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HomeUsaRams take slow, creative approach with short-handed offense – Orange County Register

Rams take slow, creative approach with short-handed offense – Orange County Register

THOUSAND OAKS — Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford questioned why right guard Tremayne Anchrum was in the huddle after he noticed him limping following the first offensive snap against the Atlanta Falcons last week.

Anchrum was in obvious pain, but instead of mentioning his injured ankle, he asked center Coleman Shelton for feedback on the play.

“You good?” Stafford recalled asking in the huddle. “Didn’t look good.”

The pain got the best of Anchrum after the second play and he left the field on a cart with a season-ending ankle injury. Anchrum likely didn’t want to leave the field because his teammates needed him and it was his first career start, a milestone he had waited on for two-plus seasons.

“For him to try to do that, it’s unbelievable,” right tackle Rob Havenstein said about Anchrum.

Alaric Jackson, an undrafted 2021 free agent, will step in Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals to be the Rams’ third starting right guard in as many weeks. Shelton is the Rams’ true starting right guard, but he will be needed again at center for the injured Brian Allen.

The constant shuffling on the offensive line, the acclimation period with new wide receiver Allen Robinson and facing defenses that utilize the two-high safety scheme have forced the Rams into a slow but creative approach on the field during the first two games of the season. They recovered from a Week 1 dud against the Buffalo Bills to score 31 points in the win against the Falcons, but the Rams are still searching for their first passing play of at least 30 yards and a rushing attempt of at least 20 yards.

The Rams have five passing plays of 20-plus yards this season, which is tied for 25th in the NFL. As for their efficiency rating, the Rams rank 20th in DVOA offense, according to Football Outsiders.

Rams coach Sean McVay is aware of the low number of explosive plays, but he’s not planning on forcing plays downfield. Also, stretching the field vertically takes time and the Rams’ offensive line will be tested against Cardinals star pass rusher J.J. Watt.

“I didn’t think we needed it the other day,” McVay said. “I thought because we were so efficient on early downs, obviously the score got close, but I felt like offensively the guys did a great job of really being able to kind of move the ball at will. It wasn’t until later on in the game that we were forced to punt. I thought they did a great job. I think shot called doesn’t always necessarily mean shot taken, but it’s in a lot of instances predicated on, ‘All right, what are the coverage contours?’

“Obviously, the Buffalo game was a real challenge, and they were playing a lot of stuff where they were trying to keep things in front. You do see that a little bit more prevalent around the league, but if we feel like that’s the best way. … Last week, we had some plays where you’re stretching them vertically, but it might be taken in underneath check down. We’re always hunting up if the defense presents those chances.”

Last week, the Rams got Robinson involved early before feeding star receiver Cooper Kupp, who saw his first target in the final two minutes of the first half. Stafford received enough time from the banged-up offensive line to find his receiving duo in the openings that the Falcons were allowing in their zone defense.

“He’s as patient as they come,” Stafford said of Kupp. “We’re always just trying to take what the defense gives us. Then, next thing you know, you look up and he’s got whatever he had 10 or 11 catches, whatever it was. So, we’re always just trying to spread the ball around, move it around.”

Jackson replaced Anchrum on the field against Atlanta and he went unnoticed for most of the game, often a good sign for offensive linemen. The Rams are confident that Jackson will again be productive and that the explosive plays will soon come.

“He did such a good job in pass protection, throwing hands, being physical, staying grounded and he can really anchor as well,” Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “We’ve got some big bodies now. That right side of the line is really big.”

FAMILIAR FACES

Running back Malcolm Brown is back with the Rams for a seventh season after a one-year hiatus. The team signed Brown to their practice squad on Thursday.

They also brought back tight end Kendall Blanton, who was with the Rams during training camp and waived in August. Blanton had brief stints on the Washington Commanders’ and the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squads. The Rams were in need of tight end help after Brycen Hopkins was suspended three games for violating the league policy on substances of abuse.

Brown played with the Rams between 2015 to 2020 and spent last season with the Miami Dolphins. Coen was an assistant coach with the team during Brown’s first stint and he recalled a player who excelled in pass protection and made several key plays.

“He’s a pro’s pro,” Coen said. “He does everything the right way on and off the field. He’s a great example. Does things the right way and he can make plays. He’s had some of the best blitz pickups that we’ve ever had here. He’s had some great runs … He’s made some great plays for us. He’ll be a great addition to that room.”

Brown will provide depth and leadership to a running back room that includes Darrell Henderson and Cam Akers. Blanton will likely back up starting tight end Tyler Higbee, and tight end Roger Carter Jr. is an option to be promoted from the practice squad.

SECOND CHANCE FOR McKINLEY

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris made the decision to cut defensive end Takkarist McKinley in 2020 when Morris was the interim head coach for the Falcons and McKinley was the former first-round pick who struggled in his first three seasons in the NFL.

It was a rocky relationship, but that didn’t stop Morris from recommending the former UCLA product to the Rams, who were searching for edge rusher depth after the scare they had with Leonard Floyd hurting his knee last week in practice. The Rams officially signed McKinley on Thursday and he was sporting a No. 50 jersey while practicing with Floyd and the other Rams outside linebackers.

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