As we approach training camp and the upcoming season, theRams.com will be highlighting a small but critical performance you may have missed from each of the Rams' 16 games last season that was overshadowed by a more noteworthy one. For Week 1 against the Panthers, we dove further into wide receiver Robert Woods' performance and what it means for 2020.
On the surface, you probably looked at the Rams-Panthers box score from Week 1 last season and wanted to know how running back Todd Gurley did in his debut following an offseason and preseason plan managing his health. You may have also seen wide receiver Robert Woods catch 8 of 13 targets for 70 yards, all team-highs and significant.
Gurley surpassing 100 yards from scrimmage and Woods being the leading receiver were both important facts. However, if they are the only ones you paid attention to, chances are you might've missed just how valuable Woods was all-around in this game, too.
Of Woods' eight catches, three went for first downs. He hauled in two of them on third down, and both of those receptions helped set up the Rams' second and third scoring drives. Woods also took a handoff from the slot 20 yards to push Los Angeles past midfield into Carolina territory early in the fourth quarter.
When the Panthers pulled within three and threatened with an onside kick late in the fourth quarter, it was Woods who successfully recovered the ball to stifle their rally.
In summary, Woods was valuable not only in the passing game, but with the ball in his hands – whether it was on offense or special teams. He went on to average 12.6 yards per reception and 6.8 yards per carry in 2019.
Why it matters for 2020
Taking Woods' 14.2 yards per catch and 8.3 yards per carry in 2018 into account with that, that versatility and dependability will be crucial for the Rams' offense this year. Just take a look at how some of their 2020 opposing defenses fared on 3rd down in 2019.
According to ESPN's data, Los Angeles is scheduled to face seven of the 10 teams most successful at stopping their opponents on 3rd down:
- New England Patriots – opponents made just 24.1 percent of their 3rd-down attempts, lowest in the NFL
- Dallas Cowboys – 33.3 percent, tied for second-lowest
- San Francisco 49ers – 33.3 percent, tied for second-lowest
- Philadelphia Eagles – 34.2 percent, fourth-lowest
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 34.4 percent, fifth-lowest
- Buffalo Bills – 35.9 percent, seventh-lowest
- Chicago Bears – 36.4 percent, tied for ninth-lowest
Third-down success won't come easy against these seven teams, but having a player with reliable hands, vision and speed like Woods will help the Rams' odds.