As the Cowboys and Rams prepare for their week one matchup in Los Angeles, the coaches will have their hands full getting game plans together for real-life action with zero preseason games, and a minimum of practices.
For the Rams, their offense is going to look very different this year, but Sean McVay should have no issues finding success. McVay, still one of the best young coaches in the National Football league, has a very talented offense to scheme around in 2020. With workhorse Todd Gurley being released earlier in the offseason, 2019 third-round pick Darrell Henderson, 2020 second-round pick Cam Akers, and veteran Malcolm Brown will be tasked to fill the void of Gurley in the Rams offense. Replacing prime Todd Gurley is something neither of those three backs will be able to do, but the fact of the matter is Gurley was not the same player in 2019, and even towards the end of 2018, that he was to start his career. With Gurley out, and Henderson, Akers, and Brown in, the Rams threat of the run will likely go down, but don’t think it will completely go away. Since taking over as head coach in 2017, McVay has leaned heavily on his running game and play-action passing game to lead the Rams offense to one of the best units in the NFL. McVay was forced to adjust his game-plan at times in 2019, with a banged up offensive line, poor quarterback play, and inconsistent play from the running back position.
McVay will also be looking for one of his young wide receivers to takeover for Brandin Cooks, who was traded to the Houston Texans in the offseason. With Cooks now in Houston, McVay will feature Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods as his two best receivers, and will look to sprinkle in rookie Van Jefferson and Josh Reynolds in the rotation as well. Where McVay is loaded is at the tight end position. Tyler Higbee finished off his 2019 season as one of the leagues better tight ends, and is an extremely dangerous weapon in the Rams play-action game, often used on boots and waggles. Gerald Everett is still a quality tight end, and should test the Cowboys more up the seams, and in the intermediate-deeper portions of the field given his athleticism and size.
Given their personnel, the Cowboys should expect to see a ton of 12-personnel disguising run-and-pass looks out of stacked formations, and heavy play-action game. With a suspect offensive line, Jared Goff is not going to have a ton of time in the pocket to scan the field, so forcing him into good looks and scheming his receivers open will be key to McVay’s game plan on Sunday night. With some serious issues along the interior of the line, the Cowboys defensive line will look to send pressure up the middle, forcing young lineman Joseph Noteboom and Austin Corbett to show they can handle the heat.
Rams LG Joseph Noteboom only played Week 1-6 last year, where he allowed the third-most pressures among guards (18; 3 per game) during that time span.— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 10, 2020
Last but not least, we have Jared Goff. Goff has had a very interesting career arc since being drafted in the first round out of California in 2016. Just two years removed from playing in the Super Bowl, Goff was expected to takeover as one of the leagues best quarterbacks, but a very disappointing end to the 2018 season, and a overall poor 2019 year, has left many questions on if Goff is the guy in LA. Goff’s biggest issues come when pressured, and teams are very aware of this.
Per @PFF, Jared Goff's clean pocket vs. under pressure splits:— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) November 26, 2019
Kept Clean - 76.6% Adj. Comp, 8.1 YPA, 8 TD/8 INT
Under Pressure - 57.5% Adj. Comp (35th out of 41) 5.7 YPA, 3 TD/4 INT
Not great in either category, but he's really crumbled under pressure this year
The Cowboys defensive game-plan heading into Sunday night should be relatively simple. Slow down the run as much as possible, force Jared Goff to beat you, and force Goff off his spot as much as possible with blitz’s and disguised coverages as much as possible. It’s been proven that when Goff is forced to play from behind and deal with consistent pressure in his face, he often crumbles under that pressure.
It would be excellent for the Cowboys new-and-improved pass rush consisting of: DeMarcus Lawrence, Everson Griffen, Aldon Smith, Tyrone Crawford, Dontari Poe, and a hopefully improved Trysten Hill can make their mark on this game. If they can, it should be a good night for the Cowboys defense, on the road, in Los Angeles.