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ESPN tabs edge rusher as biggest roster gap for Los Angeles Rams in 2019

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While most Rams fans probably agree with ESPN on this, the front office doesn’t seem too concerned.

Divisional Round - Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With the 2019 NFL Draft officially behind us, the Los Angeles Rams have essentially made their major moves for the offseason and now fans can take a look at this roster and build up their expectations for the upcoming season.

I put together my updated holes for the roster last week making the point that after the draft the Rams still had holes with the depth along the offensive line and lacking pass rushers. It appears that Rams General Manager Les Snead and company were more worried about the run defense and made their moves with that in mind.

This week, Football Outsiders released their biggest roster holes for all 32 NFL teams and agreed with part of my assessment of the roster:

The Rams were paper-thin on the defensive perimeter coming out of the Super Bowl and failed to add a pure edge rusher in either free agency or the draft. That sentence does come with an asterisk; the Rams signed veteran linebacker Clay Matthews away from Green Bay, and Matthews has split time between edge rusher and inside linebacker over his career.

The hand-wringing about the effectiveness of the pass rushers on the Rams moving forward really depends on what you think about LB Clay Matthews. He turns 33-years old next week. And while he did play 16 games last year, his production plummeted with a career-low 3.5 sacks. Will a homecoming back to LA and a chance to reinvigorate his USC roots help him conjure up bigger stats? I believe Matthews will be fine as long as he’s thought of as an experienced role player and not a guy that’s going to be consistently blowing up plays and scaring the hell out of quarterbacks.

But what about the rest of the linebackers on the team? What did FO think of them? Well, not much:

Mind you, that’s still more than either of L.A.’s returning edge rushers, Samson Ebukam (3.0) and Dante Fowler Jr. (2.0). Fowler remains an enigma; he has only 16.0 sacks since Jacksonville drafted him third overall in 2015, but he added 1.5 in the playoffs last year, and he doesn’t turn 25 until August. The Rams re-signed him to a one-year, $14 million prove-it deal.

This is going to sound like an extremely” homer take,” but judging the productivity of LB Samson Ebukam and LB Dante Fowler Jr. by their sack totals really misses the point and only reveals a fraction of what they’re doing during the game. Granted, Ebukam still has question marks about whether he should be a starter going into the season, but his sacks shouldn’t be the arbiter of that discussion. It’s his health. He had surgery in March for a knee injury that will keep him out of the Rams’ offseason program so we won’t really see him on the field until training camp.

So as the Los Angeles Rams conduct their workouts throughout the offseason, it’ll be interesting to see how this position of need unfolds. Will any rookies step up? Will guys like LB Justin Lawler or DL John Franklin-Myers show up to compete for time on the edge? And will Matthews prove that age is just a number?

We have the rest of the summer to hopefully get some good answers.