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Bolts Can't Afford to Fall for Rams' Eye Candy

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The Rams offense has picked up where it left off last season, ranking among the NFL's highest scoring through two games.

All week long, the Chargers defense has stressed it must be at its best each and every snap.

However, it's not just what happens after the quarterback-center exchange they must prepare for. They also must get ready for all the eye candy the Rams will roll out before the snap.

Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley took to the podium on Thursday, emphasizing how effective the Rams are at confusing opponents at the line before the ball is snapped. After all, the Chargers saw firsthand how disruptive all that window dressing can be in their season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We didn't play really well against Kansas City (with what they did pre-snap), so we have to play it better," Bradley said. "I think you go back and you look at what you didn't do well in the season during the previous games. You have to get that corrected because it is a copycat league. If teams see that you have a weakness and you don't get it corrected, you're going to see it again."

"They're not similar schemes, they (both) just do a lot (before the snap)," added Casey Hayward. "Kansas City does a lot of motioning and different things. They line up their guys in different positions. They do the same thing with the Rams, but they do it from a reduced standpoint, and make the guys come up and tackle. It's the same way Kansas City makes you come up and tackle the running back, but their schemes are definitely different."

Part of what the Bolts must prepare for is the change in tempos in which Jared Goff runs the offense.

Both Bradley and Hayward noted how the Rams stay in 11-personnel most of the team. They often opt to keep the same trio of receivers in Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp on the field the entire time, allowing them to play at a higher tempo. Rushing to the line also limits the Bolts' opportunities to substitute on defense.

"It's not just that they're up-tempo the first 15 plays," Hayward said. "They can do it in the middle of the second quarter, and it'd be like tempo, tempo, tempo, tempo, slow down. Tempo, tempo, tempo, tempo, slow down. We just have to be ready at all times. They can just come up (and change it). They don't even change (personnel). They'll normally be in 11-personnel. That doesn't even change a lot, so we won't be able to change a lot or we'll get caught in the tempo. We have to be ready for their tempo… it's a challenge when they tempo and you don't get to see the whole picture. When they tempo and they go three-by-one or two-by-two; you don't get to read it. You don't know what they're in so now you're just working on your technique and preparation to try and survive the down. That's what you have to do."

Meanwhile, one area Bradley mentioned the focus will be is on defending the jet-sweep. The play has been run more frequently early this season throughout the league, and as the defensive coordinator notes, was a play the Bolts had trouble stopping vs. the Chiefs.

"It is a copycat league," he said. "If teams see that you have a weakness and you don't get it corrected, you're going to see it again. I know in the first two games that you're seeing a lot more (jet-sweeps from the Rams) per-game total than they did last year. It's a part of it. What's unique about them is that everyone on their team can run the jet-sweep. (Todd) Gurley has run jet-sweeps. The receivers have all run jet-sweeps. They'll jet both guys, again, to try to create confusion. I think it's an effective addition to their offense."

Just like the Chiefs, the Bolts face an opponent in the Rams who have had their fair share of success running the jet-sweep in their wins over the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals.

So, what makes it such a difficult play to defend?

Basically, it forces each defender to stick to their man rather than flock to the ball, giving the offense various advantages.

"Sometimes it softens (you) up because when you're a defense that plays zone coverage, you have to switch gaps on the run," Bradley explained. "You have to play at more [of a] linebacker depth. With a lot of these zone teams, they're trying to get vertical seams — so with the distance between their block and the [defensive] linemen, and they're attacking the linebackers — there is some space there for a guy like Gurley to make his jump-cuts and operate in some space. When they do those things in zone coverage, the linebackers have to stay more at linebacker depth. In man, they can hit it hard downhill, but you have a challenge of corners running all the way across the field. They'll jet-motion and then jet-motion back. So, it's an endurance thing as well sometimes."

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