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Rams Week 15 defensive grades: The defense needs more athleticism

Does Les Snead rely too much on fundamental players?

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Syndication: Stevens Point Journal Tork Mason / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Los Angeles Rams defense forced two turnovers, but that was not enough on the road vs. the Green Bay Packers. Younger players are starting to receive more playing time such as Michael Hoecht and Cobie Durant. But even the insertion of them into lineup leaves the Rams missing something: athleticism. The defense has potential but where could they add athleticism to improve?

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 15 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* (INA), Greg Gaines: 59.1 (-2.1), Marquise Copeland: 65.8 (INA), Bobby Brown III: 73.2 (-8.6), Jonah Williams: 56.4 (+7.5), TJ Carter: 70.6 (+10.6), Larrell Murchison: 49.9, A’Shawn Robinson: 64.4 (IR)

Much like the past, the Rams defensive line had no answer for the Green Bay rushing attack. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon rushed 28 times for 126 and two touchdowns. Greg Gaines had six tackles (five solo), two tackles for a loss, and one sack. Outside of a few splash plays by Gaines, the line was overwhelmed for four quarters.

Week 15 Grade: D+, Season Grade: C, Trend: Slight Downward


Bobby Wagner: 90.5* (-0.2), Ernest Jones: 65.2 (-1.6), Travin Howard: INA, Christian Rozeboom: 61.2 (DNP), Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP)

Bobby Wagner did not have much of an impact in this game. Ernest Jones played a season-low 48% of the defensive snaps. The move was surprising considering Green Bay’s efficiency in running the ball.

Week 14 Grade: C+, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Slight Downward


Leonard Floyd: 66.4 (-1.2), Mike Hoecht: 64.1 (-7.2), Daniel Hardy: 42.0 (+1.1), Keir Thomas: 72.9 (+4.3)

The coaching staff elected to move on from Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis in favor of Michael Hoecht and Keir Thomas. The moves appear to be justified, but that shouldn’t stop LA from prioritizing drafting an edge rusher or signing one in free agency. Hoecht and Thomas are serviceable as rotation pieces, but they do not have enough speed and athleticism to pressure opposing quarterbacks every series.

Week 15 Grade: C-, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Neutral


Jalen Ramsey: 81.9 (+1.5), Troy Hill: 70.6 (-3.8), David Long Jr.: 53.1 (INA), Robert Rochell: 58.1 (DNP), Derion Kendrick: 45.8 (+0.0), Cobie Durant: 63.8 (+3.8), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)

One area that the Los Angeles Rams need to enhance is their physicality from the cornerback position. When you look at the San Francisco 49ers, their roster imposes a level of strength and size. The Rams only have Ramsey in their secondary who brings that element. Troy Hill and Cobie Durant are very small in size and strength. Pairing another strong corner on the outside with Ramsey would give the defense more athleticism. Rochell has yet to break through for LA, maybe he gets a shot in year three?

Week 14 Grade: C, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Neutral


Nick Scott: 58.5 (-1.3), Taylor Rapp: 73.5 (+3.2), Russ Yeast: 52.8 (-1.7), Quentin Lake: 61.8, Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR)

Even though he is very raw, one reason I like Russ Yeast is his physicality. He is still very green, but with coaching his fundamentals (tackling, coverage assignments) should improve. He reminds me a lot of Rodney McLeod, who carved out a quality career in the NFL. Taylor Rapp is a fundamentals-only player and though he came away with an interception on Aaron Rodgers, he does not offer enough athleticism like other safeties in the division (Budda Baker, Jimmie Ward, Talanoa Hufanga, etc.).

Now that an opportunity for the playoffs is gone, I wonder how McVay and Morris handle playing time. Yeast and Lake should get more opportunities in place of Scott and Rapp from a development standpoint.

Week 15 Grade: C+, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Neutral

Special Teams

Riley Dixon: 79.7* (-3.8), Matt Gay: 84.8 (-3.0)

Dixon had a poor performance with four punts for 151 yards (37.8 avg). Dixon had two or three punts that cost the Rams the field position battle.

Matt Gay crushed a field goal from 55 yards out, putting himself in the record books at Lambeau Field.

The Rams kick and punt coverage teams struggled to contain Keisean Nixon. He collected 131 return yards between three kickoffs and two punts.

Week 15 Grade: C+, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Slight Downward

Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis

A defense with Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, and a healthy Aaron Donald is a lot to reckon with. So why does LA struggle to hold teams below their “magic number” of 20 points? I believe that the defense needs more athleticism. Stronger or faster players that can be coached up with technique rather than drafting players that are fundamentally sound. This defense is capable of forcing a lot more turnovers. The defense has only forced 16 turnovers, ranking 21st in the NFL.

Week 15 Grade: D+ (Morris), C-- (DeCamillis)

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

Trend: Slight Downward (Morris), Slight Downward (DeCamillis)


Does the LA Rams defense need more athleticism from complimentary players?

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