According to Next Gen Stats, the Los Angeles Rams run more zone defense than any other team in the NFL: 89% of their defensive plays have come in zone, which is four-percent more than second-place Minnesota.
Of course, the Vikings head coach is a former offensive assistant under Sean McVay. Interestingly, Matthew Stafford has the fourth-highest QB grade this year per Next Gen Stats against the zone defense.
Here's a look at the defenses that run the most man & zone coverage through the first five weeks of the 2022 season PLUS...— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 13, 2022
A breakdown of the top quarterbacks by the NGS Passing Score against the two primary coverage types.
Perhaps Stafford is just so used to facing zone in practice that he knows how to attack it. But is struggling to find that same success when facing man-to-man.
WHY WOULD YOU LEAVE DIGGS IN SINGLE MAN COVERAGE ON COOPER KUPP WHEN YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW STAFFORD IS GOING TO GO TO KUPP ON MONEY DOWNS??? KUPP BY FAR LEADS THE NFL IN TARGETS. THAT WAS THE DUMBEST COVERAGE IMAGINABLE. AND WE'RE TRAILING.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 9, 2022
Of course, it is difficult for Stafford to do much of anything when he’s being pressured and sacked at such a high rate. Stafford has been pressured on 25% of his dropbacks, including 21 sacks, 21 QB hits, 54 pressures, and 12 hurries. Stafford is tied with Matt Ryan as the most-sacked quarterback in the league.
.@dallascowboys @MicahhParsons11 @TankLawrence and Company pressured Stafford from beginning to end Sunday behind a 4 man rush and they left their Mark…Like a pack of hungry wolves. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/FebYh40KtY— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) October 10, 2022
The Rams are probably going to need to change up their offensive line again, as center Jeremiah Kolone and guard Bobby Evans have been among the worst players on the offensive line due to injuries to starters and reserves. Signees Oday Aboushi and Matt Skura, both available all year long but unsigned until the Rams came calling, could start as soon as this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers get pressure on 20.4% of plays and their eight sacks is more than only two other teams in the NFL.
Morris’s defense, the NFL leader in zone plays, has 10 sacks. But their 12.8% pressure rate is the second-lowest in the NFL, ranking 0.1% ahead of the Atlanta Falcons. Morris has called a blitz on 31.3% of defensive plays (sixth-highest) but L.A.’s defense has rarely gotten pressure on those plays. Teams do not attack the Rams defense deep: The 6.6 average depth of target is the sixth-shallowest rate in the NFL—well behind the league-leading 9.6 ADOT of the Commanders. Teams are completing 67.1% of their passes against L.A.’s defense and the Rams are going to need to force more turnovers to make up for their lack of a pass rushing threat outside of Aaron Donald.
The Rams also have the fifth-best run defense according to DVOA, but rank 17th against the pass.
L.A. next faces quarterback P.J. Walker and running back Christian McCaffrey of the Carolina Panthers. Expect the Panthers to throw a lot of those shorter passes against Morris’s zone defense and for them to hope that McCaffrey breaks off two or three massive plays.