When the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams take the field on Saturday afternoon, there will be no shortage of exceptional matchups, particularly when the Packers have the football. Aaron Rodgers, the likely NFL MVP, has elevated his game to new heights this season, and he leads the #1 scoring offense against the Rams’ top-ranked defense.
The individual matchups, however, might be even more impressive than the units as a whole. One exceptional challenge to watch will be Aaron Donald, an All-Pro for the sixth straight season and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, against the Packers’ exceptional interior offensive line. Left guard Elgton Jenkins was voted to the Pro Bowl this year, while center Corey Linsley earned first-team All-Pro honors along with Donald.
But even that matchup will be overshadowed by the one on the boundary, where cornerback Jalen Ramsey appears poised to follow Davante Adams across the field.
With apologies to Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, Adams was the NFL’s best wide receiver this year. He led the NFL with 98.1 receiving yards per game and 18 touchdowns, and only two wide receivers who were targeted more than 50 times caught a greater percentage of their targets than Adams’ 77.2%. He obliterated his previous career-high in that area as well as setting a new high mark in yards per target by a full yard. Furthermore, Aaron Rodgers had a passer rating of 136.0 when targeting Adams, even though three of Rodgers’ five interceptions were thrown in #17’s direction.
Enter Jalen Ramsey.
Ramsey narrowly beat Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander for the second cornerback spot on the All-Pro first team this year, but the two were neck-and-neck in many statistics. Although Ramsey only intercepted one pass and broke up nine total (to Alexander’s one pick and 13 PDs), he remained one of the best in the NFL at not allowing completions into his coverage. Opposing passers only completed 36 of 71 passes thrown his way (according to Pro Football Reference), and he allowed just two touchdowns and a passer rating of 68.6 into his coverage.
The 2020 season was Ramsey’s second All-Pro season, following a similar campaign in 2017, but he made his fourth straight Pro Bowl team. In fact, Ramsey allowed fewer total yards in a 15-game campaign this year than in the nine games he played in 2019 after being traded to the Rams from Jacksonville, a sign that the Rams have adapted their defense to maximize his abilities.
Wherever Adams lines up, he should expect to see number 20 across from him. The Packers have used Adams more in the slot in 2020 than ever before, a trend that should continue on Saturday in an effort to scheme him open. This should be a tremendous challenge for a receiver who excelled in the postseason a year ago; Adams caught 17 of 22 targets for 298 yards and two scores in the Packers’ two 2019 playoff games in a sign of what was to come in 2020.
In all likelihood, the Rams keeping Ramsey on Adams may require that the Packers get their complementary receivers going in this game. Thankfully, secondary players like Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Robert Tonyan and the Packers’ running game have picked up some slack on the rare recent occasion that Adams has struggled or been somewhat contained. Adams has recorded fewer than 100 receiving yards in just three of the Packers’ last seven games: week 12 and week 17 against the Bears and week 15’s win over the Panthers. But the Packers rushed for 182 yards in week 12 and 195 in week 15, and they got over 120 yards and two touchdowns from those key secondary weapons in week 17.
Adams will surely have his opportunities to make a stamp on the game, but with Ramsey guarding him, those chances may be limited. As a result, look for the Packers to find ways to get him disengaged from the All-Pro cornerback while also attacking other areas of the Rams’ defense in the passing game.