The Los Angeles Rams are on their bye week and will have some time to do some self-reflecting and figure things out before playing the San Francisco 49ers in Week 8. The bye week is a good time to take a step back and evaluate how some of the position groups are playing and what they can do to improve. Let’s take a look at the defense.
Replacing Troy Reeder with Bobby Wagner has done wonders for the Rams linebacker group. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has been able to do more with two linebackers on the field which includes using them to bring pressure. It’s also a big reason why the Rams run defense has been outstanding to start the season.
Wagner is the second-highest graded linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He’s missed just 2.3 percent of his tackles which is the third lowest percentage in the NFL behind only Ja’Whaun Bentley and Nick Bolton. There’s no question that the former Seattle Seahawk has had a positive influence on the Rams defense.
Next to him, Ernest Jones has taken a step forward and has become a physical presence in the middle of the Rams defense. The Rams currently have a top-10 defense and these two are a big reason for that.
Simply put, the Rams edge rushers are not getting the job done. A lot of the pressures that the Rams do get on the quarterback are schematic pressures. That shouldn’t be the case when Aaron Donald is a focal point and opens things up.
Floyd’s nine pressures this season are the second fewest among edge rushers with at least 250 snaps. Opposite of him, Justin Hollins has four pressures and Terrell Lewis has two. When it comes to rushing the passer, this group isn’t getting the job done.
Where this group does excel is against the run. Hollins ranks ninth in run-stop win-rate according to ESPN Stats and Info. Floyd has also played well against the run as he usually does.
However, the Rams are going to be going up against Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and others after the bye. They need to be able to generate pressure on the quarterback.
This is a group that has been decimated by injuries. Despite that, the Rams rank 12th against the pass in DVOA and EPA per play. Many get upset with the Rams cornerbacks playing “soft coverage”. However, it’s not soft coverage. The Rams play a form of match coverage which means the defensive back read and react to the offense. Match coverage lets a defense play one way depending on what the offense does after the snap. The Rams do this very well.
For most of the season, the Rams have been without Troy Hill, Cobie Durant, and David Long. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Rams to play bump-and-run coverage with Derion Kendrick and Grant Haley.
This group started slow, but they’ve begun to play much better. Kendrick looks very confident, Haley has stepped in nicely, and Jalen Ramsey is back to being the top cornerback that he is.
This group needs to tackle better in moments. However, given the injuries and lack of pressure, this group has played really well.
The Rams have gotten a lot of inconsistent play out of their safeties. On some of the biggest run plays this season, it was the safeties that missed tackles. When the Rams play the defense that they do, it puts a lot of pressure on the guys on the backend to make tackles and that was an issue against the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys.
Nick Scott has continued to play well following his rise last season. He continues to be a nice physical presence on the backend of the defense. He does need to be more disciplined at times. His 19.2 percent missed tackle percentage ranks as the 14th highest among safeties. Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller need to show more consistency in coverage as well.
The safety group just needs to be more consistent. If they can be more consistent, that will get rid of some of the tackling errors that we’ve seen through six weeks.
The Rams defensive line has been one of the better units in the NFL. Donald obviously leads the group, but Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, and Marquise Copeland are all playing well. Copeland has been one of the better run defenders this season. Robinson ranks sixth in run-stop win-rate.
There are some good players on this unit and the Rams have depth here. Gaines only played 12 snaps with a shoulder injury against the Panthers. Copeland stepped in and they didn’t miss a beat.
If the Rams can get a pass-rushing threat on the edge to open things up on the inside, this group can take another step forward. Right now, Donald is tied for the most pressures among defensive linemen with 24. However, the next closest is Gaines with four. This group has done a great job in filling run lanes and stopping the run, but outside of Donald, they need to be able to put pressure on the quarterback.