The Rams are two games under .500 for the first time under coach Sean McVay and the 5-3 Chargers have some proving to do with a road game at the San Francisco 49ers next on the agenda. Rams beat writer Gary Klein and Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller address fans’ concerns and questions heading into Week 10:
If you had to pick a coach today for your team between Chargers coach Brandon Staley and Rams coach Sean McVay, whom would you pick and why?
Vic Turner, Los Angeles
Klein: That’s not a very tough question: Sean McVay. In his first five seasons, he led the Rams to two Super Bowl appearances, and he won one of them. The Rams are definitely struggling this season, but McVay is proven. Staley, who benefited from being associated with McVay, could turn out to be an excellent coach. But at this point, he has yet to lead a team to the playoffs.
Miller: McVay would be the obvious choice to me just given the success he’s had with the Rams. Gary noted everything his teams have accomplished in a short time. It’s too soon with Staley to know what kind of a head-coaching career he’s going to have in the NFL. I’d go with the proven commodity.
Do you believe this will be Sean McVay’s last year because he goes to TV or will he stay for a rebuild?
Brian Grossman, Twentynine Palm
Klein: This will not be Sean McVay’s last year. As long as Matthew Stafford is playing for the Rams, McVay will be the coach.
How can they stop Christian McCaffrey from setting an NFL single-game rushing record? They are soft on the edges and weak up the middle. The defense has been terrible at tackling for at least the last 10 years, yet Staley has done nothing to address this issue. This will show whether Staley has a good defensive mind or a bad one.
Harvey Smith, Dayton, Nev.
Miller: Believe it or not, there are three teams — Bears, Lions, Texans — that have been worse against the run than the Chargers this season. Those teams are a combined 6-18-1. The most glaring issue the Chargers have with their rushing defense is on the edge opposite Khalil Mack. They have been brutally bad setting the edge over there and that has led to several big plays. Not having Joey Bosa hasn’t helped, but the players they’ve been putting in there are simply not performing. I would expect Christian McCaffrey to have a big day Sunday.
With all the injuries mounting (especially on offense), and then not making a move at the deadline, is Odell Beckham Jr. a possibility for the Chargers? With [Chargers GM Tom] Telesco’s trade resumé, I wasn’t expecting anything, but thought maybe he could make a signing? I get [the salary] cap is a major issue, but it is for the Rams, too (who’ve also been linked to OBJ)?
Dan Lundean, Hudson, Wisc.
Miller: I don’t think the Chargers will be in on Odell Beckham Jr. because they are expecting Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to return in the coming weeks. It’s still unclear how soon Beckham will be game ready.
The Rams need to get Akers “integrated” into the run game very quickly! Otherwise, they will see their season slipping away very quickly, if it already hasn’t. Can they? There has to be some sort of a run game!
George Athans, Woodland Hills
Klein: Cam Akers returned from his two-game exile and gained three yards in five carries against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So it remains to be seen how large of a role he will have moving forward. Coach Sean McVay said Wednesday that rookie running back Kyren Williams could be activated to the roster from injured reserve this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
Will the Chargers do anything to build a fan base in SoCal?
Brian Grossman, Twentynine Palm
Miller: The Chargers have a fan base in SoCal. Their base in L.A. will continue to grow the longer they are here. The NFL left L.A. for 20 years and then came back with two teams when most football fans here weren’t exactly clamoring for one. This stuff takes time. The Chargers had a decent turnout of fans Sunday in Atlanta. That’s something you wouldn’t have seen in 2017, their first year in L.A.
No deep passes even attempted Sunday! Not even with Van Jefferson back. Is that an admission (or fear) that the line can not hold up long enough for even one attempt? McVay was outcoached!
George Athans, Woodland Hills
Klein: The Rams have completed only one long pass this season, a nice throw from Matthew Stafford to second-year pro Tutu Atwell against the Dallas Cowboys. But that’s it. Atwell, a second-round draft pick in 2021, was inactive for the second time this season against the Buccaneers. Van Jefferson came off injured reserve two weeks ago but did not get a target against the San Francisco 49ers. He was targeted several times against the Buccaneers but had no catches. I’m not sure you can say McVay got outcoached against the Buccaneers as much as he got out-Bradyed by one of the greatest players in NFL history.
How big of a role does the Rams’ offseason activities play this season? The discussion of McVay being a commentator, his wedding, Aaron Donald’s contract, Stafford’s ads, etc. These are all fine things on their own and well deserved and earned for the entire organization. But do you think the cumulative effect distracted the Rams from getting ready for this season?
Andy Lieber, Potomac, Md.
Klein: No, I don’t think any of those things were distractions that affected the Rams’ readiness for this season. I do think that the physical and mental toll it takes to win a Super Bowl — and the short turnaround that follows because of the success — contributes to why no team has repeated as champion since the 2004 season.
How has [Joe] Lombardi made Justin Herbert look worse in this, his third year, compared to his first two years? Or is it that Keenan [Allen], plus Mike [Williams] are such weapons that the drop-off in talent is that noticeable?
Marty Schmidt, San Diego
Miller: Keenan Allen has played 45 snaps this season. Through eight games last year, he had 57 receptions for 600 yards. His absence has been enormous, and then some, in terms of impacting Herbert’s performance. Herbert also has had to deal with a significant injury for the first time in his NFL career. If anything, that injury and his teammates are making him look worse, not offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
Why did the Rams waste a second-round draft pick on Tutu Atwell? I think I have a better chance of making an impact than that guy does. … Would have been nice to draft an offensive lineman with that pick.
Brian Haueter, California
Klein: Sean McVay obviously wanted a piece for the offense that was outside the box. And the Rams seemingly take pride in demonstrating that they can take overlooked players and develop them. But the selection of the speedy but diminutive Atwell shocked many. Atwell could not crack the receiver rotation as a rookie and suffered a season-ending shoulder injury while returning a kick. He has not been able to beat out Brandon Powell as a kick returner and he has only one catch in two seasons. In hindsight, of course, the Rams would have been better off selecting a lineman.
Why didn’t Cooper Kupp cut inside and fight for the first down on that jet sweep on the Rams’ last drive? It’s the first mental error I’ve seen him make. A first down wins the game, and by cutting inside, you stay inbounds and get a chance at first down.
Phil Dunn, Sacramento
Klein: I wouldn’t classify Kupp’s decision as a mental error. He got around the end for five yards but did not want to turn upfield and risk being knocked out of bounds, which would have stopped the clock. And to cut back in that situation, while going full speed across the width of the field, and requiring a hard plant on an injured right ankle, probably in that moment did not seem feasible.
Can the Chargers establish a run game against the 49ers?
George Morton, San Diego
Miller: I doubt it. They haven’t been able to run consistently against any team other than Cleveland so far, and the 49ers rank No. 1 in the NFL versus the run. This figures to be another game where Austin Ekeler’s biggest impact will come more as a receiver than a runner.
It’s hard to think that the Rams, since they lost so many key players from the Super Bowl team, would not know they could not contend without them. Was this a throw-away season? How do teams like K.C. Chiefs keep their stars ?
Steven Katz, Los Angeles
Klein: The Rams kept their stars. They signed quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Cooper Kupp and defensive lineman Aaron Donald to extensions and cornerback Jalen Ramsey still under contract. They traded Robert Woods for economic reasons and thought Allen Robinson would be an upgrade in some respects. The same with the younger Joe Noteboom taking over at left tackle for retiring Andrew Whitworth. No one regarded this as a “throw-away” season before it began. It remains to be seen if it turns out that way.