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2020 Matchup Preview: Jets vs. Rams

Jets to Finish Back-to-Back West Coast December Games in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald celebrates a sack during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Headline
Still the youngest head coach in the NFL, the Rams' Sean McVay brought attention to his game after taking the team on a Super Bowl LIII run, just two seasons into his head coaching career. Perhaps the biggest storyline for Los Angeles, though, is the trio of receiving weapons in WRs Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods and TE Tyler Higbee. During the last five weeks of the 2019 season, Higbee led all pass-catchers throughout the league with 522 receiving yards and set season franchise records at his position in both receptions and receiving yards. Additionally, both Kupp and Woods exceeded 1,000 receiving yards last season, labeling themselves as reliable targets for QB Jared Goff. During this year's draft, the Rams continued to add valuable pieces to the offense. 

"There are a lot of eyes on Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, and with the departure of a guy like Brandin Cooks, you saw those three guys and were like, whoa," said Rams team reporter Sarina Morales. "But the Rams drafted a guy like Van Jefferson who is said to be the same as a Cooper Kupp and a Robert Woods. He is a smart receiver that will find his open spaces and maximize on those spots. He's consistent, and what Sean McVay loves is consistency. This wideout group in particular is a group that does not drop the ball."

What's Changed
The Rams offensive line looked to be in solid shape at the beginning of the 2019 season until three different starters suffered season-ending injuries. C Brian Allen, RT Rob Havenstein and LG Joe Noteboom all played crucial roles in the trenches, but each ended the season recovering from injuries. As a result, the O-line did some revamping, adding the likes of Austin Blythe, David Edwards, Bobby Evans and Austin Corbett to starting roles, along with veteran Andrew Whitworth. Because of the changes, the line allowed a league-low 22 sacks and ranked first in sacks allowed per pass attempt (3.48%). But Goff struggled to adjust to his new teammates up front, ranking No. 22 in the league in interception rate.

"There has been a lot of criticism towards Jared Goff last season because people thought it was a very un-Jared-like year," said Morales. "We didn't look at the guys who were protecting Goff. The center was injured, both guards were injured, and a tackle was injured. The only man that was consistent was one of the oldest players in the league — Andrew Whitworth. There were a lot of great things that still came out of that. You saw Goff work through a very difficult time. I think now this year, with a lot of rest, we're going to see that O-line come back and be more consistent and more ready."

Matchups to Watch
LA opted to add heavily to the defensive side of the ball in the draft, selecting LB Terrell Lewis, S Terrell Burgess, S Jordan Fuller and LB Clay Johnston. Defensive coordinator Brandon Staley — in his first year with the Rams — commented earlier this offseason on how he wanted to focus on building talent alongside six-time Pro Bowl choice and five-time first-team All-Pro DL Aaron Donald and three-time Pro Bowl CB Jalen Ramsey. The biggest matchup to watch, though, will be one of the Rams defense's weaker areas — the run defense.

Ranking No. 19 in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (113.1), the team will need to put an emphasis on stopping the run to compete in front of a completely revamped Jets offensive line. GM Joe Douglas made it his goal this offseason to add multiple pieces to his O-line, even drafting T Mekhi Becton in the first round. Behind the new-and-improved line will be RBs La'Mical Perine, Frank Gore and Le'Veon Bell, who earlier this week on social media said, "I have yet to play my best football…"

"What I think the Rams are really going to have to prove in the NFC West is that they can stop the run game," Morales said. "The Rams have done that this offseason. They picked up guys like A'Shawn Robinson, they brought back Michael Brockers, and they're trying to figure out who is going to work at the linebacker position."

Why It's Important
Following their Week 9 bye, the Rams will play three NFC West opponents within five weeks along with the Jets' AFC East rivals, the New England Patriots. This means that LA is going to enter Week 15 against the Green & White with some important divisional football and heavy competition under its belt. It could be a prime opportunity for the Jets to take advantage of a team that has had to face off against the 49ers, the NFC representative in Super Bowl LIV, and an always-tough Patriots team. The Jets will have some challenges of their own, however, after playing the Seattle Seahawks the week prior to the Rams, making two West Coast trips in two weeks.

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