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Rams rank 28th in defensive continuity

Will changes in continuity and personnel help put the Rams a top-five defense?

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

I would love to be able to see new training camp photos like we do every other year, but alas this is not like any other year. So instead of getting to pull up images of new expected starters getting ready to play in a preseason game or forming the new linebackers unit, we can take one last look at a couple of the starters who are gone. Like Clay Matthews and Eric Weddle, even if their time with the Rams was so brief.

Brief as it was, Weddle played in the second-most snaps on defense in 2019, getting in on only eight fewer snaps than linebacker Cory Littleton. Aaron Donald was third, Dante Fowler was fourth. Three of those four players are now gone.

1. Cory Littleton, 1,039 snaps, 93.7-percent

2. Eric Weddle, 1,031 snaps, 93-percent

3. Aaron Donald, 926 snaps, 83.57-percent

4. Dante Fowler, 880 snaps, 79.42-percent

5. Taylor Rapp, 823 snaps, 74.28-percent

6. Michael Brockers, 766 snaps, 69.13-percent

7. Nickell Robey-Coleman, 708 snaps, 63.9-percent

8. Clay Matthews, 614 snaps, 55.42-percent

With Littleton, Weddle, Fowler, Nickell Robey-Coleman, and Matthews all not returning, that is five of LA’s top eight players in snaps on defense who won’t be back. That’s virtually the entire reason that the Rams ranked 17th in “continuity” over at The Athletic, which counted total snaps lost, as well as coaching losses; LA was third in offensive continuity but 28th on defense. Of course, the Rams also made a coaching change on defense after parting with Wade Phillips and hiring first-time defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to replace him.

Theoretically, Littleton’s snaps could go to Micah Kiser, Weddle’s snaps could go to John Johnson, Fowler’s snaps could go to free agent signee Leonard Floyd (this is not necessarily me saying they are playing the same position, but I’m sure Staley would love to see Floyd play in 80-percent of the snaps if he can), David Long could take the snaps in the slot, and Samson Ebukam, Kenny Young, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo could be among those fighting for the remaining linebacker snaps.

Are there upgrades in there?

The Rams did not have the elite defense that they’d hope to have with players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey in the fold, ranking 17th in points allowed and 13th in yards allowed. However, they were ninth in pass defense DVOA and 10th in overall defensive DVOA, implying things may be better than simply average. The Rams lost a couple of their key players, but maybe a couple of the other losses will improve as younger players who may be trending upwards take their places.