31. Los Angeles Rams
Run defense is more about having few weaknesses than it is about having playmakers. So even the Rams have one of the NFL’s best disruptors against the run in Aaron Donald, they are a liability to get gashed this upcoming season. Dante Fowler (61.2), Cory Littleton (42.1), Samson Ebukam (67.1), Michael Brockers (68.2) and Clay Matthews (64.3) are all coming off rough seasons in run defense.
That’s Pro Football Focus’ Michael Renner ranking the Rams’ run defense second-worst in the NFL heading into 2019.
It’s not the most unfair ranking as uncomfortable as it may be.
The Rams were dead last year in yards per rush allowed. Football Outsiders ranked our run defense 27th. So it’s not as if there’s no merit to Renner’s ranking.
The Rams did, though, benefit from an exceptional offense that limited the opposition’s ability to commit to the run over the course of the game. Because the Rams were able to get points on the board early and often, it pressured teams to keep up with the pass.
Still, it’s a legitimate concern heading into this year especially with the losses of DL Ndamukong Suh, LB Mark Barron and S Lamarcus Joyner. The clear hope is that the additions of LB Clay Matthews and S Eric Weddle along with the new additions through the draft, chiefly DL Greg Gaines, along with any maturation of players throughout the defense who might contribute more (ILB Micah Kiser, DL John Franklin-Myers) might not only offset those losses but help Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips improve the defense’s performance on the ground.