Jalen Ramsey set to deploy his ‘classified’ shutdown game vs. Josh Allen and Bills

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams lines up on defense.
Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey lines up during a win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 13. Ramsey will play a central role in the Rams’ efforts to stop the Buffalo Bills’ passing attack on Sunday.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

The question came this week during a videoconference call at the Rams’ practice facility. A reporter asked receiver Robert Woods if star cornerback Jalen Ramsey provides him with any specific tips about how to beat cornerbacks.

Before Woods could answer, a voice emerged from the nearby parking lot.

“That’s classified!” Ramsey shouted before entering his car, drawing laughter from Woods.

It’s no secret that the unbeaten Rams are relying on Ramsey and his lockdown skills to help anchor a defense that has given up only 18 points a game.

Though they neutralized quarterbacks Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys and Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Rams are prepared for what could be a tougher test against Josh Allen and the unbeaten Buffalo Bills on Sunday at Bills Stadium.


In victories over the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, Allen passed for 727 yards and six touchdowns, with no interceptions.

Cam Akers will not play against Buffalo because of a rib injury, but Rams running back combo Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson are ready to go.

Sept. 25, 2020

Against the Jets, he passed for 312 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown in 14 carries to lead the Bills to a 27-17 victory in the season opener.

He passed for 415 yards and four touchdowns last Sunday in a 31-28 victory over the Dolphins.

“He’s like a rebirth of Ben Roethlisberger,” Rams safety John Johnson said, comparing the 6-foot-5, 237-pound Allen to the veteran Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. “Like, huge arm, huge body.

“I remember watching him take off and run. I’m like, ‘OK, you really got to have a tackling plan for him. He’s not going down easy, he’s not going to slide and he’s not going to run out of bounds.”

Ramsey, the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history, will be called upon to play a large role in controlling Allen and an offense that also features receiver Stefon Diggs.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes against the Miami Dolphins.
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen passes against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 17.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Ramsey made key plays against the Cowboys and receiver Amari Cooper. The Eagles barely tested Ramsey in a game that featured interceptions by Rams cornerbacks Darious Williams and Troy Hill.

Hill said he and his defensive mates are reaping the benefit of playing with Ramsey, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

“We got a shutdown corner on one side, so now you know everything is going to come through us,” Hill said. “So now is the time to strap up. … That’s kind of like just a competitor’s dream in a way.”

Ramsey said the season has gone well so far.

“That’s what I’m paid to do, is kind of shut down my side of the field and open up plays for other guys at times,” he said. “And I feel like I’ve been able to do that and I’ll continue to do that and anything else that they ask me to do for the defense.”

But as a competitor, would Ramsey like opponents to come at him more?

“I’m always up for the challenge and I always kind of want that,” said Ramsey, who signed a $105-million extension before the season. “But you know, they got 105 reasons why they might not do that.”


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Sept. 25, 2020

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said Allen was similar in some ways to Cam Newton. Allen has been sacked four times this season, but does not hesitate to use his size and strength to evade tacklers.

“He will run through you, run past you, and he will make you miss,” Donald said. “He can do it all. So, when you get him, you better come with your big boy pads and find a way to get him to the ground.”

Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said the Rams would “try to mix it up, try to play with some variety,” that does not afford Allen the luxury of making decisions before the snap and playing the game on his terms.

“You’ve got to make it more like rush-hour traffic than cruise control,” Staley said. “Make it more like New York City traffic, than a trip on I-90 in upstate New York. It’s got to be more stressful for him.”

Ramsey is a big part of that equation. Opponents shy of testing him can funnel the pressure onto other players. But Staley said that strategy can only work for so long.

“They can’t avoid him forever,” he said.

Rams vs. Bills matchup
(Tim Hubbard / Los Angeles Times)