All season long Los Angeles Rams fans and pundits have heaped their disapproval on defensive coordinator Raheem Morris and his schemes. His two-deep zone coverage scheme, with its yielding nature, has enflamed Ram posting forums. With a current #5 playoff seed in hand and still battling the Arizona Cardinals for the NFC West’s top spot, the time seems right to see check out how the Rams defense stacks up against the other NFC playoff contenders.
Using the stats from 21 defensive categories provided by Pro Football Reference, I used a simple one through seven rating system to rank all seven teams who are currently in the NFC playoff seeds, and broke them into sub-categories for easier reading.
Each sub-category has the stats used listed. The categories are not weighted as to importance and, of course, there is not much context to raw numbers. But still, the numbers reflect each team’s actual output and this is how all seven teams ranked on defense based on these methods.
Do the Rams have a good defense? That’s not the question to answer. The question to answer is: Do the Rams have a good defense relative to the opponents who are likely going to be competing for the Super Bowl in late January and early February?
Let’s find out.
Versus the run
Yards per game, average yards per rush, missed tackles, and tackles for a loss.
Against the pass
Completion percentage, yards per game, quarterback rating, interceptions and passes defensed, and average depth of target.
Total points, touchdowns, 3rd down conversion percentage, red zone conversion percentage, and percentage of drives ending in a score.
Hurry percentage, knockdown percentage, pressure percentage, and sacks.
Average yards per game, average yards per play, percentage of plays ending in a turnover.
And now, the totals
- Cardinals-68.5 A prolific Arizona offense has gotten them ahead early, forcing opponents to play into their strengths, an aggressive, stunting line fronting and a ball-hawking secondary.
- Rams-70 Even with their passive style pass coverage, missed tackles, and mediocre linebacker play, LA’s defense holds its own in all categories. This defense seems poised for its best performance down the stretch.
- Cowboys-71 Their squad is dominated by opposites. Good against the pass and bad vs. the run. Tops in 3rd down conversions allowed and worst stopping opponents in the red zone.
- Buccaneers-77 Strong vs. the run and the weak against the pass. A gambling, aggressive unit that blitzes more than any other team, by a large margin.
- Packers-86.5 Middle of the road in all categories. But really, with Aaron Rodgers running the offense, the Pack defense only needs to be average.
- 49ers-98 San Francisco is solid against the run, but even with all their high draft picks the last few years, they aren’t very good.
- WFT-113 There are three teams that may pass WFT for the last wildcard spot and all are better teams. But trying to stay positive, they are good at is stopping the run.
What does it mean for the Rams?
LA compares very favorably against the other playoff contenders. They stack up as strong against the run and average vs. the pass.
The Rams pass rush pressure should continue to get better and make opponents throw the football underneath. Von Miller should help Malcom Floyd stabilize an edge position that has battled through injuries. Aaron Donald is is still a beast and Greg Gaines has added spark and effort.
With Ernest Jones taking over as the primary linebacker, what the unit gains in athleticism, it loses in physicality. Jones is not a gap-filling thumper, more of run-and chase LB. Still, he will get better with more snaps and is an upgrade over Troy Reeder.
Fans will continue to chafe over the secondary’s play. Hopefully, the more aggressive man-to-man coverage underneath the two-high zone that Raheem Morris dialed up last Monday night’s win will be expanded. Tighter coverage seems a better fit to the unit’s skill set.
How do LA Rams fans think the defense compares?