Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

ESPN analyst Matt Bowen on how Rams' newest rookies fit into their offense & defense

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • ESPN analyst Matt Bowen on how Rams' newest rookies fit into their offense & defense

    ESPN analyst Matt Bowen on how the Rams' newest rookies fit into their offense and defense
    Monday, May 11, 2020 08:16 PM
    Stu Jackson
    STAFF WRITER

    Last month, the Los Angeles Rams added new pieces to their offense and defense by drafting running back Cam Akers, wide receiver Van Jefferson, tight end Brycen Hopkins, offensive guard Tremayne Anchrum, outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, safety Terrell Burgess, safety Jordan Fuller and linebacker Clay Johnston.

    For more on how their skillsets fit what Los Angeles like to do on both sides of the ball, theRams.com spoke with ESPN's Matt Bowen, who writes about the NFL for ESPN.com and is an analyst on the network's NFL Matchup show. Bowen is also a former NFL defensive back who played seven seasons in the league with the Rams (2000-01), Green Bay Packers (2001-02), Washington Redskins (2003-05) and Buffalo Bills (2006).



    Cam Akers

    Bowen said he has already written about Akers a couple of times for ESPN.com, recently including him on his list of 10 rookies who landed with perfect teams in terms of scheme fit (ESPN+ subscription required to read).

    "I was very impressed with Cam Akers," Bowen said in a phone interview with theRams.com last week. "I love the fit here. I called him a professional runner because that's what I believe he is. When you watch his film at FSU, he has the traits of a pro running back. It's the contact balance, the size, the power, he's got enough wiggle and shake to make defenders miss at the second level."

    According to Bowen, Akers also showed he could be an asset as a receiver out of the backfield – for example, on screen passes – due to his vision in the open field. Akers also has a "natural feel" for finding the endzone from inside an opponent's five-yard line.

    From a scheme standpoint, Akers will see some similarities between Florida State and the Rams. According to Bowen, Florida State used both power and zone running schemes. While Rams head coach Sean McVay's offense is more zone-based, Bowen said Akers will still be a fit for that.

    "Running an outside zone scheme where he can press the ball on the edge, look for a cutback lane or head straight up inside," Bowen said. "So it's a really good pick and with Todd Gurley moving on, allows them to have great competition there with (Malcolm) Brown and Darrell Henderson from last year's draft."


    Van Jefferson

    Widely regarded as one of the best route-runners in his draft class, Jefferson's ability to create separation from defensive backs and get open is one of the traits which immediately made him stand out to Bowen.

    "We talk about all these traits – athleticism and movement skills, that stuff all matters," Bowen said. "But the number one thing in the National Football League is, can you get open? Can you beat man coverage? Do have a feel for zone coverage? Do you have strong hands at the point of attack to catch balls outside of your frame? That's what Van Jefferson gives you. So much detail to his game."

    Jefferson's game isn't that of a receiver who will stretch the field vertically with his speed, according to Bowen, but rather one who excels at getting open on short to intermediate routes.

    "Now let's put that in Coach McVay's offense," Bowen said. "What do we see? A lot of play-action, middle-of-the-field throws, running those skinny posts, those deep square-in routes, running the isolation routes versus off-man coverage. I think he's an excellent fit."


    Brycen Hopkins

    Although the Rams already had Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett and Johnny Mundt in their 2020 tight end room, Hopkins was so highly-rated that they couldn't afford to pass on him at pick No. 136 in the fourth round. Bowen said Hopkins' skillset is most similar to Everett as a move tight end who can stretch the middle of the field vertically.

    "Really, you're drafting him to improve your passing game, create matchups in the passing game," Bowen said. "You can get him open on boot(legs), you can get him open on crossers. Especially in the Rams offense, you can get him open stretching the seams on those high-percentage throws from (quarterback) Jared Goff where he can catch it and run with the football afterwards."

    Bowen said Hopkins will need to work on his drops – Hopkins also previously said this himself during the Rams' Day 3 post-draft show – and while he won't be a tight end blocking at the point of attack in the run game like Higbee, the hope is that he can see the backside of a zone run.

    Most importantly, though, Hopkins will at least provide depth to a key position.

    "You need depth to positions to get through a 16-game season," Bowen said. "You need multiple tight ends on your roster."


    Tremayne Anchrum

    The No. 250 pick and seventh-round selection primarily played offensive tackle at Clemson but spent time learning both guard spots during the Tigers' bowl practices.

    "You're looking at a guy who played at a championship program, that's the first thing you see," Bowen said.

    Bowen said Anchrum projects as a guard – an evaluation also shared by Rams Director of College Scouting Brad Holmes, who sees him fitting at center as well – who will fit into the offensive line as a run-blocker and provide depth to the offensive line.

    "I think he needs to develop a little bit more, in terms of his hand placement and his ability to mirror pass-rushers," Bowen said. "But the foundation is there for someone that can work with pro coaching and start developing and see a career, and wait for that opportunity, to where he becomes a guy that's active on gameday and can provide depth to the offensive line."



    Terrell Lewis

    What first stands out to Bowen about Lewis is that he came from a championship program at Alabama coached by Nick Saban and played in a pro-style defensive scheme. Despite his injury history in college, his traits as a pass rusher make him an intriguing player.

    "Did have some injuries in college, but in terms of the athletic traits, he's got everything you want," Bowen told theRams.com in a phone interview last week. "He's 6-5, 262, he's got the length, he's got speed off the edge. I think he's got great flexibility and bend off the edge."

    Even with the addition of outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, Bowen said he could still see Lewis finding his way onto the field during his rookie season as a situational pass rusher in sub packages. Bowen also said he sees traits in Lewis that are similar to former Rams outside linebacker Dante Fowler, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an unrestricted free agent last month.

    "(Fowler) had a great first step, he had the twitch, the flexibility to bend off the edge," Bowen said. "I think Lewis checks those boxes and he's a good scheme fit as well. I think he's a very solid draft pick, especially with the draft value where they got him in the third round."


    Terrell Burgess

    Dubbed by his college head coach as a "football swiss-army knife," the No. 104 pick provides Staley with a versatile defensive back to use in his defense. That skillset also mirrors what safeties are being asked to do in the NFL right now, based on how Bowen evaluates them.

    "I always look at three things with a safety in today's game: Can you play the post? Can you cover down in the slot? Can you play in the run front?" Bowen said. "He checks all three of those boxes."

    Having a player like Burgess who can play multiple positions in the secondary is valuable for defensive playcallers like Staley because it allows Staley to do different things, according to Bowen.

    As an example, Bowen said a playcaller could employ a bigger nickel package – a sub package which swaps the weakside linebacker for a fifth defensive back – by using a third safety as the fifth defensive back instead of a smaller slot corner. Now, the playcaller has a run-defending safety like Burgess who can also cover the slot, something that gives said playcaller an advantage.

    "Again, another very good value pick based on draft position, where they drafted him, and how he fits their scheme as that multi-dimensional defensive back," Bowen said.


    Jordan Fuller

    The sixth-round pick and 199th overall selection from Ohio State plays faster than his combine results may have shown.

    "I don't have his testing numbers in front of me, but I know when I watched him on film, he gets to the ball fast," Bowen said. "And if you're a defensive backs coach, that's what matters, right?"

    Fuller's 6-2, 203-pound frame also stood out to Bowen, as well as his football intelligence because of how he plays on the field. Bowen said Fuller is at his best when playing downhill with speed, and is physical enough to play in the run front because of his tackling ability.

    That skillset should allow him to carve out a role on special teams.

    "If he makes the team, he should be one of your top cover guys on special teams," Bowen said. "If I'm the head special teams coach of the Rams, on the first day of camp, when we go into kickoff coverage and punt coverage, I want to see him getting down the field and making plays."


    Clay Johnston

    Similar to Fuller, Johnston was another Day 3 selection by the Rams, going off the board at pick No. 234. A late-round draft pick himself, Bowen as a former sixth-round selection said Johnston projects as an inside linebacker who will have to make the team through special teams.

    That said, it's a good developmental path to allow him to build on the traits he already possess, according to Bowen.

    "I think he's very instinctive, I think he sees the field very well, I think he's a good tackler, and I think he has upside at the position in terms of coverage traits the more experience he gets as a pro athlete," Bowen said.

Related Topics

Collapse

  • Nick
    Bob McGinn’s Draft Series - OL
    by Nick
    McGinn’s NFL Draft Series: Scouts on top offensive linemen
    Bob McGinn
    Apr 16, 2020

    This is the 36th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL Draft Series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-’91), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-’17) and BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-’19). Through 2014, scouts often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts.

    This is the second of our nine-part series. Today, we dive into the offensive line. You can find Wednesday’s piece on wide receivers and tight ends here.

    Accentuating the positive is a way of life for analysts drawing a paycheck from networks that televise National Football League games — and from the league itself. Happy talk makes friends and generates hope while obscuring the stark reality of every draft day.

    Jason Licht, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, sliced well beyond the Pollyannish last week in a briefing with reporters.

    “Across the league, it’s 50-50 whether any first-round pick is going to be a player or not three years down the road,” he said. “It’s 50-50 from the first pick down to the 32nd pick.”

    When applied to the tackle position, regarded as one of the best in this draft, it means two of the four players expected to be selected in the first 15 to 20 picks figure to be disappointments, if not busts, by 2023. That grim analysis apparently is why GMs get paid the big bucks.

    At least almost everyone is in the same pressurized boat when it comes to tackles.

    “There’s no team that feels good about its two tackles,” an AFC personnel man said. “Maybe one or two teams in the league. Everyone needs to get better.

    “Where are you going to get them? You’re not going to get a tackle in the third round or the fourth round. If you want a guy, you’ve got to get a guy.”

    Since time immemorial, the winners will be the two teams that pick the two tackles who can play and the losers will be the two teams that pick the two tackles who can’t, at least according to Licht’s viewpoint that is widely shared in the league. The prospects/suspects presumably at the head of the class, in alphabetical order, are Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Alabama’s Jedrick Wills and Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs. (Wirfs is ranked below in our Guard category).

    “It has talent, but it has questions,” the AFC exec said of the tackle group. “Andrew Thomas had a couple average games late in the season but early played really well. Wirfs is physically gifted, but it doesn’t always translate. With Becton, consistency is the question. Wills, I think he could play left tackle, but that’s going to take...
    -04-18-2020, 09:35 AM
  • Nick
    With the 104th pick, LA Rams select TERRELL BURGESS, DB, UTAH
    by Nick


    Player Bio
    Burgess became a strong prospect as a senior, receiving honorable mention all-conference notice from league coaches as a 14-game starter (81 stops, 7.5 for loss, one interception, five pass breakups). Burgess was a talented high school player in the San Diego area but could only manage three starts in his first three years at Utah. He contributed in four games as a true freshman (one tackle, one pass breakup) and then in 13 games the following season (18 tackles, one for loss, one start). In 2018, he accumulated 16 tackles, three pass breakups, and a blocked kick in 14 games (two starts). His brother, Isiah Hennie, was a two-time honorable mention All-Big Sky selection as a receiver at Sacramento State.

    Analysis
    By Lance Zierlein
    NFL Analyst

    Draft Projection: Round 3
    NFL Comparison: Damarious Randall

    Overview
    Utah is known for developing defensive talent and Burgess is the latest success story to emerge from the program. The cornerback-turned-safety plays with uncommon discipline and field vision despite just a single season as full-time starter. Teams love his versatility and ability to play nickel, but matchups against speed could cause some issues. He plays with good instincts and closing burst from high safety looks but doesn't have the striking ability to concern targets working the middle. Burgess' versatility, athleticism and feel for pathways to tackles in run support could make him a valuable middle-round pick with a chance to find the field early on in a variety of roles.

    Strengths
    • Lauded by scouts, coaches and teammates for his preparation
    • Has ability to align the backend
    • Reads play development and has field awareness of a pro
    • Has tools for interchangeable safety and nickel roles
    • Disciplined with good recognition of misdirection
    • Tough for quarterbacks to manipulate in two-deep
    • Avoids rub routes and slips screen blocks in space
    • Athletic, twitchy feet with early burst to cover at nickel
    • Change of direction is sudden and efficient
    • Great poise, balance and technique as tackler
    • Takes smart angles both downhill and near the line
    • Four-phase special teams experience

    Weaknesses
    • Was a full-time starter for only one season at Utah
    • Borderline size to play down safety
    • Slender legs and thin through hips
    • A little sluggish to unlock hips when matching release
    • Won't inspire fear as a hitter in the middle of the field
    • Jump-ball battles put him at a disadvantage
    • Below-average length over the top
    • Utah helped keep him clean to roam free as a tackler
    ...
    4 weeks ago
  • Nick
    2019 Draft: With 61st pick, Rams select TAYLOR RAPP, S, WASHINGTON
    by Nick
    Taylor Rapp, 5-11/208

    Safety

    Washington


    Taylor Rapp Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

    Strengths:
    Good instincts
    Excellent blitzer
    Very good around the line of scrimmage
    Tough defender coming downhill
    Physical
    Good run defender
    Quality tackler
    Quickness
    Comes up with some splash plays
    Reads quarterbacks' eyes
    Functional in zone coverage
    Intelligent
    Disciplined
    Starting strong safety for the NFL
    Operates well in short zone
    Should be able to play quickly
    Experienced and successful against good college talent
    Should be able to start quickly
    Good character
    Hard worker
    Leader
    Durable


    Weaknesses:
    Not a free safety
    Has limitations in pass coverage
    Can't play deep consistently
    Does not have the range to play deep consistently
    Has some tightness in lower leg
    Not a safety to play man coverage


    Summary: Florida and LSU fight over which school is known as "DBU," but another school that should factor into the equation is Washington. The Huskies have produced a lot of good NFL talent in recent years, and the 2019 NFL Draft could have multiple Huskies defensive backs go in the early rounds. Among them is junior safety Taylor Rapp, who was a 3-year starter. Rapp has received good preparation and coaching from Jimmy Lake, his defensive coordinator, who was a good defensive backs coach in the NFL. Given the weak class of safeties in the 2019 NFL Draft, Rapp could be one of the first safeties off the board in April.

    With Budda Baker starting as the free safety, Rapp had a strong debut as a freshman starter. He totaled 53 tackles with two passes broken up, one forced fumble and four interceptions that season. In his sophomore year, Rapp recorded 59 tackles with two sacks and one interception. He then recorded 59 tackles with five sacks, four passes broken up and two interceptions in 2018 while playing well for Washington.

    Rapp would fit best as a strong safety in the NFL and looks like he could be a starting strong safety early in his pro career. While he is not a thumper, Rapp has good instincts that turn him into a solid defender. His best attribute could be his blitzing, as he is very good at chasing down the quarterback. He is a quality tackler and run defender who plays well near the line of scrimmage. As a pro, Rapp should be a solid run defender and eighth man in the box.

    Sources say that Rapp has some limitations in pass coverage. While he is not a throwaway in coverage, he does not have good range downfield and should not play deep consistently. He could function for a play or two, but he could be a liability downfield in deep coverage due to his range limitations if he is asked to play there a lot. He has some tightness in the lower...
    -04-26-2019, 06:20 PM
  • Nick
    Bob McGinn's Draft Series - WR/TE
    by Nick
    McGinn’s NFL Draft Series: Scouts on top wide receivers and tight ends
    Bob McGinn
    4h ago

    This is the 36th year Bob McGinn has written an NFL Draft Series. Previously, it appeared in the Green Bay Press-Gazette (1985-91), the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (1992-17) and BobMcGinnFootball.com (2018-19). Through 2014, scouts often were quoted by name. The series reluctantly adopted an all-anonymous format in 2015 at the request of most scouts. This will be a nine-part series, starting with receivers.

    So many conversations about this class of wide receivers began with a common refrain.

    “This is maybe the deepest wide receiver group,” said one longtime AFC personnel man. “But as far as like a Julio (Jones) or Calvin Johnson, absolutely not.”

    Johnson (6-5, 239, 4.35) had it all. When he left Georgia Tech a year early to enter the draft in 2007, he was compared by scouts to Jerry Rice, James Lofton, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Keyshawn Johnson. Jones (6-2 , 220, 4.39) left Alabama after his junior year and became the sixth overall selection in 2011. People dug deep to come up with comparables for him as well. After nine seasons of superstardom, Johnson walked away from the Detroit Lions whereas Jones’ drive still burns hot after nine years in Atlanta. Their physical gifts led to a consistently unique level of play. Although this certainly rates as the year of the wide receiver, Johnson and Jones have more dominant traits than anyone in the class. Obviously, that doesn’t mean a decade from now there won’t be a player or two who deserves to stand in their company.

    The sheer numbers at wide receivers are astounding. “Deepest I’ve ever seen,” said one 20-year scouting veteran. “I like so many of them, and for different reasons.”

    One scout counted at least 20 wideouts that “in the right circumstance could actually become a player in this league.” Another said a starter could be uncovered in the fourth round, much like how Washington found Terry McLaurin, its top receiver, in the third round a year ago. “The first 13 or 14 names that we have are all going to play,” an AFC executive said. “There’s some wild cards beyond that. There’s not any game-changers.”

    The result, of course, are the NFL’s ever-expanding scouting departments grinding endlessly at tape machines. “It’s the most over-scouted position just because there’s so damn many of them, especially in today’s game,” said one scout. All the attention makes perfect sense given the product that the league office and ownership have promulgated through rules changes favoring scoring. “That’s natural because of the evolution of football,” an executive said in reference to the scrutiny of wide receivers.

    As draft boards are...
    -04-15-2020, 12:43 PM
  • Nick
    With the 199th pick, LA Rams select JORDAN FULLER, S, OHIO STATE
    by Nick


    Player Bio
    Fuller is an excellent football player and exceptional all-around student-athlete. He was a captain for the Buckeyes in 2018 and 2019. Fuller tied for the team lead with 81 tackles, 2.5 for loss, while also posting an interception and four pass breakups in 13 starts as a junior, and then garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2019 (62 tackles, two interceptions, four pass breakups in 14 starts). He also started 13 games as a sophomore (70 tackles, three for loss, two interceptions, two pass breakups). The 2015 New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year helped his high school win its first state title in 30 years and then stepped onto the field to contribute in all 13 games in 2016 (11 tackles). Fuller was a first-team Academic All-American in 2017 and created a seminar to educate Ohio State student-athletes on sexual assault, sexual violence and healthy relationships. His brother, Devin, played receiver at UCLA. His mother, Cindy Mizelle, is a singer who has performed with Luther Vandross, Bruce Springsteen and many others. The comedian Sinbad is married to Fuller's paternal aunt.

    Analysis
    By Lance Zierlein
    NFL Analyst

    Draft Projection: Round 7/Priority free agent

    Overview
    After watching his coverage struggles in 2018, it felt like Ohio State was trying to hide him as a single-high safety in its scheme. With that said, Fuller actually stepped up and had a bounce-back season protecting against chunk passing plays and supporting the run. He doesn't have the range to play single-high in the pros and is a little thin as a box safety. He doesn't lack football intelligence or toughness, but the traits and instincts fail to stand out. Fuller could compete for a backup role as a split-safety with the potential to match up with tight ends.

    Strengths
    • Able to line up and cover tight ends
    • Hurries downhill to cut off angles and limit explosive runs
    • Agility to make quick alterations to pursuit angles
    • Reactive athleticism and length to wrangle cutbacks across his face
    • Finds his fits when playing near the line of scrimmage
    • Maintains depth integrity from high safety
    • Can track and attack downfield
    • Has leadership traits on and off the field

    Weaknesses
    • Doesn't have ideal traits for either safety spot
    • Heavy legged backpedal
    • Lacks desired range and long speed as free safety
    • Quarterbacks manipulate him out of position with glances
    • Long gather-and-drive phase from the top of his drop
    • Gets lost at route stems in space
    • Showed his issues with man coverage duties in 2018
    • Needs to run through tackle attempts
    ...
    4 weeks ago
Working...
X