing yards per contest is No. 31 in the NFL. 

McVay can point to the reshuffled offensive line as the main culprit for a lot of what ails the offense. However, expanding his personnel to create a more diversified offense is a possibility for McVay.

Having Jefferson back to stretch the defense and provide a third option in the pass game certainly helps. And McVay must do a better job of getting Allen Robinson more consistently involved in the offense. The use of receivers Brandon Powell and Ben Skowronek in the running game also expands the playbook.

However, with general manager Les Snead and the Rams' "F--- those picks" approach, Los Angeles needs to get production from its past draft picks, relying on experienced coaches to get young players up to speed quickly. 

McVay drafted receiver Tutu Atwell in the second round last year for a reason: to take the top off the defense and keep the back end honest. Atwell should see the field more. Tight ends Brycen Hopkins and Kendall Blanton both made meaningful contributions during L.A.'s Super Bowl run and could contribute again this season if called upon.

Undrafted rookie receiver Lance McCutcheon finished with 15 receptions for 259 receiving yards and two scores during preseason play. It seems like he could contribute in some fashion on game days.

McVay is one of the most innovative and creative offensive minds in the league; he could do more with the personnel already on the roster. 

More play-action to create chunk plays

The Rams have just 14 passing plays of 20-plus yards (No. 31 in the NFL) and one rushing attempt that long. 

Stafford has lamented L.A.'s inability to create chunk plays, making it harder to methodically drive down the field for touchdowns without drive-killing penalties, negative plays or turnovers along the way.

One effective way McVay has created chunk plays in the past is through the play-action game. The Rams average 10.1 yards per attempt and Stafford has a 100.1 passer rating on play-action passes this season.

Los Angeles averages just 6.1 yards per attempt on passes without play-action, so perhaps Los Angeles can lean on the play-action game a bit more after the bye week. 

Curb the turnovers

The Rams have a turnover differential of minus-5, which is No. 28 in the NFL. Los Angeles has not done a great job of taking care of the football or taking it away from the other team.

Stafford has 11 turnovers this season, three of which have been taken back for touchdowns. The Rams have 13 giveaways as a team but just eight forced turnovers. 

Los Angeles linebacker Bobby Wagner said the defense must create more takeaways. 

"We still haven't put points on the board on our end," Wagner said. "That's something that we can do. Not only get the ball but score and have plays that change the field for the offense." 

Make a splash addition at trade deadline

The return of Odell Beckham Jr. seemed a foregone conclusion during the offseason. But as the Rams get closer to the Nov. 1 trade deadline, Beckham could be looking elsewhere.

OBJ is eight months out from ACL knee surgery, so how much he can reasonably contribute while he continues his recovery remains a concern. 

"I definitely do not want to close the door on that," McVay said about OBJ. "But there's just so many moving parts relative to all of our certain situations we're dealing with, with our players in general. And then, what exactly is he looking for, that he is deserving of and that he's earned in terms of team, compensation and all those types of things? We don't want to eliminate that possibility." 

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McVay said the Rams could use the bye week to get clarity on what Beckham is looking for and a potential timeline for his return. We'll see if that happened.

Other players who could make sense for the Rams as they look to add a player who could help them chase another Super Bowl title include edge rushers Bradley Chubb, Brian Burns and Robert Quinn, along with a running back like Kareem Hunt or Melvin Gordon.

The Rams also must figure out what to do with Akers. McVay said he has spoken with Akers' agent and has not closed the door on the Florida State product staying with the team. But that looks like a long shot.

"There's probably a move that will be made, in regards with him being with another team," McVay said about Akers. "If that doesn't happen, then we'll move forward. There's a lot of layers to it." 

Just like there are a lot of layers to returning the Rams to the top of the NFL.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.


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