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Can A new Coaching Staff Make the Rams Defense Elite?

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Can Wade Phillips do what Greg Williams failed to and finally achieve ELITE status?

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, I looked at what Sean McVay’s hire does for the offensive core of the Los Angles Rams. The offensive side of the ball is what needs the most improvement, but the defense needs work as well.

I’ve already touched on why I like the Wade Phillips hire, and a lot of this stems from my thoughts there. The Rams have flaunted themselves as an ‘elite’ defense for several years now, but have never finished above 13th in points per game under Jeff Fisher.

Wade Phillips just completed a stint with the Denver Broncos where he coached one of the most menacing defenses in recent memory. His Broncos were compared to the 2000 Ravens and and was the primary reason that Peyton Manning was able to go out on top.

While the Rams defense has arguably the most dominant DT in the NFL and other very good complimentary pieces, the unit as a whole has failed to live up to expectations. Rams fans everywhere are hoping that Phillips can change that.

Aaron Donald

Donald is an absolute nightmare on game days. Regardless of the opponent or the Rams record, he brings it every day. I don’t necessarily believe Phillips will improve Donald’s level of play as AD99 is widely known as a self starter. But I do believe that Donald will be showcased more by Phillips - which is a good thing for the Rams defense.

Michael Brockers

Brockers has quietly developed into a very solid DT next to Donald. He isn’t going to make the flashy plays that Donald will, but he has the ability to keep opposing lineman honest and make them pay when they decide to focus more manpower to AD99.

I don’t know that Brockers’ role will change much as the defense makes this transition - and that’s a good thing. Let the big man in the middle eat blocks, stuff the run, and allow his teammates to make some plays.

Robert Quinn

Quinn had quickly turned into an enigma of sorts for the Rams. On one hand, he had 19 sacks when he was 23 years old and is locked up at a relatively reasonable salary for a pass rusher. On the other hand, he has only played in roughly half of the Rams games the past two seasons, accruing only 9 sacks.

Injuries have slowed Quinn, but 2017 will likely be a make or break year for him with the Rams. There is some question as to where he fits into Phillips’ defensive scheme, but Broncos fans had the same concerns about DeMarcus Ware.

If healthy - and that’s a big if at this point - Quinn has incredible potential. Potential that I expect Phillips will be able maximize.

Alec Ogletree

Ogletree went from ascending OLB to bust MLB in a hurry. When the Rams announced that they’d be replacing James Laurinaitis with ‘Tree after the 2015 season, many fans were perplexed. Turns out they had good reason to be as ‘Tree struggled mightily in the middle.

While no official announcement has been made regarding Ogletree’s position, it’d be tough to defend a decision to keep him at MLB. Phillips is renowned for getting the most out of his players and keeping ‘Tree inside would go against that reputation as well as handicap Phillips before any plays were called.

Mark Barron

Barron has gone from bust to playing himself into a $45M contract and to bust again in a flash. The Rams inexplicably made the decision to retain Barron over Janoris Jenkins last offseason. Jackrabit’s play in New York only cemented that was a poor decision. However, given Barron’s contract - and the dead money left on his contract - Phillips is likely stuck with Barron.

Don’t get me wrong, Barron is a solid player. He’s just not worth $9M a year in his current capacity. He’s getting paid like a top 10 LB and is playing nowhere near that level. He better be hoping and praying that Phillips can do more for him than Gregg Williams, otherwise he could be looking for a job after next season.