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Los Angeles Rams: Biggest Upcoming Roster Decisions Lie on the Defensive Side of the Ball

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Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few years, the quarterback position has been a central focus, some would say a question mark, in the offseason for the St. Louis Rams.  Whether it was Sam Bradford’s health, Nick Foles’ ability to return to Pro Bowl form, or anything in between, questions loomed.

That all changed about six weeks ago, when the Rams made a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans in order to draft Cal QB Jared Goff.

Certainly there are questions about Goff’s ability to transition from the "Bear Raid" offense he ran in college to a pro style offense in the NFL. The next, maybe more pressing, question is how quickly the Rams’ can make that happen.

But there’s no question that he’s the future at the position.

And with the search for an answer at quarterback behind them, the Rams have more pressing roster decisions to make.  According to ESPN’s Field Yates (In$ider), the Rams’ now need to find answers on the defensive side of the football.

Filling the defensive holes: When the Rams moved up to the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, many remarked that the move made sense because of the Rams' strong running game and defense. While that sentiment isn't wrong, it's worth noting that the defense has some major holes to fill from a production and leadership standpoint: Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was a productive (albeit sometimes risk-taking) playmaker, linebacker James Laurinaitis played virtually every defensive snap and quarterbacked the defense, Rodney McLeod is an excellent free safety, and defensive end Chris Long was a pass-rusher and terrific leader. Accounting for those players is a task for L.A.

Yates, for the most part, is spot on here. I think some, like our very own QBKlass, felt it was time for Laurinaitis to go. Alec Ogletree will quarterback the defense in 2016, and that’s probably a good thing. And I’m not sure many feel there’s a significant drop-off in productivity, or leadership, between Chris Long and William Hayes.

As for the secondary, it became evident pretty early on that re-signing both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson would prove difficult. The Rams ultimately lost Jenkins to the Giants, but appear to have found his replacement in former Titan Coty Sensabaugh. We should expect to see E.J. Gaines competing for that spot, as well. So they’ve got depth there.

The most pressing need, it seems, is finding a free safety who can step in and play at a level comparable to McLeod; who was on the field for 99.6% of all defensive snaps in 2015.

Cody Davis is the only player slotted at free safety on the team’s depth chart (which doesn’t include rookies/undrafted free agents). Maurice Alexander, Christian Bryant, Lamarcus Joyner will all be in the mix. And, should the Rams sign Donte Whitner, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner states the team feels he could step in at free safety if needed.

The Rams have done well to backfill holes created on their defense in this offseason, and it appears they’ve found capable starters for each of the key losses Yates mentions. As for free safety, it’s a wait-and-see situation that will be closely monitored as the Rams progress through their offseason program.