The Los Angeles Rams have started the season off with a 7-3 record with new quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm. The Rams mentality has been going “all in” this year by trading for Stafford, Sony Michel, and Von Miller and signing Odell Beckham Jr., but they haven’t been the dominant team they’d hoped to be. Looking to the second half of the season they have some tough games coming up and need to win most of them to compete with Arizona for the division. That being said, let’s dive deep into the Rams’ offensive, defensive, and special teams performance so far this year. Each unit will come out as a separate article so be on the lookout for all 3. The defense hasn’t been the same last year, but with the losses they had that’s expected. So far after 10 games, they haven’t been as dominant, and have been more similar to the 2018 defense than the 2020 one. For my other article on what’s been going wrong on defense, you can check that out here.
Raheem Morris took over the reigning #1 defense with 2 super stars leading the way. Morris has run a variation of Staley’s scheme from last year with a couple of adjustments. Something that he’s done is gotten Jalen Ramsey more involved in all aspects of the defense. Ramsey has been playing the “star” position; he lines up against wideouts, guards tight ends or slot receivers, and sometimes goes inside near the line of scrimmage similar to a linebacker.
However, this leaves lots of mismatches on the field. Instead of Ramsey shadowing the best receiver, you’ll see David Long or Darious Williams on them. This is what leads to lots of chunk plays given up and the “bend not break” mentality. Something that Morris has struggled with is making second half adjustments, which has hurt the team in losses. Currently they rank 16th in passing yards given up and 11th in rush yards given up. The stats in the 1st vs 2nd half are nearly identical (11 TDS, 12 TDS, 547 yards, 505 yards) so that’s something the unit can improve on. They’ve been middle of the pack in yards and points and now will face some tough offenses to finish out the year.
Even with the loss of Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox, the D-Line has still performed well. They’re tied for 4th in the NFL in sacks with 29 while not having that many QB pressures. Aaron Donald has been his usual game wrecking self, and with the addition of Von Miller, the unit should improve even more. Leonard Floyd has proved to be a good signing as he leads the team in sacks and QB pressures.
Miller had a decent debut game and even though he didn’t show up much on the stat sheet, he consistently put pressure on Jimmy G. At his ceiling he can have the same impact as Dante Fowler did during his tenure. The Rams have never had two prolific pass rushers on the same line as Donald, so it’ll be interesting to see how they affect the game. Miller has yet to record a sack with the Rams but has 4.5 this season with Denver. Against the Packers, the D-Line will have to pressure Rodgers in order to win.
The Rams LB core was a major weakness to begin the year, and has been a weak spot on this defense. Troy Reeder is the tackle leader within the unit but hasn’t been that great. He currently has 11 missed tackles which leads the team, and struggles in coverage. Ernest Jones had a great debut, but hasn’t been amazing either. They’ve tried to cover up this deficiency by rotating players in and out and playing more DBs which has worked, but teams know their weakness and target it. As a team they’ve allowed the 2nd least passing TDs but tied for the 7th most in rushing TDs. Teams like the 49ers know to target the middle of the field with the gap of a good MLB. When players like Troy Reeder are matched up against guys like Kittle, that’s when this defense struggles
Cornerbacks not named Jalen Ramsey this year have struggled. This is in part to having Ramsey in the star role and bad matchups. Ramsey in the star position leaves the best receiver to another corner, and whether that be Darious Williams or Robert Rochell, neither has been as good the group was last year. Injuries and bad play have forced constant changes at the other corner positions, causing problems. Ramsey has played 93% of snaps while no other corner has played more than 65%. The secondary in particular has had big problems with consistency like the rest of the team. They’re currently ranked 13th in pass defense and are middle of the pack in other stats like passer rating and completion percentage allowed, so the secondary hasn’t been terrible. Personally, I’d like to see Ramsey shadow receivers more so the rest of the unit performs better like last year. When he takes away half of the field, it makes it easier for the rest of the defense.
The Rams safety depth has always been one of the strengths of the defense. This year has been no different, Jordan Fuller and Taylor Rapp have started every game and been solid. The Rams have relied on their safeties to cover for the deficiency at LB and expect them to do a lot. Rapp has even been brought down to the LOS to rush the passer occasionally. They’ve expected a lot from Fuller to fill John Johnson’s shoes and he hasn’t always been great. Both safeties currently have at least a 100 passer rating allowed which isn’t the best. For comparison John Johnson allowed a 73.2 rating last year and Taylor Rapp allowed a 95. The Rams safeties have been good enough, but they need better secondary play.
As a defense Takeaways are an important part of being successful. That’s something that this Rams defense has done very well with 14 on the year so far, which is more than last year through the same amount of games. Ramsey not shadowing certainly helps, but the team has improved in creating takeaways. As a team, they’re tied for 14th so just like the rest of the stats on defense, are middle of the road. Their takeaway stats are probably a little inflated from the easy QB schedule they’ve had recently, so I wouldn’t expect them to continue that streak.
Overall as a team, the Rams have been solid all around on defense. There are a couple of weaknesses at Linebacker and Cornerback that need to be addressed in the offseason, but the 14th ranked defense isn’t as bad as some are making it out to be. With some small changes schematically and more contributions from some younger players they can become a top 10 defense again.