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How will Rams team defensive rankings change in 2022?

The signing of Bobby Wagner projects to have a multi-layered effect

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In my previous piece, I wrote about how the Rams “Team Offensive” Rankings might fluctuate in 2022. The focus now shifts to the defensive side of the ball and whether Raheem Morris’s unit will make strides or regress downward in 2022. Let’s look at a number of impactful categories.

Points/Game: 21.9 (T-16th)

  • Throughout the 2021 season, many criticized Raheem Morris as the defensive coordinator and that his defense wasn’t as “effective” as Brandon Staley’s 2020 unit. What is often overlooked is that Staley’s 2020 unit went up against weaker opponents in 2020 (the Rams finished 3rd in the division in 2019). Another key element is that Raheem Morris was learning the “Fangio/Staley” scheme. Though the pts/game went up this past year, I am buying the LA defense going into 2022. With Bobby Wagner solidifying the LB corps and a now established A’Shawn Robinson and Greg Gaines next to Aaron Donald, this group is stronger on paper. The defense will shave 1-2 pts/game off their totals and will be a Top-10 defense.
  • Prediction: IMPROVE (6th)

Rush Yards Allowed/Game: 103.2 (6th)

  • The run defense had a few games where it was gashed significantly; Weeks 4 and 10. After those early season struggles, the run defense was mostly spectacular. The offseason addition of Bobby Wagner further validates that the struggles LA had against run-heavy teams in the past, SF in particular, will now be neutralized. Expect Los Angeles to still operate with a “bend, don’t break” scheme, but let’s just say opponents will likely find the reshaped Morris unit to be “less pliable”.
  • Prediction: IMPROVE (3rd)

Pass Yards Allowed/Game: 241.7 (22nd)

  • This offseason saw the secondary lose Darious Williams, a starter for the last two years. In response, Snead/McVay brought back Troy Hill via trade and added 4 secondary pieces in their 2022 draft class. With the team likely to put up points on offense, opponents will have to throw to keep up. This is one category where I expect the Rams to keep their ranking.
  • Prediction: NEUTRAL (22nd)

Total Sacks: 49 (T-3rd)

  • Over the last few seasons, the Rams have fared very well in getting to the quarterback. Thank you Aaron Donald. The loss of Von Miller will hurt, but the Aaron Donald effect should still apply to Leonard Floyd, Terrell Lewis, and Justin Hollins to be effective enough. Ernest Brown IV or Chris Garrett could emerge as a pass-rushing specialist/contributor. And L.A. has the ability to use Bobby Wagner or Ernest Jones on blitzes, a tactic we saw used in this past year’s playoff run.
  • Prediction: REGRESS DOWNWARD (8th)

Total Interceptions: 19 (T-3rd)

  • Interceptions are a hard category to predict. Sometimes it’s a tipped pass that makes the difference. Jalen Ramsey anchors the secondary with Jordan Fuller calling the plays. The additions of Troy Hill and Bobby Wagner should strengthen the middle of the field with their zone scheme. The names to watch are Nick Scott, Terrell Burgess, and Quentin Lake. Will one or two of them find their way onto the field - and if so, what impact does that bring? With teams likely to throw late in games, Ramsey and co. should be able to get their hands on a similar number of passes.
  • Prediction: NEUTRAL (6th)

Red Zone TD %: 51.8% (8th)

  • I believe this is one of the most under-talked about defensive categories. It’s the difference of at least four points. The 2021 defense was impeccable at coming up with crucial red zone stops. Stops against the Bears, Colts x 2, Cardinals, Lions, and Vikings all easily come to mind. Bobby Wagner might be the sole indicator of Los Angeles success here: with him tightening the run defense and being able to work sideline to sideline effectively.
  • Prediction: IMPROVE (4th)

3rd Down Stop %: 41.3% (21st)

  • Once again, the “bend, don’t break” philosophy comes to the forefront of this discussion. McVay’s defense gambles to put opposing offenses behind the 8-ball on 1st down situations. The goal is to make offenses work out of 2nd and long and 3rd and long situations. When that is the case, the Rams like their chances to get off the field - as they should. I sense a significant jump for the defense - leapfrogging a few teams to get inside the top 15.
  • Prediction: IMPROVE (13th)

Hope you all enjoyed the two breakdowns of the offense and defense. Be sure to insert your comments below of what categories you believe the LA Rams defense will improve upon, remain neutral, or regress downward in.