Let me take you back.
Rewind to August right in the midst of training camp. After securing trades for two star-studded cornerbacks in Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, after signing star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and after trading guys who don’t fit the defense like OLB Robert Quinn and ILB Alec Ogletree, the world thought the Los Angeles Rams were going to field a downright dominant defense.
Things didn’t turn out as expected.
But, can the defense somehow be thought of as underrated in its current state?
First things first, the defensive side of the ball has seen some injury woes. Both Peters and Talib were injured in week three against the Los Angeles Chargers. Peters managed to escape serious damage and only missed about half of that game. Talib’s fate didn’t fare so well, his ankle injury landed him on injured reserve with a targeted return in week 13 versus the Detroit Lions. ILB Mark Barron missed the first four games of the season. OLB’s Dominique Easley and Morgan Fox both hit IR before their seasons could get off the ground, and CB Sam Shields got hit with some ailments.
Even with all these injuries in mind, the defense was expected to play better. Were the expectations of this defense simply too great? Even though they built a dominant defensive line and tremendous secondary, there were definite weaknesses along every linebacker spot. Hesitant inside linebackers who miss tackles and edge rushers who simply couldn’t get to the quarterback.
But, even with all that being said, the Rams defense isn’t bad. They aren’t as good as expected (and the expectations were for the defense to be dominant) but they’re downright average in the current standards across the league.
Let’s take a look at the numbers (taken from TeamRankings heading into Week 12):
- 25.6 points per game (23rd in the league)
- 119.9 rushing yards per game (22nd in the league)
- 5.2 yards per rush (32nd in the league)
- 252.6 passing yards per game (20th in the league)
- 7.4 yards per pass (25th in the league)
- 2.6 sacks per game (14th in the league)
- 1.8 takeaways per game (6th in the league)
Per Football Outsiders, the Rams’ defense is ranked 16th in defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). This is about as accurate of a statistic as we can get to quantify how a defense is performing.
As you see, some of the numbers are average, some are better than average, and some are worse than average. Now, a lot of these numbers took a major hit this week when the Rams allowed 51 points to a potent Kansas City Chiefs offense. Even with that being the case, the defense created enough plays at the end of the day to secure the win. They forced QB Patrick Mahomes into 3 interceptions, two sack-fumbles, and two defensive touchdowns.
What’s my point?
Well, it’s 2018. This is the year of schemes, good play callers, good offenses, rules that favor the offensive side of the ball, and defenses that aren’t dominant. The expectations placed on the defense prior to the season were probably too lofty and seeing as how there are 0 dominant defenses in the league 11 weeks in, why or how would the Rams be any different? The name of the game today seems to be a “bend but don’t break” approach. Create big plays like turnovers and sacks, and let your offense out duel the opponents. And in that regard, the Rams are built well.
The reinforcements the defense will be receiving with the return of CB Aqib Talib will likely be highly impactful.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the Rams defense isn’t great. They aren’t going to completely shut down offenses, but neither is any other defense this year. Can they play better? Sure. Should they play better? Yes. Are they still making enough plays to help the offense succeed? Yes they are.
This may not be a great defense, but by 2018’s standards, it’s really not that bad at all.