Von Miller is no longer on the Los Angeles Rams, so it is not a priority anymore to talk about Von Miller. But that hasn’t stopped Rams fans from talking about Von Miller since he signed with the Buffalo Bills, a discussion that got more heated on Thursday with reports that Miller was offered a more sizeable contract from L.A. than initially believed.
Miller also reportedly would have liked to sign with the Dallas Cowboys but didn’t get the offer he wanted to make that happen.
Ultimately what matters is that the Rams did not re-sign Von Miller and they have not done much to address the position he occupied for 12 games—including playoffs—with the Rams in 2021/2022. For the time being, Terrell Lewis, Justin Hollins, and Chris Garrett would appear to be the top-three options to replace Miller as an edge rusher opposite of Leonard Floyd.
It is considered one of L.A.’s most glaring needs, but that same issue didn’t stop Les Snead from eventually acquiring Miller for two day two picks prior to 2021’s NFL trade deadline and it may not mean that the Rams won’t be fine at the position when all is said and done.
How not fine were the Rams prior to trading for Miller last season?
Prior to trading for Von Miller, the Rams were led in sacks by Floyd with 6.5, followed by Aaron Donald with 5, then Sebastian Joseph-Day and Lewis tied with 3 each.
As you can see, almost no pressure came off of the edge other than Floyd, who also had nine QB hits (I believe sacks are included in those totals, however) and five tackles for a loss. Lewis had only three QB hits and he was consistently playing over 30 snaps per game, peaking with 51 snaps against the Giants in Week 6.
Lewis had one sack each against the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Giants, playing in three more games after Miller was acquired and then missing the rest of the season and playoffs.
Hollins had two sacks in Week 1 against the Bears, but then no pressures in Weeks 2 and 3 before missing the next nine games. Hollins returned in Week 14 but only registered one QB hit and zero sacks over his next nine appearances, including playoffs.
The Rams registered 25 sacks as a team from games 1-8, allowing 218/323 pass attempts (67.5%) with 2,113 yards, 9 TD, 11 INT, and an 83.2 passer rating. Teams converted 42% of their third down attempts in that span of time.
It really matters a lot who those opponents were, especially when comparing to the second half of the season. So for some more context, the quarterbacks in those games were: Andy Dalton, Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson/Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, Jared Goff, and Davis Mills.
How much did things change after Von Miller’s arrival?
Let’s do some refreshment...
Terrell Lewis had seven pressures and three sacks in the first eight games.
Justin Hollins had four pressures and two sacks in the eight regular season games he played in.
Leonard Floyd had 6.5 sacks and 21 pressures in the first eight games of the season.
Miller was inactive during his first official game with the Rams, but then played in roughly 75-percent of the snaps over his first four starts. In those games, Miller had zero sacks and only one QB hit, but recorded one tackle for loss in each appearance. He had five pressures in those first four games, which is more than Hollins had in the entire season and almost more than Lewis in half as much playing time.
In his final four games of the regular season, Von Miller had five sacks and nine pressures, totaling at least two pressures in each start.
So in the final eight games of the year, Miller had five sacks and 14 pressures.
If you take Lewis’s first eight games and Hollins’ eight games on the year and combine them, they had five sacks and 11 pressures. But clearly this is not just swapping oranges for oranges.
In the final eight games, Donald had 6.5 sacks playing alongside Miller, followed by five by Miller himself, three for Greg Gaines, and two each for Floyd, Troy Reeder, and A’Shawn Robinson.
The Rams registered 22 sacks in the last eight games (fewer than the first eight games without Miller) and opposing passers went 179/275 (65%) for 1,871 yards with seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and a passer rating of 84.9. Teams converted just under 42-percent of their third down attempts.
So statistically speaking, the Los Angeles Rams defense was roughly as effective in the regular season with Von Miller as they were without Von Miller. Let me make something clear because I know how unclear it will seem after reading that sentence: Von Miller is a fantastic football player—was, is, and in some regard always will be—and he is superior to the options that the Rams will have this season.
This is in no way meant to discredit Miller’s presence on the Rams defense simply because the Rams will have to move forward without Von Miller anyway. If reports are true, then the Rams did prioritize re-signing Von Miller and when that didn’t happen, decided to allocate those funds to a different future Hall of Fame linebacker who doesn’t rush the passer.
It’s somewhat interesting that the defense, on average, didn’t suffer immensely before and after Von Miller. That doesn’t mean that by some other measurement that there wasn’t a major difference before and after.
The list of quarterbacks that the Rams faced after starting Miller: Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Rodgers, Trevor Lawrence, Murray, Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Tyler Huntley, and Garoppolo.
The LA Rams also had the opportunity to play four playoff games, giving us an extended look at Von Miller alongside Floyd and Donald.
The Rams registered 12 sacks in those games: 4 by Miller, 3.5 by Donald, 2 by Floyd, one each by Ernest Jones and Robinson, and Gaines shared in a sack with Donald.
Miller also registered 11 pressures in the playoffs, which far outpaces the seven pressures that Lewis had over 367 snaps last year.
Opposing quarterbacks went 88/152 (58%) for 888 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions in those four games, registering a QB rating of 76.8. They were Murray, Brady, Garoppolo, and Joe Burrow.
What is clear is that the Rams defense played an integral part in the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship since 1999. What is yet to be determined is how vital Miller is to a repeat of that success and whether or not Lewis, Garrett, Hollins, or someone else will be able to viably fill that role. Or how much it matters.
The only thing that really matters today is that Von Miller is not on the Rams. No matter, Von Miller was not on the Rams this time last year either.