LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams know what it’s like to redefine how the NFL looks at offensive football, so they appreciate what Lamar Jackson is doing this season with the Baltimore Ravens.
The Rams aren’t exactly looking forward to seeing the latest innovations in person Monday night when they welcome the team on the NFL’s biggest surge to the Coliseum.
Well, most of the Rams aren’t, anyway.
“Lamar, love him and know the type of person he is, so it’s like the proud big bro watching him from afar, the success he’s having,” said Rams safety Eric Weddle, who played the past three seasons for Baltimore.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us,” Weddle added. “You can play defense great and be perfect, but he’s the X factor, and you can’t get down when he does make some plays or converts third down just by being him. You’ve just got to keep plugging along. But shoot, we love the challenge, man. This is what it’s all about, and we get them at home.”
Jackson and the Ravens (8-2) get a national spotlight when they take on the Rams (6-4), whose attempt to stay in the NFC playoff race won’t survive many more defeats. While Los Angeles has one of the NFL’s most effective defenses in recent weeks, it hasn’t seen anything like the multitalented Jackson, who presents innumerable challenges to any group.
The Ravens are on a six-game winning streak heading to LA, and Jackson is dazzling the league with his arm and his feet. Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips agrees with observers who compare Jackson favorably with Michael Vick, and he should know: Phillips spent two seasons with Vick and the Atlanta Falcons, even serving as interim head coach.
“He’s certainly the MVP this year,” Phillips said. “He’s a tremendous runner, but the other part of it is they’ve made a lot of explosive plays, not just in the running game. … It gives me a headache. It’s a great challenge.”
The Rams are counting on another strong defensive game to have a chance, because their two-year run as one of the NFL’s most dynamic offensive forces is over. Although their overall production hasn’t dropped as steeply as their critics seem to believe, McVay and his offense have endured several terrible performances in which they looked nothing like the innovative team that scored nearly 33 points per game last season.
The Ravens are scoring 34.1 points per game behind Jackson.
Receiver Brandin Cooks is expected to return for the Rams after his second concussion of the season kept him out of the past two games. He says he’s not worried about sustaining another one.
“It’s one of those things that I’m taking game-by-game, but no, I don’t think you should be concerned because I’m not,” Cooks said.
Cooks is Los Angeles’ top deep threat and a sure-handed target in all areas, and his absences have been a factor in the Rams’ struggles in the passing game. Josh Reynolds, the Rams’ No. 4 receiver, has come through with six catches for 104 yards in the past two games. Jared Goff is hoping to have all four of the Rams’ top receivers and both of his pass-catching tight ends against the Ravens.