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2018 Los Angeles Rams Roster Preview: Defensive line unit preview

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The big dogs up front might constitute the best defensive line in the NFL. Will any of the 2018 D-linemen even be around for the new stadium in 2020? Will it matter?

Los Angeles Rams defensive linemen Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald celebrate a play against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, December 3, 2017.
Los Angeles Rams defensive linemen Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald celebrate a play against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13, December 3, 2017.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
DL Aaron Donald: 10/10
DT Ndamukong Suh: 10/10
DL Michael Brockers: 10/10
DE Ethan Westbrooks: 8/10
DE Dominique Easley: 7/10
DE John Franklin-Myers: 7/10
DT Sebastian Joseph-Day: 7/10
DL Tanzel Smart: 3/10
DT Omarius Bryant: 1/10
DT McKay Murphy: 0.75/10
DT Chunky Clements: 0.5/10
DE Marcus Martin: N/A

The 2018 Los Angeles Rams’ season is one built around two things: the aggression it took to compile the roster for it and the temporary nature of it.

Make no mistake. The Rams went all in on this window. But the window will close. And for some, sooner than others. No unit perhaps reflects both aspects moreso than the defensive line because of the Cerebrus they offer on their three-man starting line in Donald, Suh and Brockers.

I would suggest that’s the best defensive line in the NFL. That, much like the Rams as a whole, sets pretty lofty expectations for performance. And fairly so. But with Suh on a one-year trial to help the Rams in the playoffs while auditioning for 31 (I guess we can say 30 and count out the Miami Dolphins) other teams in the NFL for next year and beyond, Brockers in a contract year next year and Donald...have we discussed his contractual situation at all? I’m not sure the status there.

The point being that you’ve got a unique combination of ridiculous talent and the expectations it warrants while recognizing that this group is not going to be around for a long time together.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Roster Battle

The depth is perhaps the most interesting it has been since the days prior to the Chris Long-Robert Quinn defensive end pairing in the final years in St. Louis.

You’ve got veteran stalwarts like Easley and Westbrooks. Rookie draft talents with hyphenated last names in Joseph-Day and Franklin-Myers. And big bodies in Clement and Bryant.

Role will matter here. The ability to rotate positions among the starting three may mean Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips needs to maintain that kind of versatility. That if Suh needs to hit the sidelines, he needs to replace him with someone that can play multiple spots to allow Donald and Brockers to continue to move across the line. That could make things difficult for the biggest (read: slowest) and smallest (read: weakest) linemen. But the advantage that affords the versatility of some will need to be backed up with production.

Consider that Westbrooks made the roster by beating out Michael Sam in the 2014 preseason as an undrafted free agent and has stuck around for what would be his fifth season with the Rams.

Production matters in August. Just not for the starters.

Expectations

I don’t know if there’s a better unit on the roster. It’s talent-rich at a Hall of Fame level at the top while offering versatility, quality veteran skill and drafted rookie potential in the depth. It’s a pretty perfect combination.

But that begs the question.

Is this the unit that needs to carry the Rams? If this is a Super Bowl or bust team, is this the unit that will decide whether or not the Rams make it to Super Bowl LIII or not?

Even if that is the case given just how damn good this unit is, you have to like our chances.