Heading into the offseason, the Los Angeles Rams made ILB Mark Barron a cap casualty as they released him and used the opened cap space to address other areas of need. With the move being made, the Rams essentially opened up a “competition” for the second starting inside linebacker spot, though second-year ILB Micah Kiser always had the fast track to becoming an immediate starter and impact player in Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense.
Moving along in the offseason, Phillips was recently quoted saying Kiser was “going to be an impact player on first and second downs”:
This is an interesting quote because it allows us to proactively guesstimate what the plans could be at the inside linebacker spot in 2019. Like Phillips said, Kiser will be an impact player on run downs, that’s a certainty. Kisers’ skillset directly translates into a plus run-stopping threat, with his coverage ability being labeled a question mark.
That’s where second-round rookie S Taylor Rapp comes in. Rapp is a highly physical and instinctive player who belongs as close to the line of scrimmage as possible. His weakness (as a draft prospect) was his inability to play a more traditional deep safety role, though that simply isn’t his game. He’s best when he’s allowed to look forward, read quarterbacks, make tackles in space, and run and chase near the middle of the field/line of scrimmage.
Rapp is likely to see a lot of time as a sub-package linebacker. Whether you want to call him that, a rat, underneath zone player, third safety, box safety, whatever..... That’s what his immediate role will be.
In 2018, the duo of backup safeties in Marqui Christian and Blake Countess registered over 400 snaps on defense. The Rams had a penchant for removing Barron on passing downs and subbing him in favor of a player who was more dynamic in coverage. That’s likely to continue in 2019, and that bodes well for Rapp’s ability to make an immediate impact as a defender.
The move towards more dynamic coverage players is a positive one, simply due to the league continually transitioning into more of a passing and space league, as opposed to a congested rushing attack.