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Rams Kick Off Road Series with Week 6 Matchup in Jacksonville

The Rams will look to bounce back after a tough loss at home in Week 5 as they travel to Jacksonville for a non-conference matchup. Sunday's contest against the Jaguars will kick off a two-game road series for the team, one in which Los Angeles will travel to both Florida and the United Kingdom in an 11-day span.

"We'll continue to keep that one-game-at-a-time mindset, but we've also got to have a big-picture perspective just because of the travel," head coach Sean McVay said. "We can enjoy ourselves a little bit, but make no mistake about it, we're going out there with every intention to try to go win a football game against two very good teams."

Both the Rams and Jaguars are entering the contest 3-2, but Jacksonville is coming off of a dominant win over the Steelers and will be looking to establish a home-field advantage over Los Angeles in Week 6. 

"We've gone up-down, up-down, so that's kind of been what everybody's talked about, the inconsistency or lack of consistency," Jaguars' quarterback Blake Bortles said via Jaguars.com. "So we have to find a way to win two in a row and get it rolling from there."

However, the Rams are undefeated on the road this season and are hoping to continue that trend with a victory over the Jaguars.

Because Jacksonville is one of the youngest clubs in the NFL — established in 1993 — there is not much history between the two organizations. In addition, because the Jaguars are in the AFC, they only play Los Angeles once every four years. But the Rams have won three out of their four matchups against Jacksonville, including a 34-30 win in 2013.

And though the Rams lost a close game to the Seahawks on Sunday, the contest did mark somewhat of a turning point for the defense. Los Angeles allowed just 241 yards and one touchdown. Not only were the Rams effective in containing quarterback Russell Wilson, but they also showcased an impressive passing defense, recording two interceptions on the day. 

"I think our guys are solid, they work hard, [and] they're trying to get things [done] the way we want them done," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "It comes down to the individual players playing well within the system and we're starting to do that better and better." 

Last week, the Rams' focus was on containing a mobile quarterback, but this week it will shift to stopping a dynamic running back. Rookie Leonard Fournette has burst onto the scene this year, recording 594 yards from scrimmage and six touchdowns. He has quickly become known as both an explosive rusher and a player who is not afraid of contact.

"He's a physical guy and it shows up on tape," middle linebacker Alec Ogletree said. "He runs downhill and really tries to make you miss. We know what type of game it's going to be — a physical game — and that's what we like to play."

While containing Fournette is the priority, Los Angeles will also look to put pressure on the quarterback. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald had one of his best games this season against the Seahawks, where he was able to pressure Wilson 10 times, recording two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits.

Plus, Phillips said he's looking forward to utilizing Donald even more this season to stop both the ground and passing game, with a focus on putting Donald into "one-on-one matchups [and] getting him in the position to affect plays." 

This season Jacksonville has established itself as a run-first team that prefers to keep the football on the ground rather than in the air. The offense is currently averaging 165.2 yards per game and ranks first in the league in rushing. Phillips said he gives credit to head coach Doug Marrone for exploiting smash mouth style football as "a power team," that is "very phsyical."

"It's a little bit like when I first started, a lot of teams had really good running games. When I first started, everybody had leather helmets, so you really had to be tough then," Phillips said with a laugh. "But it's interesting to see that in this day and time, you can run the football and win games and that's what they're doing. It's an old, old formula, but they're doing really well with it."

Though Lamarcus Joyner is questionable for Sunday's contest, rookie John Johnson III and Cody Davis should match up well with wideouts Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns. Both safeties recorded an interception last week and will be hungry for more in Week 6.

On offense, the Rams will need to get the ground game going early against an up-and-down Jaguars run defense. Last week, running back Todd Gurley was held to 50 yards rushing and had a fumble at the goalline. But this week he is ready to make up for his mistakes with a team focus on protecting the football against a defense that leads the league in takeaways, with 10 interceptions and five fumble recoveries.  

"Obviously, not turn the ball over," Gurley said of what he would do differently. "It was a huge momentum shift. You're about to go up at least 7-0 and then you get a touchback. But you just can't turn the ball over, we have to play our game."

"They are a good defense and have a done a great job creating turnovers this year," quarterback Jared Goff added. "So we have to be careful about that. Definitely our goal every game is to protect the football and take care of the ball, but this game's going to be an emphasis for sure.

In the air, Los Angeles has plenty of offensive weapons for Goff. But the goal will be to get each involved in the most efficient way possible, especially against a strong Jaguars secondary that includes cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Jacksonville's secondary recorded five interceptions in last week's win over the Steelers and is ranked third in the NFL.

And though the Rams have had no trouble moving the ball through five games this season, they have struggled at times to capitalize on their various trips to the red zone. Left guard Rodger Saffold hopes that focusing on the fundamentals will help Los Angeles inside Jacksonville's' 20-yard line.

"[Last week] we kind of put ourselves in a bad position with penalties and just overall efficiency in the red zone," he said. "When it comes right down to it, we just have to be better. So I think the guys should just be a little more focused on it, [rather] than being too focused on it and not being able to play loose. Because that's when we play our best is when we're loose."

Another area to keep an eye on will be the Rams' special teams unit. McVay announced earlier this week that he would be taking wide receiver Tavon Austin off of punt returns, instead leaning towards wideout Pharoh Cooper as both the primary kickoff and punt returner this week.

As a whole, Sunday's contest marks an opportunity for the Rams to once again prove themselves on the road and kick off their two-game road trip with a win. For more information on how to watch the Week 6 matchup, click here.

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