Cornered: How Lardarius Webb changed the shape of the Rams’ passing game

Rams passing tree vs Baltimore, week 3
Infographic: The Rams’ target distribution in Week 3. It isn’t any prettier than the game was.

When we talked about the shape of the Rams offense to come under Josh McDaniels, we didn’t expect this. For all the talk about “stressing the defense,” the Rams’ passing game thrust itself into a corner against the Baltimore Ravens, targeting everything short and wide.

The Baltimore pass rush, led by Terrell Suggs, had a big role in that. So has the repeated pressure that Bradford has faced behind this line — ProFootballFocus calculates that 44.6 of his dropbacks had come under pressure in just the first two weeks, third-highest rate in the league. And that was before being sacked five times and hit eleven more in 37 dropbacks this week.

That explains the massive distribution of short passes. Cornerback Lardarius Webb and safety Ed Reed explains the shift to the right side of the field.

Reed’s exploits are well known, but Webb is becoming a shutdown cover man in his own right for the Ravens. He also has the benefit of being the only healthy corner left in Baltimore’s rotation. Webb plays primarily on the left side, manning up against the opponent’s X receiver. For the Rams, that was a combination of Brandon Gibson and Danario Alexander.

Gibson caught five of his seven targets, but Danario was far from effective with only two completions on ten passes thrown his way (two of which were erased by penalty). 

Hopefully this game was an aberration, as it seemed that the Rams let the Ravens defense dictate the shape of their offense, rather than staying true to their philosophy of “stressing” the defense.

The full passing chart, showing target depth and run after the catch, is after the break.