Holding the 2018 No. 3 scoring offense in the league to just nine points was noteworthy for the Rams' defense. But what should not go unnoticed in their 2019 Week 2 performance against the Saints was how they were able to contain New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara.
Kamara had quickly established himself as one of the NFL's most dynamic playmakers through his first two seasons, amassing 31 total touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage – 1,611 rushing and 1,535 receiving. The Rams didn't need those numbers to be aware of the challenges Kamara posed – the former Tennessee standout still caught 11 passes for 96 yards in the 2018 NFC championship despite being limited to eight carries for 15 yards.
In the rematch eight months later, Kamara had 13 carries for 45 yards but just one reception for 15 yards. It was just the third time ever he only had one catch in a game in his career, and only the sixth time he failed to surpass 60 yards from scrimmage.
Why it matters for 2020
Even under a new coordinator and with a handful of new faces this season, the returning members of the Rams defense will likely look to how they played Kamara when preparing for some of their 2020 opponents.
Based on ESPN's stats, Los Angeles is scheduled to face seven of last season's 15 most-targeted running backs in the passing game:
- Tarik Cohen, Bears – 3rd
- James White, Patriots – 6th
- Le'Veon Bell, Jets – 7th
- Saquon Barkley, Giants – 8th
- Zeke Elliott, Cowboys – 9th
- Kenyan Drake, Cardinals – 11th
- Miles Sanders, Eagles – 14th
Factor in that the Rams play the Cardinals twice as a division opponent, and nearly half of their schedule is filled with matchups against running backs who also offer value as receivers. While the most recent film will best aid how L.A. prepares for each of those players the specific week it faces them, so too might elements of last year's strategy for containing Kamara.