If there’s one side of the ball to be extremely excited about in this season as a Los Angeles Rams fan, it’s the defense.
Sure, the addition of new Head Coach Sean McVay will surely improve the offense, but it’s the hire of legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips that truly gives the Rams a chance to build one of the most dominating defenses in the league.
Making things easier? The quality of the roster up front.
According to Pro Football Focus, the Rams’ front seven ranks as the #5 unit in the entire league:
Aaron Donald, alone is good enough to rank this unit higher than some other front sevens. Donald not only led all interior defenders with 82 QB pressures, that mark was good enough for fourth among all defensive linemen, edge rushers included. A healthy Robert Quinn would be a big boost if he can return to form, as well as solid players such as Michael Brockers and Mark Barron lands this unit in the top five. Dominique Easley is another solid young player who has flashed some potential to disrupt plays as an interior defender as well.
The guys over at PFF also touched upon Connor Barwin, and how he very well could be an “overlooked” addition to the Rams defense:
Bleacher Report named Rams OLB Connor Barwin one of the ten most overlooked additions of 2017. The 30-year-old Barwin signed a one-year deal with the Rams earlier this offseason.
Barwin earned an overall PFF grade of just 42.1 in 2016, ranking 100thout of 109 edge defenders. After reaching an apparent peak in 2014 (grade of 78.5), Barwin has seen his grade decline each of the last two seasons.
In his best season in 2014, Barwin finished with a pass rush productivity mark of 12.2, ranking sixth out of 43 3-4 OLBs (minimum 150 pass rush snaps) and he notched 56 total pressures over the season.
Interesting, and exciting.
Obviously, the front seven will be lead by superstar Aaron Donald, but if guys like Rob Quinn and Connor Barwin can return to the players they once were, this defense could very well finish as a top-5 unit in the league, which would be nothing new for Wade Phillips.