If some Los Angeles Rams fans have their way this offseason, Raheem Morris will no longer be the defensive coordinator next season. That will especially be the case if Brandon Staley is relieved of his head coaching duties with the Los Angeles Chargers.
However, with the changes likely coming to the offensive coaching staff, it would be surprising to see Sean McVay also blow up his defensive coaching staff, starting with the defensive coordinator.
Morris is one year removed from helping lead the Rams to a Super Bowl win. In a down-year for the Rams, it’s very possible that he doesn’t get the head coach attention that he would have if the team had made the postseason.
Here are five reasons why Raheem Morris should be the Rams defensive coordinator in 2023.
1. Rams have a top run defense
The Rams run defense this season has been among the league’s best. They rank fifth in run defense DVOA and seven in EPA per rush. The defense led by Morris has given up the fourth fewest rushing yards and fourth fewest yards per carry.
Given that the Rams are 4-10 and have played from behind consistently throughout the season, how well they’ve played against the run is impressive. They are just one of four teams that have yet to allow a 100 yard rusher this season. Additionally, the Rams are one of just two teams with a losing record to have a top-10 run defense along with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
2. Injuries Have Affected the Defense
The offense this season has gotten the benefit of the doubt when it comes to injuries. That’s understandable as the Rams started 12 different offensive lines in the first 12 games of the season.
However, the defense has been effected as well. There was a time this year where Derion Kendrick, a sixth-round pick, was the Rams’ number two cornerback as Troy Hill has missed five games.
Aaron Donald, the Rams’ best defensive player player has been out the past three weeks and likely will miss the rest of the season. Jordan Fuller has been out since early October and A’Shawn Robinson is also on injured reserve. That doesn’t include other depth pieces that have missed time such as Marquise Copeland or the Rams outright cutting starting edge players like Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins.
With the injuries and being forced to start players like Kendrick, the Rams haven’t been able to play as aggressive in the secondary. Kendrick has been put in situations that he wouldn’t have normally been in. Without Fuller, Taylor Rapp has been forced to play more on passing downs.
The effect of Donald doesn’t need to be said as it’s pretty obvious. However, Fuller had a good 2021 season and is a captain in the secondary. Hill has missed time and is a veteran player with experience. The Rams clearly didn’t have confidence before the season in their young players in the secondary as they traded for Hill during the draft.
All of these things work together. The pass-rush and secondary work together in the same way that an offensive line and run game work together. Simply put, the defense has been short-handed this season which has affected how aggressive they can be in the secondary given the pieces that have been available.
3. Change the Talent, Not the Coordinator
Very few defenses in the NFL are built as top-heavy as the Rams. The Rams have Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, and Jalen Ramsey at each level of their defense. Outside of that, the talent is scarce.
Scott has been solid for the Rams, however, he is a former seventh-round pick. He’s played the third-most snaps for the Rams on defense this season. Kendrick has the third-most snaps this season among Rams cornerbacks and he was a sixth-round pick in 2021. Michael Hoecht was signed an undrafted free agent in 2020 as a defensive tackle and is currently starting at edge opposite Floyd. These are role players that have been major contributors.
The Rams have their stars and they expect those stars to make up for the talent deficit around them. That works fine when the stars are playing like stars. However, Ramsey has taken a step back which has affected the entire secondary. Leonard Floyd didn’t have a sack through the first six weeks of the season. Bobby Wagner started slow as he had a single 10 tackle performance in the season’s first seven games.
It seems unfair to expect Donald, Ramsey, and Wagner to continue to play at an incredibly-high level. They need better talent to compliment them. It doesn’t necessarily need to be elite compliment players like Von Miller. However, the talent gap can’t continue to be so large.
It hasn’t been perfect at times this season, but Morris has earned another year. The defense is playing as designed. It’s meant to be a compliment to a high-powered offense. However, with the offense struggling this season, the defense has been expected to the carry the team. The entire philosophy and how a defense is designed isn’t something that can be changed in the middle of a season.
4. Raheem Morris is Well-Liked by the Players
The Rams defensive players have bought into Morris’ defensive philosophy and coaching style. He’s very well-liked by the players. Earlier this season, Ramsey went on a huge rant during a press conference to defend Morris,
“I see some of the dumbass criticism and ‘why we playing soft?’ and certain things like that. He gives us the freedom to play press on some looks, off on other looks. People don’t really understand football like they think they do when they get on Twitter and they’re talking. Y’all don’t really understand like y’all think you do. Y’all don’t understand the coverages we’re playing. Y’all don’t understand we might be in a certain coverage on one side but the other side is a completely different coverage. We do a lot of mixture of things. Y’all don’t understand how certain players are playing multiple positions and gotta know a lot of different techniques and alignments and assignments. Y’all don’t understand how the offense, whether their receivers come out in a condensed look or they’re outside wide, how we gotta play our techniques differently or how we might have to play off...I’m cool with Rah being my defensive coordinator for the rest of my career.”
Ramsey isn’t the only player to say positive things about Morris. Aaron Donald has talked positively about Morris as a coach as well.
“I think it shows just from how he helped us through this year and the success we had this year. He’s definitely a player’s-type coach, easy to get along with. I think he’s a real good coach, man...I’m just happy he’s with us right now.”
These are two of the Rams best and most-respected players on defense saying good things about Morris. There hasn’t been a Todd Gurley, “we looked like a middle school offense out there” comment from anybody on the defense.
Last season, it was Morris that helped McVay get back on track during no-win November. Talking about Morris, McVay said before the season,
“He’s such a special leader, such a special coach. And when you think about the things that a great head coach does—has command over the game, command over a room, the ability to connect with a bunch of different people—Raheem does all of that.”
That’s exactly what you want in a coach. If Morris was fired, it likely wouldn’t be received well.
5. Rams Red Zone Defense is top-5 in the NFL
The Rams have been playing bend, but don’t break throughout the season. The goal has been to limit explosives and for the young players in the secondary to keep plays in front of them.
The defense this season has allowed a touchdown on just 43.5 percent of red zone possessions. That’s good for number two in the NFL. They also rank third in red zone defense DVOA and second in goal-to-go situations.
The Rams have allowed 20 touchdowns in the red zone this season and 120 red zone points which is also tied for fourth with the Dallas Cowboys. This is despite the Rams having 154 plays ran against them in the red zone which is the most in the NFL.
Again, the Rams defense for the most part is working as designed. They are holding opposing teams to field goals and making them work very hard for points. The issue has been the offense not holding up their end due to an unprecedented number of injuries.