Round 3 is in playoffs: Rams’ Jalen Ramsey vs. Seahawks’ DK Metcalf
A matchup billed as a heavyweight bout between two of the best at their positions is transforming into a calculated game of chess.
The previous meetings presented different outcomes.
In the first game, a 23-16 Rams victory in November, Ramsey shadowed Metcalf on 69% of his routes and allowed only one reception for 11 yards on four targets, according to Next Gen Stats. But two weeks ago in the Rams’ 20-9 loss, Metcalf finished with 59 yards on six catches. That’s based in large part on how Seattle altered its offensive plan.
The Seahawks motioned Metcalf pre-snap on nine of his 61 snaps, most of them to the opposite side away from Ramsey. Quarterback Russell Wilson completed three passes for 33 yards to Metcalf on those snaps, according to a Times review of film.
On one play, as Metcalf trotted to the other side of the formation, Ramsey appeared to shake his head in frustration. It’s a scheme he and others on the defense clearly noticed.
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“I feel, personally, that it should be big on big,” Ramsey said. “If you believe you have a top guy, I’m looked at as a top guy, we should be matched up against each other a fair amount of the time. That’s what I would like to see, selfishly. That’s what big-time games should be. That’s what the fans would like to see.”
The Seahawks rarely motioned Metcalf in their first matchup against the Rams. In man coverage, Ramsey shadowed Metcalf on 30 of 42 routes, and did not allow a catch on two targets, according to Next Gen Stats. It severely limited the Seahawks offense. In the second matchup, Ramsey shadowed Metcalf on 23 of his 35 routes, according to Next Gen Stats.
Metcalf finished seventh in the league with 1,303 receiving yards and broke a franchise record for most yards receiving in a single season. Both he and Ramsey were named to the Pro Bowl and voted to the Associated Press All-Pro team.
Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey were named to the Associated Press All-Pro team once again.
Ramsey, who signed a record-breaking contract extension this offseason, helped lead a Rams defense that ranked first in yards allowed, points scored and yards passing allowed. He also had stout performances against Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The Seahawks strategy, in some ways, mimics one used by another NFC West rival. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel, in two games against the Rams, posted 193 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. They also motioned Samuel around and went with short routes that allowed for yards after the catch.
Regarding Metcalf, defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said his movement shows his versatility.
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“I think that shows you the depth of his game and how much he has improved as a player, because you can’t move around the formation if mentally and physically you haven’t improved,” Staley said. “I think that’s a strength of their offense and that’s what you have to do with premium guys like that. You have to move them around or else everyone is going to be focused on them.”
Ramsey said he’d like more one-on-one matchups with Metcalf, saying it’d be reminiscent of the first game and the two games against Hopkins. But he understands the Seahawks’ approach.
“I don’t know if I would say the right terminology is ‘hiding him,’” Ramsey said. “I don’t think DK Metcalf has to hide from anybody. But they felt it was in the best interest of their offense and their team to move him around in different areas so he could take advantage of opportunities potentially that he had that could help their offense and help their team get a win, which you could say they were effective in doing. So now, we have to find a way to combat that.”
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