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Rams defense vaults back into top-5 of DVOA

Taylor Rapp, Terrell Lewis among the young players who are helping the reputation of Raheem Morris

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The oldest member of the Rams defense is Aaron Donald and Aaron Donald isn’t old.

Not even 150 days past 30, Donald has become the elder statesman of LA’s defense and when the Rams host the Detroit Lions this Sunday, he’ll be one of only two starters over the age of 27; Leonard Floyd turned 29 three days before the opener.

The losses of John Johnson, Troy Hill, Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox over the 2021 offseason were somewhat overshadowed by the anticipation of seeing Matthew Stafford in gold and blue, but that’s nearly 3,000 combined snaps from a year ago — and many more in the years before that — walking out the door of the number one defense. Continuity is a luxury that LA’s defense did not have entering the season, with Taylor Rapp, Kenny Young, Justin Hollins, Terrell Lewis, David Long, Robert Rochell, A’Shawn Robinson and several others on taking new roles this year.

Also familiar with a new role is defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, and for those reasons alone he should be given some slack for an inconsistent performance by that side of the ball through six games.

So inconsistent in fact that the Rams defense is now ranked FOURTH in DVOA.

As I had expected in this week’s post about how LA’s defense is actually doing much better than the narrative that’s going around, the Rams jumped up from 14th in defensive DVOA to fourth as of Tuesday’s release by FootballOutsiders. Here’s what FO founder Aaron Schatz had to say about the Rams:

Back to discussing the top of our ratings: the Los Angeles Rams moved up from fifth to third this week but more significantly, their defense moved from 14th to fourth after clobbering the shorthanded New York Giants. (The Rams’ offense actually got a little bit worse this week, somewhat countering some of the defensive improvement.)

The Rams now rank fourth against the pass and 11th against the run. Even if people choose to point to names like Daniel Jones and Andy Dalton, don’t ignore Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray. The Bucs were without Antonio Brown and Wilson left the game early with a messed up finger, but LA’s defense has had far from the easiest schedule and yet here they are at fourth.

Up next: Jared Goff, Davis Mills, Ryan Tannehill, and either Trey Lance or Jimmy Garoppolo headed into a Bye week.

The Rams still rank 32nd in plays per drive allowed, but ninth in points allowed, third in passing touchdowns allowed, and seventh in net yards per pass attempt allowed. There are no two greater disparities in my opinion to watch out for than a team’s offensive and defensive passing statistics, and if you rank high in both, you’re competing to be the NFL’s best team.

The Rams rank first in net yards per pass attempt on offense. Stafford next gets a Lions defense that ranks last in that same category on the other side.