EARTH CITY, Mo. -- The 2015 NFL season is over and for the Los Angeles Rams, it has been for awhile.
Once again, the Rams' offense held the team back from making a legitimate playoff push. But was it much worse than it was in 2014? Was it better?
Let's take a look at what the numbers say about one of the NFL's worst offenses and compare it to last year. (NFL rank in parentheses)
A few thoughts on what you see above:
The 2015 season was the Rams' fourth under coach Jeff Fisher. Before the season, Fisher was asked about his offense on a consistent basis and made reference to how he had been asked about it in the previous years. Well, clearly, that's going to be the biggest question facing his team going into next season.
The Rams' numbers were slightly better when Rob Boras took over as offensive coordinator in the final four games, though they actually dipped in a few of the categories above. Most notably, the turnovers were down during that stretch, which is why the Rams improved there from 2014 to 2015. Boras will keep that emphasis on limiting turnovers moving forward.
Fisher finally got the step forward he wanted in the run game, thanks in large part to rookie back Todd Gurley. The uptick in yards per game and yards per carry is encouraging. The Rams and Gurley will need to be more consistent in that area from game to game but with Gurley another year removed from his injury and a young offensive line developing, that's an attainable goal.
It's no surprise to see those passing numbers where they are. In fact, the Rams finished at the bottom of the league in most major passing numbers. As you can see, the gain the Rams made in rushing yards (roughly an additional 20 yards per game) was lost in the downturn in passing production (about 37 yards per game). The thing here isn't so much that the Rams didn't put up big numbers through the air. That was expected. But the number that has to be watched in this scheme is yards per attempt. If an offense is going to be run-heavy then that means the passing game must complement it by having big-play completions. In other words, if the quantity of pass attempts is going to be low the the quality of those attempts must be good. So while the drop off from 6.6 to 5.93 yards per passing attempt might not seem like much, it speaks to an offense that wasn't making enough big passing plays to complement the running game successfully. For example, when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013, they were fourth in the NFL in rushing (136.75) and though they finished 26th in passing yards per game (202.25), they were fourth in the NFL in yards per passing attempt (7.7). If you are going to lean on the run game (and a stout defense, obviously), you have to get more than just the occasional big play through the air.
Not that we needed a reminder that the Rams need help at quarterback and receiver, the overall lack of production in the passing game is still jarring. The run game is as close as it's been to the type of attack Fisher wants than any of his seasons with the Rams. But for it to really reach its apex, the passing game needs to improve to at least a mediocre level. As the numbers show, improvement in the passing game wasn't evident in 2015.