clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Raheem Morris running more zone defense than any other coach in the NFL

Is the zone defense going to help the Rams survive a slow start on offense?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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.

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.