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Rams defensive grades: Sean McVay must re-identify complementary players

Finding talent to pair with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey is imperative

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers squared off in a defensive slugfest (maybe some will call it a poor offensive display). Nonetheless, the Los Angeles defense put the team in a position to win with less than two minutes left. The Rams offense continued to stall out and the defense’s bend but don’t break scheme ultimately broke on the final Tampa Bay drive of the game. Despite the fourth quarter letdown, how well did the defensive side of the ball play?

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 9 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.

Los Angeles Rams | NFL roster by position | PFF

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* (+0.0), A’Shawn Robinson: 66.8 (+1.2), Greg Gaines: 57.7 (-0.5), Marquise Copeland: 70.8 (-0.8), Bobby Brown III: INA, Mike Hoecht: 64.4 (DNP), Jonah Williams: 35.3 (DNP)

The defensive line bottled up the Buccaneers run game, allowing just 51 yards on 20 carries. Donald had a tackle for a loss and a sack, his fifth of the season and 103rd career sack.

A’Shawn Robinson had seven stops (two solo tackles). Greg Gaines did not register any tackles but did draw at least one holding penalty.

Still, the defense has a whole has 16 sacks through eight games. Donald has nearly one third. It’s time to get him some more help.

Week 9 Grade: B-, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Slight Upward


Bobby Wagner: 87.1* (+4.1), Ernest Jones: 73.7 (+3.2), Travin Howard: DNP, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP)

The Rams loss overshadows a very great performance by Bobby Wagner. The inside linebacker accounted for 13 tackles (eight solo), one tackle for loss, and a blocked field goal. The future hall of famer currently sits at number one on PFF’s inside linebacker 2022 rankings.

Ernest Jones complimented Wags dominance in the middle assisting in shutting down the Buccaneers run game.

Week 9 Grade: A, Season Grade: B, Trend: Slight Upward


Leonard Floyd: 67.3 (-1.2), Justin Hollins: 56.7 (+2.2), Terrell Lewis: 48.1 (-4.6), Daniel Hardy: IR

Not a lot of noise from the edge rushers. Terrell Lewis had one tackle for loss and nearly intercepted a screen pass. Outside of those two plays, the edge rushers were not much of a factor with Tampa Bay not attempting many outside runs.

The Rams desperately need to add help to this position in 2023. Les Snead and Sean McVay need to figure out if they need to trade for, sign, and/or draft multiple guys to enhance the versatility of the defense.

Week 9 Grade: C+, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Neutral


Jalen Ramsey: 86.7 (+0.7), Troy Hill: 79.8 (+18.7), David Long Jr.: 57.9 (+5.0), Robert Rochell: 58.0 (DNP), Cobie Durant: 52.1 (DNP), Derion Kendrick: 45.6 (-2.2), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)

Jalen Ramsey’s frustration with the defense having to go back out for another series is justified. At the same time, the defense should not have allowed the Bucs to march 60 yards in less than 40 seconds.

Ramsey blanketed Mike Evans and Troy Hill finally looked the part of a number two corner. The two gave Tampa’s wide receivers a long afternoon.

Derion Kendrick (86% snap share) missed two tackles and allowed 10 receptions for 71 yards. The major blemishes on Kendrick were his two defensive pass interference penalties, the latter one setting up the Bucs on the goal line at the end of the game. David Long Jr (33% snap share) was featured in dime packages and played well in limited action with four tackles (three solo).

Week 9 Grade: B-, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Slight Upward


Nick Scott: 61.5 (-0.6), Taylor Rapp: 62.3 (+1.2), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR), Terrell Burgess: 58.6 (INA), Russ Yeast: 60.0 (DNP), Quentin Lake: PUP

Nick Scott was credited with missing three tackles though I push back on how stat keepers record those numbers as Taylor Rapp’s tape shows more than what his stat directory reveals.

In recent news, the Rams decided to waive Terrell Burgess Tuesday afternoon. The former third round pick has barely touched the field on defense since his rookie year. He was used for special teams, but apparently LA felt it was time to make a move. Burgess still had one year left on his contract. Does this mean Russ Yeast or Quentin Lake will be used in a large capacity? Or perhaps Jordan Fuller is set to return.

Week 9 Grade: D, Season Grade: D, Trend: Neutral

Special Teams

Riley Dixon: 81.4 (+5.1), Matt Gay: 71.7 (+0.7)

Riley Dixon punted an overwhelming and season-high nine times for 477 yards (53.0 avg/punt). Dixon was only able to pin Tampa Bay inside the 20 twice, further revealing the Rams offensive struggles. His longest punt traveled 64 yards.

Matt Gay returned to Raymond James Stadium where he kicked the Rams to an NFC divisional win in 2021. This time around he connected on two kicks (two attempts).

Outside of one 12-yard punt return, Brandon Powell did not have his finest performance. He made questionable decisions to fair catch and return kickoffs from deep within the endzone. Powell did break off a long punt return, but it was called back by a questionable holding call.

Week 9 Grade: B, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Neutral

Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis

Raheem Morris cannot be faulted for the soft zone concept. The same concept stifled the Bucs offense for the first 58 minutes. The only blemish by the defense was allowing Brady to hit Otton on a 28-yard seam route on TB’s final drive. Allowing Brady to travel 60 yards in :35 can’t happen. It’s not a soft zone adjustment, it should have been a sideline and boundary adjustment.

The special teams were on the field more than you would like to see in one game. I think punt coverage could have been tighter, helping the field position battle the Rams were fighting all game long.

Week 9 Grade: B (Morris), B (DeCamillis)

Season Grade: C- (Morris), B- (DeCamillis)

Trend: Slight Upward (Morris), Neutral (DeCamillis)