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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

After an inconsistent start to the season, the Rams have won four out of five and can set up a huge matchup with the Seahawks for the division lead next week. They can’t afford to overlook the Jets though, in what is expected to be a routine win.

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff isn’t playing as well as he did in 2017 and 2018 where he had a quarterback rating of over 100, but has had a better completion percentage and touchdown-to-interception ratio than he did last season.

Despite the Rams having found the winning formula over the past five games, Goff has been less consistent over the second half of the year. Since week seven, he has seven interceptions and only six touchdown passes. Nevertheless, he can still put up big numbers and has racked up over 350 passing yards three times in the last six games.

The Rams’ backup is John Wolford, who was briefly with the Jets in preseason two years ago. Wolford has never played in a regular season game.

Offensive Line

The Rams’ offensive line took a major hit when Andrew Whitworth landed on injured reserve with a knee injury. However, they are expecting the 39-year old - who is still an elite tackle - to return for the playoffs.

Without Whitworth, Joe Noteboom has been starting at left tackle and is an obvious downgrade, especially in the running game, but the line has otherwise still held up well.

None of the other four starters have missed any snaps this year, so they’ve otherwise had good continuity. They each also started at least seven games last year, although the Rams have had to make a few changes to arrive at the current configuration.

Guards David Edwards and Austin Corbett were starting together at the end of last year, but they’ve since swapped sides. Edwards is now on the left. Austin Blythe starts at center but had been playing at right guard for the first half of last season. The only player who hasn’t changed positions is Rob Havenstein who has been solid at right tackle.

The four offensive linemen currently on the Rams’ bench have combined to play just one snap this season, although Brian Allen was the starting center for the first half of last season.

Allen is joined by Bobby Evans, Coleman Shelton and seventh round rookie Tremayne Anchrum on the bench, although Evans will not play because he was just placed on Covid-19 reserve. Allen, who also had a possible exposure, has been listed as questionable but can play as long as he tests negative.

Running Backs

Malcolm Brown is listed as the Rams’ starting running back, although Cam Akers leads the team in yards per carry and Darrell Henderson leads them in rushing yards. Brown does have 20 catches though.

Akers, a second-round rookie, exploded for a career-high 171 yards against the Patriots last week. Henderson also had a 100-yard game this year; back in week three against the Bills. He and Brown are tied for the team lead with five rushing touchdowns each.

Two more rookies, Xavier Jones and Raymond Calais are on the roster but neither has had any offensive snaps yet this season.

Pass catchers

The Rams have a good chance to have two thousand-yard receivers this year with both Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods nearing that mark. Kupp’s outstanding route running has led to him leading the team in receptions (79) and yards (869), just ahead of Woods in each category. Woods leads the team in total touchdowns - seven, including two as a rusher - and should play despite missing some practice time this week.

Josh Reynolds is a solid third option and has put up the best year of his career so far with 40 catches for over 500 yards. Rookie Van Jefferson has been the only other contributor at wide receiver with 15 catches including one for a touchdown. Jefferson’s father Shawn is the Jets’ wide receiver coach.

Undrafted rookie Trishtan Jackson hasn’t played yet this year and Nsimba Webster has mostly just been used on special teams.

At tight end, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett provide a solid one-two punch with 34 and 35 catches respectively. Higbee has four touchdowns and gets more blocking assignments than Everett.

On the bench, Johnny Mundt is a blocking specialist while fourth round pick Brycen Hopkins has barely played so far.

Defensive Line

Aaron Donald is still a gamewrecker on the defensive line for the Rams. He’ll be looking to add to his league leading sack total of 12.5 on Sunday.

With Donald drawing so much attention, Michael Brockers has also been able to rack up five sacks. He needs one more to beat his career high. Reserve Morgan Fox has also profited with four sacks of his own.

Sebastian Joseph-Day is starting at nose tackle and has been solid against the run. He is backed up by Greg Gaines.

A’Shawn Robinson was recently activated from the injured list but he and Fox have struggled against the run.

Linebackers

Leonard Floyd is the team’s best edge rushing threat as he has a career-high 7.5 sacks on the season, albeit only half a sack over the past four games.

The versatile Samuel Ebukam starts at the other outside linebacker position but Ogbonnia Okoronkwo also gets plenty of edge reps.

Third round rookie Terrell Lewis provides depth on the outside along with Natrez Patrick and Derek Rivers, who haven’t played much. Jets bust Jachai Polite was also on the roster briefly but has since been moved back to the practice squad and is now on Covid-19 reserve.

At inside linebacker, Troy Reeder and Kenny Young are starting with Justin Hollins listed as their backup, although Hollins also factors into the rotation on the edge.

Reeder moved into the starting lineup when Micah Kiser went onto injured reserve and has done quite well over the last month. Kiser and Young had been struggling against the run and in coverage, although Young did have a pick-six against New England.

Hollins and Okoronkwo were also potentially exposed to Covid-19, but have not been placed on reserve. They’re listed as questionable and can play as long as they continue to test negative.

Defensive Backs

The Rams are strong at cornerback with Jalen Ramsey and Troy Hill listed as starters but Darious Williams also playing a key role as the nickelback and leading the team with four interceptions. Ramsey signed a $105 million extension in September.

Hill, who has two defensive touchdowns, will usually revert to the slot in nickel packages. David Long provides depth off the bench.

At safety, John Johnson III is the team’s leading tackler with 88 on the season. Jordan Fuller has also contributed well with three interceptions. Taylor Rapp had started five games but is now on injured reserve.

Nick Scott has seen some action as a third safety but he was placed on Covid-19 reserve on Friday and therefore will not play, although the Rams elevated Jake Gervase from the practice squad as an injury replacement. The other reserve safeties, Juju Hughes and JR Reed, have yet to see any defensive playing time.

Special Teams

Matt Gay is the third kicker the Rams have had since the season began. Previously, Sam Sloman was waived and Kai Forbath went onto injured reserve. Gay has made six of eight field goals so far.

Johnny Hekker has been regarded as one of the league’s best punters over the past several seasons, but he’s given up the sixth highest amount of return yardage in the NFL this year and has a career-worst net average of below 40 yards per punt.

Hekker is always a threat to run a fake on punts and when holding on field goals. He’s completed 14 passes in his NFL career, including one in the postseason.

Webster has been the primary return man this year, although Kupp can also return punts and Calais is the backup on kickoffs. Webster hasn’t had much success so far in either role.

In kick coverage, Webster is the team’s leading tackler and their primary gunner. Reeder is also a key contributor.