It was certainly not a game when the schedule came out in April that everyone around the country “OOOed and AHHhed” about. Yet, the Rams and the Jaguars were both early season success stories in 2017, when they met at Everbank Field Sunday.
And, one obvious reason was on display again: better coaching makes a difference.
Yes, the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick and signed veterans like Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye in free agency for their defense. However, we’ve well documented from the blowout win to start of the season over Houston until now, how Doug Marrone and his staff are getting more out of all their players and Jacksonville looks and plays, differently.
The same is true and then some for the visitors Sunday, the L.A. Rams.
The youngest head coach in the league (30 years old), Sean McVay, who by the way had zero head coaching experience at any level, has assembled a staff and coached up the Rams to a fantastic 4-2 beginning. Two big parts of the Rams turnaround are the improved mechanics and putting former #1 overall pick Jared Goff (above) in position to succeed.
He has been drastically better this year. Sunday’s numbers were just okay at 11-21 for 124 yards and a TD, but he managed the game and didn’t throw costly picks like he did all last year, and Ben Roethlisberger did vs. the Jags last week.
And, secondly for McVay ,is re-establishing Todd Gurley, as the premier back that they drafted three years ago. That continued Sunday, as Gurley went for another 116 yards on 23 carries in the win. The scheme and using Gurley in it have clicked week after week, so far.
Also big for the Rams is long time veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who most recently led the Broncos defense to their Super Bowl win over Cam Newton and the Panthers. He came over with the young McVay to bring experience and insight into areas where McVay needed it.
Results showed Sunday.
Yes, the Rams allowed Fournette to romp 75 yards for a TD on the very first play of the game, but after that? He carried 20 times for 55 yards. That’s called playing defense.
And after an early touchdown drive, they frustrated Jags QB Blake Bortles, picking him once and forcing them to punt eight other times. One those punts was blocked for an easy Rams TD and helped provide the 10 point margin of victory.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville’s defense had five more sacks Sunday, and there’s no disputing they are better coached and in better position to succeed each week.
Both teams have more to do and wins to get before you can measure great success this year.
But the Jags and Rams fans have to be encouraged by what they are seeing: your teams are better prepared before and during the games, now than they ever were the last few years for each.