The Los Angeles Rams are exiting the bye week at 3-3 with a very important matchup against the San Francisco 49ers on the horizon. While the Rams limped into the bye week with injuries and overall lackluster play, they still sit in a good position in the NFC.
However, their second second half of the schedule doesn’t get easier. Quarterbacks that the Rams will face include Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Justin Herbert. You can even throw Geno Smith on that list as he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level.
What this means is that the Rams must find a way to get to the quarterback. As it stands, their pass rushers outside of Aaron Donald have been pretty disappointing. Much of the pressure that the Rams have created this year are schematic pressures drawn up by Raheem Morris.
How NFL defenses look in terms of pass rush this season: pic.twitter.com/XwgTd753DN— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) October 11, 2022
Unlike at the end of last year and during the postseason, the Rams aren’t generating pressure off of the edge and therefore aren’t just able to send four. Among pass rushers that have played at least 20 percent of their teams’ snaps, Justin Hollins ranks 120th out of 123 edge rushers in pass-rush win-rate according to Pro Football Focus. Terrell Lewis ranks 114th. The Rams’ star pass rusher, Leonard Floyd, ranks 72nd with a pass-rush win-rate of just 12.4 percent.
From a pressure standpoint, the Rams’ edge defenders simply aren’t getting the job done. Hollins and Lewis have a combined six pressures while Floyd has nine. Among pass rushers who have played at least 50 percent of their teams’ snaps, Floyd’s nine pressures rank 61 out of 63 qualified players.
As a team, the Rams rank sixth in pass-rush win-rate according to ESPN, but that’s largely because of Donald. Donald should be opening up opportunities for these players on the edge, but instead, Morris has been forced to line up Donald as wide-9 at times in order to generate that edge pressure.
On just true pass sets this season, the Rams rank 25th in pass-rush win-rate.
Team pass rush win rates through week 7 on true pass sets (no screens, play action, quick throws, etc)— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) October 25, 2022
...the Jets! pic.twitter.com/NEWWNrOoOW
Donald is being asked to do it all.
This season, Donald has been asked to line up over an offensive tackle on 177 snaps which is the second-most in the NFL this season and accounts for 57.8 percent of his snaps. That number was 48.1 percent last season.
As the 3-technique in a 3-4 defense, Donald is going to line up over the tackle more times than not. However, this season he’s having to do it a lot more because the players on the edge aren’t getting it done. Morris is using Jalen Ramsey as a blitzer which is something we also haven’t seen a lot of in the past. These are schematic tactics to generate pressure on the quarterback.
Having Von Miller in the second half of last season allowed Floyd to do what he does best and the Rams defense to rush four. There’s no questioning Floyd and Hollins’ ability against the run. Hollins ranks ninth in run-stop win-rate in the NFL. Meanwhile, Floyd has the 24th highest run-defense grade according to Pro Football Focus and leads the Rams defense.
While that’s great on first and second down and has helped the Rams be one of the premier run defenses in the NFL this season, it hasn’t helped them on true pass sets. The Rams have just two sacks on third down this season. One came from Bobby Wagner against the Atlanta Falcons and the other came from Donald against the Dallas Cowboys. That’s zero sacks on third down from the edge rushers.
The Rams currently rank 19th in sacks per game after ranking fourth in that category last season. While sacks don’t fully paint the picture of a pass rush, Hollins and Lewis have as many sacks combined as Ramsey and Floyd has yet to record a sack this season. Floyd is one of three edge rushers to play more than 280 snaps this season and not record a sack.
Floyd has always been a better run defender than a pass-rusher. However, the Rams are paying him an average of $16M a year to be their star pass-rusher on the edge.
It’s worth noting that Floyd suffered a knee injury in practice in the week leading up to the Falcons game. During training camp, he felt “a little something in his lower half” according to McVay. Still, Floyd is not as productive as a pass rusher as he needs to be.
Since 2018, the Rams have gone out and traded for or signed three edge rushers in four seasons - Dante Fowler, Leonard Floyd, and Von Miller. Floyd is the only one they they decided to fully commit to long-term.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rams make another move for an edge rusher before the trade deadline. Bradley Chubb could be on the trade block and the Rams have shown interest in Brian Burns.
If the Rams are going to compete and take that next step in the second half of the season, they’re going to need the pass rush to take a big step forward especially considering the quarterbacks on the schedule. That starts with Floyd.