Heading into Week 12, the Los Angeles Rams were significant underdogs to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. LA’s best chance at a win was a low scoring affair where they contained Mahomes and Travis Kelce. The Rams were able to keep the Chiefs out of the end zone on a lot of drives, but the Chiefs star quarterback was still too much for Aaron Donald and the reeling Rams to overcome. How did the defense perform despite the loss? Some players, like Michael Hoecht, are emerging on the defense. Is there hope for development?
Click here to read about the Week 12 offensive grades if you missed them!
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 12 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* (-0.4), A’Shawn Robinson: 64.4 (IR), Greg Gaines: 61.3 (-6.5), Marquise Copeland: 66.0 (-3.6), Bobby Brown III: 67.2 (+7.0), Jonah Williams: 55.9 (+13.5)
The Rams were without A’Shawn Robinson (torn meniscus) so that left Marquise Copeland, Bobby Brown III, and Jonah Williams competing for the open spot. Early impressions are that Jonah Williams and Bobby Brown III are used in early down situations to defend the run, while Marquise Copeland offers more pass rush ability. Despite Robinson’s injury, Los Angeles did hold the Chiefs running backs to 81 yards on 26 carries (3.1 avg).
The Rams still need to find a pass rush option either on the team, in the draft, or in upcoming free agency. LA was unable to register any sacks on Mahomes.
Aaron Donald did miss two tackles which contributed to his lower PFF grade this week. And the recent development after Sunday’s loss was that Donald is nursing a high ankle sprain.
Week 12 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C, Trend: Slight Downward
Bobby Wagner: 88.5* (-1.6), Ernest Jones: 70.1 (-2.2), Travin Howard: INA, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP)
Bobby Wagner had a quieter performance than usual. Normally Wagner has led the team in tackles each week, but only had six combined (two solo) against KC. Wagner did a pass deflection in the red zone to hold the Chiefs to a field goal.
Ernest Jones had 11 tackles (six solo) but drew another unnecessary roughness, late hit out of bounds penalty. It is a positive to see him playing hard late into the game, but he needs to keep his discipline. He had a similar penalty against the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the year.
Week 12 Grade: C-, Season Grade: B, Trend: Slight Downward
Leonard Floyd: 67.5 (-1.8), Mike Hoecht: 62.9 (-8.2), Terrell Lewis: 46.1 (-1.1), Daniel Hardy: IR
Earlier this week, Les Snead and Sean McVay released Justin Hollins. The thought was that Terrell Lewis would step into a full-time starting role. However, a bulging disc in Lewis’s back limited him.
Michael Hoecht was used as an edge rusher (84% snaps). He recorded six tackles (three solo). It’s still early but Hoecht does have valuable traits as an edge rusher. Even in preseason action over the last two years, he has flashed strength, speed, and agility.
John Hodge on Twitter: “Canadian defensive lineman Michael Hoecht makes a big play for the Rams. His CFL rights belong to the Ottawa Redblacks. #LARams | #NFL | #Redblacks | #CFL https://t.co/2GjXkaacdH” / Twitter
From my perspective, I see a floor of Morgan Fox. And a performance ceiling similar to Cory Littleton. Littleton was a linebacker, but I think Hoecht can turn in 5-6 sacks per season, while playing good run defense.
Floyd did not take Mahomes down but did force a lot of pressure to move the quarterback off his spot.
Leonard Floyd had 7 pressures on Sunday. Since the bye week he's had 17 pressures and 5 sacks. He was clearly not himself at the start of the season but has since turned it up a notch.— JAKE ELLENBOGEN (@JKBOGEN) November 30, 2022
Week 12 Grade: C, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 84.3 (+2.1), Troy Hill: 69.9 (-0.7), David Long Jr.: 53.3 (-4.0), Robert Rochell: 58.1 (DNP), Derion Kendrick: 44.4 (-1.2), Cobie Durant: 52.1 (DNP), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)
Scheme is one part of the Rams secondary problem, but effort is another. Derion Kendrick missed two tackles and showed no desire to help keep Travis Kelce out of the end zone. That type of effort should not allow him to be on the field.
Outside of the Travis Kelce touchdown, Jalen Ramsey was solid in coverage. He did not allow any other receptions the remainder of the game. Ramsey had a pass breakup in the red zone, thwarting a KC touchdown drive.
#Chiefs just tried a double pass. Kelce was open for a second, but Jalen Ramsey there to break it up.— Mitchell Riberal - KQ2 (@Mitch_Riberal) November 27, 2022
Thought Kelce had it at first.
Hill was okay, allowing four receptions (six targets) for 36 yards, but did miss a tackle.
David Long Jr was caught with his eyes in the backfield and gave up a long pass over his head. He allowed all five passes thrown his way to be completed.
Hopefully, the Rams rotate Robert Rochell and Cobie Durant in sooner than later.
Week 12 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Neutral
Nick Scott: 65.2 (-2.3), Taylor Rapp: 66.9 (+3.0), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR), Russ Yeast: 70.6 (+2.0), Quentin Lake: DNP
I thought Nick Scott played better than his PFF grade indicated. After all, he did force the only turnover for LA which was the Rams first defensive turnover since Week 2. Woof. Scott also laid wood with his hit on Isaiah Pacheco in the 4th quarter.
Nick Scott laid the hammer on Isiah Pacheco here pic.twitter.com/hWtd5oqnfK— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) November 28, 2022
To give some credit to Taylor Rapp, he was flying all around the ball. He was the leading tackler with 12 stops (seven solo). My problems with Rapp are that he goes for ankle tackles far too often and it results in missed tackles or allows the ball carrier to pick up additional yards by falling forward. His completion percentage allowed this year is 78.1% and he has 16 missed tackles in his last 27 regular season games.
Jordan Fuller is still not available to come off the IR after a pulled hamstring in Week 4. His initial prognosis was a 2-4 week absence. This will be week nine...
Week 12 Grade: B-, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
Riley Dixon: 84.0* (+1.4), Matt Gay: 80.7 (+1.4)
The special teams play was flawless on Sunday. Matt Gay booted through his only field goal attempt (47 yards).
Riley Dixon punted four times for 180 yards (45.0 avg) with two punts downed inside the KC 10-yard line. Dixon also successfully converted a fake punt pass to Jacob Harris to pick up a first down.
The Rams' fake punt against the #Chiefs was genius. 4th & 5 = perfect distance.— Wes Roesch (@WesleyRoesch) November 29, 2022
They exploited Trent McDuffie's inexperience as a pro jammer (only 3 snaps prior to Week 12) + tendency to play off man.
Going vs. a vet like Chris Lammons on the other side likely would've failed. pic.twitter.com/Od9nUw5TjR
The punt coverage team (Robert Rochell) recovered a Sky Moore fumble early in the first quarter.
Brandon Powell had three kickoff returns for 78 yards (26.0/avg).
Week 12 Grade: A+, Season Grade: A-, Trend: Moderate Upward
Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Raheem Morris incorporated some man coverage but has yet to unlock a pass rush. The Rams continue to be in the bottom half of the league in sacks. They rely on putting defenses behind the chains and have been picked apart on 3rd down when opposing offenses are in manageable distances.
Joe DeCamillis has done great work with the special teams. Riley Dixon and Matt Gay are both candidates for the pro bowl and have resumes to be all pro this year. Life after Johnny Hekker has been pretty seamless.
Week 12 Grade: C+ (Morris), A+ (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C- (Morris), A- (DeCamillis)
Trend: Neutral (Morris), Significant Upward (DeCamillis)
Which unrestricted defensive free agent this offseason should be brought back?
This poll is closed
A’Shawn Robinson, DL
Greg Gaines, DL
Troy Hill, CB
David Long Jr, CB
Grant Haley, CB
Nick Scott, S
Taylor Rapp, S