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Sacktual healing: Where will the 2018 Los Angeles Rams generate their pass rush from?

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Who’s going to get into the backfield in 2018?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Heading into the 2018 offseason, the Los Angeles Rams’ secondary looked to be one of the team’s potential areas of weakness. CB Trumaine Johnson leaving for free agency was a foregone conclusion, and CB Kayvon Webster’s injury (and play) left his roster spot in limbo. S Lamarcus Joyner and standout nickel CB Nickell Robey-Coleman were also exposed. Given our historic reluctance to pay DBs, the outlook appeared bleak.

We all know what happened next.

The Rams added seven Pro Bowls and 53 career INTs to their roster in the form of CB Marcus Peters and CB Aqib Talib, slapped the franchise tag on Joyner, and re-signed the Slot God to a nice deal. Tack on a high upside flyer in CB Sam Shields, and suddenly the unit, already dubbed Lock Angeles, is arguably the NFL’s best.

Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The revamped secondary didn’t come without some sticker shock. While Johnson’s departure freed up a considerable amount of cap space, the Rams needed to move veterans (and team leaders) EDGE Robert Quinn and ILB Alec Ogletree to free up cap space and draft capital to put their new defensive backfield in place. In addition, by tagging Joyner, the Rams effectively decided to let WR Sammy Watkins walk and would go on to ship their 1st round pick to the New England Patriots for WR Brandin Cooks. The transition to more suitable personnel for a 3-4 had begun in earnest, but at what price?

Many questioned if they had paid too much. Still more asked “who is going to rush the passer?” The Rams answered part of that question with the signing of DT Ndamukong Suh, but now past the 2018 NFL Draft and the offseason program the questions remain.

2017 sack breakdown

For starters, let’s take a look at where our 2017 sacks came from.

The Rams finished fourth in the NFL with 48 sacks last season (against 31 in 2016).

2017 LA Rams Sack Distribution

Player Sacks
Player Sacks
Aaron Donald 11
Robert Quinn 8.5
Matt Longacre 5.5
Connor Barwin 5
Michael Brockers 4.5
Ethan Westbrooks 4
Morgan Fox 2.5
Samson Ebukam 2
Alec Ogletree 2
Tyrunn Walker 1
Mark Barron 1
Cory Littleton 1
TOTAL 48

Okay, so, let’s subtract the guys who are no longer with the team and/or injured. Quinn with 8.5, OLB Connor Barwin with 5, DE/EDGE Morgan Fox with 2.5, and Ogletree with 2, for a total of 18 sacks we need to replace to finish somewhere near the top 5 in 2018. For reference, last year’s top sack unit was the Pittsburgh Steelers with 56. In 2016, it was the Arizona Cardinals with 48, and in 2015, Wade Phillips’ Denver Broncos squad led the league with 52.

Houston Texans v Los Angeles Ram Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

2018 prediction

Here are my predictions for the 2018 Rams sack totals, with a bit of explanation after the chart.

Keep in mind, I’m not trying to start a debate about who’s going to make the roster here. That’s a column for another day. If a sleeper guy you love has 0 sacks on my prediction, safe to say I don’t think he’ll make the team or see enough run to get to the QB.

2018 Predicted LA Rams Sack Distribution

Player Sacks
Player Sacks
Aaron Donald 15.5
Aqib Talib 0
Blake Countess 0
Brian Womac 0
Bryce Hager 0
Chunky Clements 0
Cory Littleton 2.5
Dominque Easley 2
Ejaun Price 1
Ethan Westbrooks 3
Garrett Sickels 0
John Franklin-Meyers 2
John Johnson 0
Justin Lawler 2
Lamarcus Joyner 1
Marcus Peters 0
Mark Barron 1
Matt Longacre 6
Micah Kiser 1
Michael Brockers 6.5
Ndamukong Suh 3.5
Nickell Robey-Coleman 0
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo 2
Ramik Wilson 1
Sam Shields 0
Samson Ebukam 6.5
Sebastian Joseph 0
Tanzel Smart 0
Tegray Scales 0
Travin Howard 0
Trevon Young 0
Troy Hill 0
Tyrunn Walker 0
TOTAL 56.5

This is by no means scientific, but I’m applying a little common sense relative to the scheme and a healthy dose of optimism (and bodies) here. I’m also banking on more coverage sacks this coming year.

I think DL Aaron Donald sets a career high with 15.5 sacks playing alongside Suh. He’s going to come in hungry (#paytheman), and he’s going to absolutely dominate this season. I’m slotting LB Corey Littleton in the Ogletree role, looking for some rookie production from rookie EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DL John Franklin-Meyers and EDGE Justin Lawler, gifting ILB Micah Kiser and ILB Ramik Wilson a garbage time sack apiece, and predicting Joyner to get home on a safety blitz sometime in 2018. I have tempered Suh’s sack total against his career numbers due to the shift to NT, but believe Brockers can set a career high in the neighborhood of 6.5 sacks. I’ve also got EDGE Matt Longacre improving by a half sack over last year (which may be modest, given his production relative to his snap counts). My guy to fill Quinn’s role (if not entirely), is second-year EDGE Samson Ebukam also with 6.5 sacks. I see him taking a big step in Year Two and living up to those combine measurables.

Optimistic? Sure. Possible? I think so, and I’m not even counting the inevitable Chunky Clements five-sack outburst at San Francisco....

Poll

Which Ram (behind Aaron Donald) will finish second in QB sacks in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Matt Longacre
    (68 votes)
  • 33%
    Samson Ebukam
    (144 votes)
  • 18%
    Michael Brockers
    (81 votes)
  • 22%
    Ndamukong Suh
    (98 votes)
  • 8%
    Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
    (35 votes)
  • 2%
    Other
    (10 votes)
436 votes total Vote Now