The Los Angeles Rams floundered in a crucial divisional matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. After holding a 14-7 lead, the Rams defense surrendered 24 unanswered points to Kyle Shanahan’s offense. How did the defense go from only surrendering 10 points in the first half to allowing the 49ers to move the ball so easily in the 3rd and 4th quarters?
In order to gain a sense of the performance of the roster and its direction, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded out all the players from the Week 8 contest. Using the PFF grades and the eye test of watching the game, I will provide a weekly evaluation and grade of the defensive positions.
Weekly Grade: Grade for that respective week
Season Grade: Grade for the position over the course of the season
Trend: Direction of the position group from last week to this week
* Denotes player is Top 3 at position in NFL
Aaron Donald: 90.5 (-0.8), A’Shawn Robinson: 65.6 (-1.4), Greg Gaines: 58.2 (+2.1), Marquise Copeland: 71.6 (-6.5), Bobby Brown III: INA, Mike Hoecht: 64.4 (DNP), Jonah Williams: 35.3 (DNP)
The Rams defensive line had a couple of pressures but ultimately could not affect Jimmy Garoppolo to the same degree that the Chiefs did the previous week. Donald had seven tackles (four solo). Each starting lineman had a tackle for a loss, but the level of play in the second half dropped off.
Aaron Donald in a tilted shade. Strikes 1/2 man, gets knockback & engages RB behind LOS— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) November 2, 2022
The benefit of this technique is the ability to engage OL w/out getting squared up/reached, to control or penetrate gaps & to make combo blocks harder, allowing LBs to make plays! #stoptherun pic.twitter.com/ilAWuwyLC0
Week 8 Grade: C, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Slight Downward
Bobby Wagner: 83.0* (-6.8), Ernest Jones: 70.5 (-3.5), Travin Howard: INA, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: DNP, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP)
Bobby Wagner probably had his worst game of the 2022 season. He was targeted in coverage five times, allowing five receptions for 65 yards. The Bobby Wagner that was signed to negate the San Francisco 49ers offensive attack was unable to deliver in this one.
Ernest Jones was a full 6 steps out of bounds when he decided to throw Christian McCaffrey down pic.twitter.com/gzDdrMarcI— Christian D'Andrea (@TrainIsland) October 30, 2022
Ernest Jones had one or two quality plays, but that didn’t make up for his inexcusable unnecessary roughness penalty on McCaffrey. He also bit on a HB route, allowing Garoppolo to hit Aiyuk on an in-breaking route across the middle.
I do see advances in Ernest Jones’ game from year one to year two. He is physically stronger, and diagnoses run plays more efficiently.
Week 8 Grade: D, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Moderate Downward
Leonard Floyd: 68.5 (+6.4), Justin Hollins: 54.5 (+1.9), Terrell Lewis: 52.7 (-2.3), Daniel Hardy: IR
Leonard Floyd finally found the sack column, getting to Garoppolo twice. Floyd has shown up in the last two games, but I’m still not sure the Rams are convinced that he should be a part of the future.
Brian Burns is absolutely worth a 2024 and 2025 1st round pick stop kidding yourselves lol. #Rams might up the ante on it and if they do he fixes the biggest issue which is less than 5 pressures opposite Leonard Floyd off the edge.— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) November 1, 2022
Justin Hollins (62% snaps) and Terrell Lewis (42% snaps) combined for two tackles. The two are not generating enough pressure off the opposite side of Floyd and the Rams are paying for in coverage.
Week 8 Grade: B-, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Very Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 86.0 (+0.2), Troy Hill: 61.1 (-8.4), David Long Jr.: 52.9 (+0.6), Robert Rochell: 58.0 (DNP), Cobie Durant: 52.1 (INA), Derion Kendrick: 47.8 (-2.0), Grant Haley: 70.8 (DNP)
Jalen Ramsey could have changed the game not only once, but twice. He was close to intercepting two passes. Those plays stung because the defense has been desperate for turnovers this year.
Troy Hill looked more like a rookie cornerback than the 2020 version the Rams had.
Derion Kendrick had a rough day, allowing 73 yards. The notable one was a 56-yarder to Dwelley that Kendrick inexplicably bit on the underneath route.
Week 8 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C, Trend: Slight-to-Moderate Downward
Nick Scott: 62.1 (-0.5), Taylor Rapp: 61.1 (+0.3), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR), Terrell Burgess: 58.6 (DNP), Russ Yeast: 60.0 (DNP), Quentin Lake: PUP
Taylor Rapp was the weakest part of the defense. He missed multiple tackles (whether they are credited in the stat book or not) and took poor angles. George Kittle out jumped Rapp on a ball that should have been at minimum batted down. At this point, Rapp has hit his ceiling and does not offer the defense a significant positive in any category. Rapp lacks speed, strength, and proactive ability. His skill set is reactive and is typically trying to atone for a mistake. The Rams desperately need a safety that possesses instincts.
Week 8 Grade: F, Season Grade: D, Trend: Moderate Downward
Riley Dixon: 76.3 (+2.0), Matt Gay: 71.0 (+0.6)
Matt Gay only had two extra point attempts, converting both.
Riley Dixon punted five times for an average of 50.6 yards/punt. He was able to pin San Francisco inside the 20 once.
Week 8 Grade: B, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Slight Upward
Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Raheem Morris’s game plan did not change since the last time the Rams played the 49ers. Every fan wants the Rams to come out of their soft coverage, but the only way they can tighten the coverage is if they generate more pass rush. Raheem Morris has been unable to consistently find the formula this year.
Do the Rams need to rush five more often? Do the corners need to simply play closer to the line of scrimmage? The Rams scheme is meant to be malleable, but are they intractable? The best defenses know how to counter when an opposing offense begins to hit stride. Demeco Ryans and the 49ers countered flawlessly on Sunday.
Bad day to have a bad day for Rams defense, too (again go in depth in column). Ethos of defense as intended means it *should* be able to shape-shift while still capping pass explosives. But neither adjustments nor execution matched that. Irony is ethos should = malleability.— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) October 31, 2022
Joe DeCamillis’s group has been solid the last few weeks. It could tighten up in punt coverages, with gunners breaking down to avoid significant returns. In addition, since the offense is struggling to score, special teams will need to score more frequently.
Week 8 Grade: D- (Morris), B+ (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: D+ (Morris), B- (DeCamillis)
Trend: Slight Downward (Morris), Neutral (DeCamillis)