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Los Angeles Rams’ Defensive Trio Makes ESPN’s Top Ten

Where does a trio of DT Aaron Donald, DE Robert Quinn and CB Trumaine Johnson rank among the NFL’s best defensive trios?

Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last week, we bristled at ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranking the Rams’ top offensive trio of QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley and WR Tavon Austin 28th in the NFL.

Today, he’s got his defensive triplet rankings, and, not surprisingly, the Rams’ threesome ranks much higher with DT Aaron Donald, DE Robert Quinn and CB Trumaine Johnson coming in at #9:

It still seems impossible that Donald slipped to the 13th pick in the 2014 draft; the only players who can really touch him as the best player from that class so far are Khalil Mack and Odell Beckham Jr., and Donald might somehow be the most spectacular of those three. Teams do occasionally take advantage of his ability to penetrate on the interior and have success running up the middle against the Rams, but that's like criticizing your Ferrari for being a bear to park. The Rams have to hope Quinn is fully recovered from back surgery, but at his best, he's about as unblockable as Donald. There's a bit of a gap between the Rams' two stud pass-rushers and the rest of their defensive starters, but Johnson finally took hold as an above-average cornerback last season, and the likes of Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree form a solid second tier.

It’s a bit tough to see the Rams behind a couple other trios that I’d contest, but Tru’s got a bit shorter history in the top tier than Quinn and Donald. Remember that just two seasons ago, Johnson had trouble getting back on the field after recovering from an injury due to CB E.J. Gainesstellar play.

The real question is if Gaines’ return after missing all of the 2015 season due to a foot injury coupled with a similar situation for Ogletree who’s coming off of an injury-truncated 2015 and a couple other pieces like Barron, DT Michael Brockers, DE William Hayes and S T.J. McDonald can sustain the level of defensive acumen likely required to support the Rams’ offense in 2016 if it’s going to be successful.