Evaluating a pass rushing unit by sacks is not an accurate way to properly display the effectiveness of a unit. With the help of more specific and in-depth statistics, let’s evaluate how the Los Angeles Rams’ pass rush is performing, where they might be lacking, and how they can improve.
*All stats used via Pro Football Reference*
Listed below are the main culprits when it comes to the pass rush unit. The numbers below will display how many pressures (includes hurries + knockdowns + sacks) they’ve accumulated, and where they rank in the league.
DT Aaron Donald - 20 pressures (6th)
EDGE Dante Fowler Jr. - 14 pressures (22nd)
EDGE Clay Matthews - 13 pressures (25th)
DT Michael Brockers - 11 pressures (39th)
EDGE Samson Ebukam - 7 pressures (78th)
Objectively speaking, the unit hasn’t performed terribly, but they aren’t exactly elite either. Donald operates in his own world, proving his dominance is no fluke as his consistency is nearly as impressive as his peaks.
The interesting discussion starts on the outside at edge, where Fowler and Matthews have performed admirably as starters, with Ebukam rotating as the third edge rusher. Fowler’s 13 pressures are good for 22nd in the league, but he only has two sacks and three QB hits on the season, all of which came in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers. His presence is felt, as his pressures have caused some havoc and discomfort for quarterbacks, though he’ll need to work on his ability to finish, as pressures aren’t always a positive result.
Matthews falls on the opposite end of the spectrum from Fowler, because he doesn’t impact the passer nearly as much, though he’s converted his pressures into sacks at a high clip, as he has 13 pressures, six of which were sacks. Matthews hasn’t gotten pressure nearly as often as some of the others on a per-snap basis, but the objective is to sack the quarterback, so it’s hard to complain about the results. Still, even with the lack of a true pass rush presence (majority of Matthews’ sacks have been cleanups, unblocked, or coverage sacks), Matthews is a fantastic run-stuffing presence on the edge.
Looking at the last starter of the unit, Brockers has rebounded tremendously from a down year in 2018. Brockers ranks 39th in the league in pressures, which is a highly respectable amount considering his main objective is to stop the run. Brockers only has one sack on the season, though eight hurries and two QB knockdowns display just how effective he’s really been as a pass rusher. Like Fowler, Brockers could work on his ability to finish, though it really isn’t his forte as a 326-lb run stuffer.
The pass rush lacks an elite edge presence, and outside of Donald, a truly consistent threat who can wreak havoc. Yet, it hasn’t really stopped them from performing well. Looking into the future, the Rams would be best served to look for a dominant presence to pair with Donald. The presence of Donald alone — and the way offensive lines regularly double and triple team him — allows the remainder of the defensive line to accumulate stats, which is why some of their productivity is skewed with certain instances like unblocked plays.
For the remainder of this year, the Rams can only hope the defensive line continues this pace, with the potential to convert even more pressures into sacks.