Rams’ offense is built from the ground up in 2020 – Press Enterprise

THOUSAND OAKS — As the Rams near the midpoint of their season, there’s nothing halfway about how they run the ball.

That’s the biggest difference and the most pleasant surprise in this year’s offense so far.

“It’s great when the things you emphasize as coaches start to show up on the grass,” said Kevin O’Connell, the first-year offensive coordinator.

The Rams (5-2) go into Sunday’s game against the Dolphins (3-3) in Miami with similar NFL rankings to last year in overall offensive production – middling in points, above average in yards per game.

But they’ve gotten there a new way, with the running backs trio of Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown and Cam Akers gaining yards on the ground at a rate comparable to pre-knee trouble Todd Gurley.

The running back committee is getting the ball more, and the team is averaging a much-improved 4.4 yards per carry.

That means quarterback Jared Goff isn’t having to throw as much, and he’s more efficient too with 8.0 yards per pass attempt.

Some of that is because the Rams have been ahead on the scoreboard more than they were last season – leading at the end of 64% of quarters, up from 50% in 2019 – and have been running to keep the clock moving. Some of it is improved execution, starting with the offensive line. Some of it is that the coaches planned it this way.

“I think every offense in this league wants to be able to run the football and have the rest of their offense kind of sprout out from there,v O’Connell said. “Our identity coming into the season (was that) we really wanted to focus on running the football, staying efficient on early downs, which would then lead to the entire offense being at Coach McVay’s disposal when he’s calling it. I think as a whole we’ve been able to do that.”

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Sounds simple, but simplicity is another thing that has changed in McVay’s play-calling, left tackle Andrew Whitworth said.

“Before, you heard criticism that ‘They’re giving a bunch of different (pre-snap) looks but it’s all the same play,’ ” Whitworth said. “I think our running game now is very diverse. That diversity only helps you, because a defense can only prepare for so many things during the week.”

What seemed to please McVay most is what it says about the whole team when the ground game improves from 26th in yards per game last season to seventh this season.

“That’s a team thing. That’s because we’re playing with leads and our defense is playing so well. It’s not exclusive to what the offense does,” McVay said.

The goal remains “balance,” McVay said.

“We want to continue to find ways to create explosives (long plays) whether that be through the run or the pass,” he said.