Is rookie DT Greg Gaines the new Ndamukong Suh for the Los Angeles Rams?
As ridiculous as that question sounds, don’t be surprised if Gaines, a 2019 NFL Draft fourth-round pick out of the University of Washington, starts at defensive tackle and kicks a serious amount of butts doing it.
In college, Gaines excelled as a two-gap player who caused disruption with multiple linemen — this was very helpful to his linebackers in the running game. In 14 games as a redshirt senior, Gaines racked up 55 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception. Gaines was First Team All-Pac 12 and still fell to the fourth-round.
Not gifted with the ideal physical profile of a nose tackle, Gaines is only 6’2” (and some reports have him listed at 6’1”) yet still very beefy at 312 pounds. His height means he will most likely struggle with linemen that have a longer reach.
Gaines is a native of La Habra, California which is tucked into Orange County, so he’s a local boy. This guy is already a fan favorite with a reputation as a solid meat-and-potatoes football player. And he hasn’t even worn the yellow and blue yet.
When McVay was asked about Greg Gaines, he went full “Sean McVay” about him:
“I think some of the things we talked about -- how we get better specific to our scheme, but then also defensively in terms of playing the run a little bit better. I think that will be a key factor of being really stout inside and we feel like Greg will provide that.”
Man, sometimes when McVay is quoted in print, he sounds like a robot. I am here for it.
There is definitely a realistic outcome that places Gaines as a starting DT alongside DE Aaron Donald and DE Michael Brockers (who sadly might be in his final year as a Ram). If the Rams don’t end up signing a highly lauded free-agent in the next month or so, the most likely competitor for the starting spot will be Sebastian Joseph-Day (roster preview), a 2018 NFL Draft sixth-round pick that was inactive all season, yet is still thought of as an intriguing project. Joseph-Day is roughly the same weight as Gaines, but is two inches taller. This could be a grueling competition between these two guys.
So, before camp starts, I’m thinking of it like this: Gaines is the front runner and Joseph-Day is the sleeper. However, Joseph-Day has a year of experience with the team even though he hasn’t a played a regular season game with the Rams. With Gaines, you’re getting a mature player that played for five years in college.
Gaines is a big, nasty nose guard whose game has a specific wheelhouse: stopping the run. This sounds like fiction, but it’s not — Gaines could pull off the job that Suh was hyped to do last season. If the 24-year-old Gaines brings the nastiness he brought at Washington, he could find success immediately on a team that needs exactly what he’s skilled at. A perfect match.