THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — After the Los Angeles Rams‘ Thursday night win over the Las Vegas Raiders and their first victory since Week 6, Sean McVay stopped Jalen Ramsey as he walked from the podium into the locker room.
He hugged Ramsey and told him how much he appreciates him, especially in a season that has been such a roller coaster for both the Rams and their star cornerback.
The acknowledgement came after wide receiver Davante Adams caught a 32-yard pass over Ramsey on the third play of the game, drawing a defensive pass interference penalty. Adams made the catch one-handed with Ramsey draped over him. But despite allowing two big plays to Adams in the first half, the Raiders’ star receiver finished with only three catches for 71 yards on seven targets.
“[I told him] I was happy for the way that he continued to play,” McVay said. “Two five-star players going at it [on Thursday], and it’s a good heavyweight matchup. So [I’m] just happy for the way that he’s led and the way he’s handled himself consistently through this season.”
But while Ramsey hasn’t played up to his standards this year — at least not consistently — defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said that’s reflective of how difficult the star cornerback’s job is.
Through 13 games this season, Ramsey has allowed a completion percentage of 68.7% as a nearest defender, the 10th-highest percentage among defensive backs with at least 50 targets, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Ramsey has also been the nearest defender on seven touchdowns this season, the most of any cornerback.
“Most of the time he’s put in the dangerous spots,” Morris said. “He’s getting probably the harder downs on most of the times you can do those things, and he hasn’t had quite [the] success that he wants to have. … I give him the hard down [the] majority of the time. People know we give him the hard down the majority of the time.”
Just three days earlier, in the same locker room, Ramsey sat back in his locker after the Rams’ ninth loss of the season. It came against the Seattle Seahawks on a winning touchdown catch by receiver DK Metcalf with 36 seconds left.
“We lost,” Ramsey said. “[By] a touchdown. From the man I was guarding.”
Morris called this season a “roller-coaster ride” for Ramsey, referencing the “bad game” he had in the season-opening loss to the Buffalo Bills. But more than that, Morris said, it’s a position that’s a “roller coaster, just in general.”
“I laugh because we said Jalen had a bad game … he really had a bad play,” Morris said. “But that’s just that position. You have one bad play at that position, you get crucified and criticized, and that’s just what it is.
And because of the mindset required to play the position, rookie cornerback Cobie Durant said, the motto in the position room is “being tone setters and game changers.”
“[I’ve learned], don’t be scared to take chances,” Durant said of what Ramsey has taught him. “Play within the system and control what you can control. Play fast and play physical.”
A lot of that learning takes place in the film room. By the time Ramsey walks in to watch film Monday with his teammates, he has already watched it right after the game, and even more than that, he has replayed it in his head.
“I’m my toughest critic,” Ramsey said. “I already know my corrections before a coach has to say anything to me or my teammates have to say anything to me. That’s just how I am.
“Going over it in film doesn’t bother me because I already went over it like probably 10 times in my head already.”
Durant says Ramsey can critique his own film “down to the tee.” Ramsey gives himself only one of two grades: an A or an F.
“I don’t really look at a game and say ‘I played all right. It’s probably a C.’ No, I just played s—ty or I played good. That’s how I look at it for myself,” Ramsey said.
Morris said although Ramsey “rides the emotional roller coaster,” he’s seen a lot of improvement from his cornerback.
“I’m trying to show him how not to ride that roller coaster,” Morris said. “You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low, you’ve got to stay even keeled because every play is his own entity, its own exception, its own day, its different thing, its different reel, and you’ve got to play that way.”
And although Morris called Ramsey “one of the most confident people I’ve been around,” he said he’s proud of the growth he has seen there from the cornerback. Morris referenced the Rams’ Week 12 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, when Ramsey allowed a touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter.
“What I was proud about him in [that] game, he missed the play early versus Kelce,” Morris said. “And the fight that he had and the resolve that he had to make that play at the end of the game at the goal line and some of the fight that those guys were able to take into that Kansas City Chiefs game. You can get caught up in results with some of these guys, and some of it’s the process and I love his process.”
Because the Rams are still playing, Ramsey said he’s not sure how he’d evaluate his play. Instead, that’s something he’ll do after the dust settles on the season.
“Once it’s over, I’ll evaluate it and I’ll let myself know whether it was good enough or not, or whether it was up to par or not,” Ramsey said. “But we got [more season] left. So if I play perfect in these … games, then I’ll probably look back and say, ‘Dang that was my best year.’ But if I go out there and I play poorly then I’ll probably be like, ‘That was my worst year.'”
But even though Ramsey is hard on himself, he says he doesn’t break himself down.
“I’m going to just keep pushing myself in that way and keep challenging myself to do more and be better and play those perfect games that I’m striving for each and every time that I go out there,” he said. “When I look back on it, whether it went my way or it didn’t go my way, I’ll be proud of [my] mindset and how I worked hard and how I tried to affect my teammates.”
Jalen Ramsey knows this season isn’t his best