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Rams

Rams’ Jalen Ramsey knows what he’s up against in Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey covers Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones (11).
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, shown covering Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones (11), is accustomed to matching up against the opponent’s top receiver.
(Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Don’t be fooled by statistics.

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey emphasized that point Thursday when asked about an impending matchup against Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper.

Ramsey pointed to a 2016 game, the seventh of Ramsey’s rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cooper, playing for the Oakland Raiders, caught four passes for 29 yards in his team’s 33-16 victory. Ramsey said he gave up one reception while covering Cooper.

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“It looks like I won the matchup, right?” Ramsey said.

Not so fast.

“If you actually turn on the film and look at it he was like eating me up all game long, especially on the line and his releases,” Ramsey said. “I was overly aggressive. He was really killing me off the line. They were just at the time basically picking on the corner on the other side.

The Rams could be a good bet against a Dallas Cowboys team that has underperformed lately.

“That’s something that’s always stuck in my mind. Like that stat line didn’t matter to me. How that actual game went mattered a lot to me — and that’s when I gained a lot of respect for him.”

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Ramsey will no doubt cover Cooper on Sunday when the Rams play the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, and the stakes are high for both teams.

The Rams are 8-5, and probably have to win out against the Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals to catch the Minnesota Vikings (9-4) for an NFC wild-card spot. The Cowboys (6-7) are leading the NFC East, with a game against the Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) looming Dec. 22.

The Rams are 5-2 since acquiring Ramsey in an October trade that cost them two first-round draft picks. The fourth-year pro’s coverage skills enabled the Rams to improve a defense that — with the exception of a rout by the Baltimore Ravens — has been stout.

In victories the last two games, the defense held the Cardinals to one touchdown and the Seattle Seahawks to two field goals.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Thursday that he has a similar feeling to last season, when the defense came on late in the season for a run to the playoffs and the Super Bowl.

“We’re hitting our identity defensively and team-wise too,” Phillips said. “But really, defensively — the last part of the year — I think we’re getting a good feel for each other, what we can do and what we can’t do. Our limitations, our strengths and we’re playing off our strengths.”

Cowboys Dak Prescott will make $2.1 million this season in which he’s passed for an NFL-best 4,122 yards. Meanwhile, Rams’ Jared Goff already has cashed in.

The addition of Ramsey, 25, has enabled the Rams’ pass rush to come alive. Phillips likened Ramsey’s impact to that of lineman Aaron Donald, who often draws double teams that enable teammates to get to the quarterback.

“Does that affect the game?” Phillips said. “Obviously it does — and [Donald] still makes plays. It’s the same thing with Jalen.”

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Opponents’ reluctance to test Ramsey has created opportunities for cornerback Troy Hill, who has two interceptions in the last four games.

That’s fine with Ramsey, though he acknowledges occasional frustration at not getting many chances to make plays.

“I’m not going to sit here and lie,” he said. “I feel like if I can make a lot of plays, I can impact the game and I can help this team win as many games as possible. So of course I want those opportunities.

“But I understand my role fully, and if I’m able to go out there and play dominant in my role, that’s really what helps the team win games. And as long as I can do that and help the team win as many games as possible, I’m going to be happy.”

Ramsey, the fifth pick in the 2016 NFL draft, is looking forward to matching up against Cooper, the fourth pick in the 2015 draft.

The Cowboys traded for Cooper in October 2018. He is earning $13.9 million this season while playing on a fifth-year option and — as with quarterback Dak Prescott — is in the midst of a drive for a new contract.

Players in the Rams’ receiving corps have gotten used to their snap counts fluctuating weekly. It’s all part of coach Sean McVay’s game plan.

Cooper has a team-best 70 catches for 1,054 yards and eight touchdowns for the NFL’s top-ranked offense. Despite Cooper’s lofty statistics, he is “one of the most underrated receivers in the league,” Ramsey said.

“What he’s been able to do since he got to Dallas,” he said, “it’s elite.”

Etc.

Rams tight end Gerald Everett, who has been sidelined two games because of a knee injury, did not attend practice because of illness, McVay said. ... Offensive lineman Andrew Whitworth, who turned 38 Thursday, is among 32 nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, presented annually to a player for performance on the field and character and charitable work off it. The winner will be presented with the award in February at the NFL Honors program before the Super Bowl.


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