Tagged in: Jalen Ramsey

Stafford, Rams hold off Falcons for 31-27 victory

Jalen Ramsey was calm and collected, even in the maelstrom of the fourth quarter that saw the Atlanta Falcons putting together a late rally versus the Los Angeles Rams.

While most of the 71,802 inside of SoFi Stadium were dreading the worst Sunday, the All-Pro cornerback knew he was going to be a deciding factor in the final minutes.

With the Falcons driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, Ramsey picked off Marcus Mariota’s pass intended for Bryan Edwards in the end zone, permitting the Rams to hold on for a 31-27 victory.

“I told my teammates it was gonna come back to me and it did,” Ramsey said. “I just continued to focus and do my job. That was going through my mind because in the past we pressed to make those plays. And when you do that, it doesn’t end up well for you.”

The defending Super Bowl champions led the entire game. But they nearly blew a 28-3 third-quarter lead that would have given the young Falcons an unlikely comeback of their own from that infamous score — Atlanta’s lead in the 2017 Super Bowl before New England rallied to win — to celebrate.

Mariota had second-half touchdown passes to Drake London and Olamide Zaccheaus to bring the Falcons within 31-17. Special teams and defense then came through to give the veteran quarterback a final chance.

Troy Anderson blocked a punt that Lorenzo Carter returned 26 yards for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion pass from Mariota to London brought the Falcons within 31-25 with 5:06 left. It was their first blocked punt TD since 1990.

Los Angeles turned it over on their ensuing drive when Darren Hall forced Kupp to fumble and recovered it at the Rams 37. Mariota got the Falcons to the Rams 24 before throwing the fateful interception.

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“That’s on me, I’ve got to do a better job of communicating that across the board,” said Mariota, who was 17 of 26 for 196 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. “I think, kind of throughout the game I could have done a better job operationally and just communicating with the guys so that everybody’s on the same page.”

Los Angeles took a safety when returner Brandon Powell ran out of the end zone on punt formation after a three-and-out.

After the free kick, Atlanta took over at the Falcons 40, but Mariota was sacked before he could get a Hail Mary attempt off on the final play to ensure Atlanta’s fourth consecutive 0-2 start.

“There’s a lot of different, very uncharacteristic things, but they happened. And we still found a way,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We’re not going to run away from some of the things that we didn’t do well today. But we’re also going to allow ourselves to appreciate being able to come away with a win.”

Matthew Stafford threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns and Cooper Kupp had two TD catches for the Rams, who bounced back from a disappointing defeat versus the Buffalo Bills in their season opener.

Stafford completed his first 12 passes en route to going 27 of 36. Kupp had 11 catches for 108 yards and touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second and third quarters.

Kupp made an over-the-shoulder catch on a fade pattern on second-and-3 from Atlanta’s 3 late in the first half to give the Rams a 21-3 lead. The Super Bowl MVP’s first score came three plays after Rams rookie cornerback Cobie Durant picked off a pass bobbled by Cordarrelle Patterson and returned it 51 yards up the right sideline to the Falcons 9.

The Rams then took the second half kickoff and extended their lead by another touchdown when Kupp caught a quick pass and juked safety Jaylinn Hawkins for a 10-yard TD.

The Falcons were able to move the ball in the first half, but were done in by mistakes. The Rams scored their 21 points after a missed field goal by Younghoe Koo, turnover on downs near midfield and Mariota’s first interception.

“Obviously it wasn’t perfect and we need to break through, but one thing about our guys, no matter what has happened, we have a chance until the last play to win it,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Obviously we didn’t make enough plays, but the game playing gave us enough and the guys kept grinding out.”

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Cleveland Browns make Denzel Ward NFL’s top-paid CB with five-year, $100.5 million extension

The Cleveland Browns are signing Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward to a five-year, $100.5 million contract extension that includes $71.25 million guaranteed, Tory Dandy of CAA Sports, who negotiated the contract, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

At age 24, Ward is now the highest-paid cornerback in NFL history. The $20.1 million average annual salary puts him ahead of Jalen Ramsey, who had been the highest-paid cornerback at $20 million per campaign on the deal he signed with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020.

Ramsey congratulated Ward on his new deal, tweeting: “I been waiting on somebody else to touch that 100 club & you DEFINITELY DESERVE IT @denzelward … congrats.” Ward is now under contract with the Browns for six more years, through the 2027 season. He is under contract for $13.294 million this season after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his contract last year.

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The Browns selected Ward fourth overall in 2018, the same draft the team selected quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. Ward got a second contract from the Browns, but Mayfield and the franchise are headed for a separation after Cleveland traded for quarterback Deshaun Watson and signed him to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million extension.

The Browns have spent $340.5 million in guaranteed money on all contracts this offseason, the most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

That involves extensions, not only the money given to free agents, and $301.25 million of that total was given to Watson and Ward.

Ward tweeted thanks to the Browns “for continuing to believe in the home grown kid and allowing me to represent this organization and city of Cleveland where I’m from.” He also thanked Dandy for the work he put in to finalize the deal.

Ward has been selected to two Pro Bowls in his first four seasons — his rookie year in 2018 and in 2021. He has 10 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, and 50 passes defended in 52 games.

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Rams return Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, but questions remain for defending No. 1 defense

With the promise of an improved offense, the Los Angeles Rams’ defense is preparing for an encore performance.

Last season, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey spurred the unit to the top of the NFL.

Both star playmakers return after a 10-6 campaign that resulted in divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. So does outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract after a career-best campaign in which he tallied 10.5 sacks.

But gone is defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who inherited a defense that ranked ninth in efficiency and improved it to first in his only season before departing to become the Los Angeles Chargers’ head coach. Enter defense coordinator Raheem Morris, who held the same post last season with the Atlanta Falcons for five games before being promoted to interim head coach.

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Morris takes over a defense that permitted a league-low 18.5 points in 2020.

He is expected to maintain what Staley installed, including the base 3-4 scheme, but will add some of his own wrinkles to shape a unit that can propel the Rams to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium next February.

“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Morris said at his introductory news conference when asked about taking over the league’s top-ranked defense. “I think it’s more of an opportunity.”

Last season, the Rams ranked No. 1 in passing yards permitted per game at 190.7. They ranked No. 3 versus the run, allowing only 91.3 rushing yards per game.

However, there’s room for improvement, especially at creating turnovers. The Rams forced 22 turnovers last season, which ranked 10th, and intercepted 14 passes, ranking 12th.

Entering the NFL draft last month, Rams coach Sean McVay said the Rams did not have any glaring holes that needed to be filled. Along with Donald, Ramsey and Floyd, the Rams also return cornerback Darious Williams, whose coming off a breakthrough season that included four interceptions, and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, a former sixth-round pick who is entering his third season as a starter.

But some of their key playmakers have departed.

Four defensive starters left this offseason, including veteran defensive lineman Michael Brockers — who was traded to Detroit — outside linebacker Samson Ebukam, cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson III.

The Rams used five of their nine draft picks to select defensive players: South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones, Texas A&M defensive lineman Bobby Brown III, Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell, Northwestern defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV and Concordia-St. Paul outside linebacker Chris Garrett.

“You look at each of them and there’s a vision that we have for them and how they fit, how they provide value for a football team,” said McVay, who’s entering his fifth season as coach.

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Los Angeles Chargers hire Rams’ Brandon Staley as coach

The Los Angeles Chargers have agreed to terms with Brandon Staley to become their next head coach, the team revealed Sunday night.

He will be formally introduced at a news conference on Thursday.

Staley served the past season as the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator, developing the top-ranked defense in the NFL behind star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Staley’s unit propelled the Rams to a 10-6 season and a wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks before the team exited the postseason with a loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. I

n his first year as an NFL coordinator, Staley’s defense ranked No. 1 in efficiency, yards permitted per game and points allowed per game. With the Chargers, Staley replaces coach Anthony Lynn, who was fired after four seasons and a 33-31 record.

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The Chargers are coming off a 7-9 season that resulted in a third-place finish in the AFC West.

However, Staley inherits a roster that includes several cornerstone players, including rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdown passes in a single season. Staley also takes over a defensive unit that includes Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa and All-Pro safety Derwin James.

“It’s hard to put into words just how excited I am for the opportunity to be the Los Angeles Chargers’ Head Coach,” Staley said in a statement.

“While this is certainly a dream come true, it’s also a dream that’s just beginning. There’s a reason this was probably the most sought after job out there — from ownership, to the fans, to the city, to the men in that locker room — it’s the total package.”

The 38-year-old Staley has quickly risen through the NFL ranks since he first was hired as a position coach in 2017 with the Chicago Bears. He spent two seasons in Chicago under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio before he followed Fangio to the Denver Broncos, where he spent one season as outside linebackers coach before joining the Rams’ staff.

Staley is the third assistant under Rams coach Sean McVay to get an NFL head coaching job, joining Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor.

“I think any time that you have those situations arise, that’s one of the most gratifying things,” McVay said Sunday during his season-ending news conference.

“That’s also really a unique thing to see him come in and do such a great job, then immediately be a prime candidate for a lot of these openings and you realize how precious these opportunities are.”

Prior to coaching in the NFL, Staley coached for three seasons at John Carroll University, a Division III college in University Heights, Ohio, and also spent a season as defensive coordinator at James Madison University.

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Jalen Ramsey, Rams ‘on same page’ concerning contract extension

The Los Angeles Rams have been in contact with Jalen Ramsey’s representatives regarding a contract extension as the All-Pro cornerback enters the final season of his rookie deal.

Ramsey was coy Tuesday when asked where negotiations stood.

“The Rams know where I stand,” Ramsey said on a video conference with reporters. “I think that’s all that matters at the end of the day. It will be handled. They know where I stand. They’ve been in contact with my agent. They’re on the same page as my agent.”

When asked whether he would attend training camp if he had yet to sign an extension, Ramsey showed no hesitation.

“Yeah, for sure,” he stated.

Ramsey is estimated to command a record-breaking contract, and it’s anticipated that he will have the upper hand in negotiations, given what the Rams paid to acquire him before the trade deadline last campaign. The Rams sent their 2020 and 2021 first-round draft picks and a 2021 fourth-round selection to the Jacksonville Jaguars for Ramsey, who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2016.

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“I can’t really worry about that,” Ramsey said about the negotiations. “I just control what I got to worry about right now. I feel like everybody knew what type of situation it was gonna be once they traded for me, so I think it doesn’t really need to be talked about that much. It’ll get handled.”

Considered among the top lockdown corners in the NFL, Ramsey has 10 interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and 49 pass deflections in four seasons.

The Rams have been aggressive in signing players to record-breaking contracts over the past two years.

Running back Todd Gurley signed a four-year, $40 million extension in July 2018 that involved a record-breaking $45 million guaranteed. A month later, defensive tackle Aaron Donald signed a six-year, $135 million extension that amounted to the richest contract ever signed by a defensive player. Last September, quarterback Jared Goff signed a four-year, $134 million deal that includes a record-breaking $110 million guaranteed.

The Rams, however, cut Gurley this offseason and also traded receiver Brandin Cooks, who was in the midst of a five-year, $81 million contract.

Gurley’s and Cooks’ contracts will cost the Rams nearly $30 million in dead money cap charges in 2020.

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Jaguars trade Jalen Ramsey to Rams for pair of 1st-rounders

The Jacksonville Jaguars traded Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams.

In return, the Rams will send Jacksonville first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and a fourth-round selection in 2021, according to the ESPN report.

Ramsey demanded a trade from the Jaguars after a Week 2 sideline dispute with head coach Doug Marrone in a loss to the Houston Texans. He confirmed to media the request the next week in a Sirius XM interview.

Ramsey played in Jacksonville’s Week 3 win over the Tennessee Titans, but hasn’t suited up since, citing various ailments including a back injury and flu before taking an indefinite leave from the team for the birth of his daughter.

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The deal marks the third trade of the day for the Rams, who dealt cornerback Marcus Peters to the Baltimore Ravens for linebacker Kenny Young and an anonymous draft pick, and sent a 2021 draft pick to the Cleveland Browns for second-year center Austin Corbett to help shore up a porous offensive line earlier Tuesday.

Ramsey, 24, is in his fourth NFL season after the Jaguars selected him with the fifth pick of the 2016 draft.

He lived up to his lofty draft status, earning Pro Bowl nods in 2017 and 2018, and All-Pro honors in 2017.

He’ll provide an instantaneous upgrade to a pass defense that ranks 14th in the league and will allow the Rams to play more man-to-man defense. He’s a legitimate lock-down cornerback.

The Rams have taken a hard slide after a 3-0 start, dropping to 3-3 with Sunday’s 20-7 loss to the San Francisco 49ers marking a new low on the season. The defending NFC champions are in win-now mode, but find themselves in a dogfight in the NFC West with the 5-0 49ers and 4-1 Seahawks, whom they have an 0-2 record against this season.

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