The Los Angeles Rams have three crazy-good players on defense: Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, and now Bobby Wagner. This has often been the Sean McVay formula, it seems, to put the best and most affordable components in between two or three elite players.
Is it going to work this season?
Wagner has put up a sack in each of his first two games, maybe signaling that he’s perhaps en route to a new career-high (previous: five) as he adjusts to a new defense. Donald has been as unblockable as usual. Ramsey closed out the last game with an interception.
The Rams rank first in run defense DVOA.
But are there going to be issues in pass defense?
Josh Allen terrorized another defense in Week 2, blowing past the Tennessee Titans even harder than he did the Rams in Week 1. But Marcus Mariota did manage two touchdowns and almost led a comeback against L.A., as Troy Hill left with injury and Leonard Floyd was a late active following a week of uncertainty on the injury report.
The Rams will need all the help they can get this season, especially in the second half schedule, which includes a slate of games against the AFC West and more meetings with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
As I did on Tuesday with another Rams-related question, I posed this query to the Turf Show Times staff. Here are their answers.
Question: What is the biggest concern for the pass defense—being able to pressure the QB or being able to cover the receivers? The Rams face some of the NFL’s best QBs in the second half of the season (Herbert, Mahomes, Wilson, Rodgers, Brady), are you confident in Raheem Morris to be able to contain those passing offenses?
An important factor in answering this question is how long veteran CB Troy Hill will be sidelined with the groin injury he suffered in Week 2. If the Rams have to tap into the young secondary depth, there will be growing pains by Robert Rochell and the two rookies (Durant, Kendrick).
I’ve been impressed by Terrell Lewis. The Rams should make him the primary starter at OLB instead of platooning with Justin Hollins - even despite Hollins’ clutch performance at the end of the Falcons game.
The defense has been causing turnovers and the Rams offense needs to capitalize more by not giving the ball away. Yes this team will give up yards, they do the bend don’t break and try to really tighten up in the red zone and Raheem makes adjustments (maybe not like Brandan Staley) but Morris’s unit has stepped up huge. The offense can do more to protect the defense. If the offense does next to nothing, like in Buffalo, they will lose to high octane offenses like the ones listed above.
I would say it’s the ability to cover wide receivers. The Rams’ drop back success rate on defense ranks 31st in the NFL. Ramsey has been off his game and the combination of David Long and Troy Hill hasn’t been much better on the other side. Hill and Cobie Durant could miss time which would mean the Rams would be relying on Robert Rochell and Derion Kendrick. Behind Ramsey and Hill, this is a very young secondary which makes them susceptible to mistakes. Morris led a defense that ranked seventh in EPA against the pass last year after Week 13 and at the time, the Rams were very thin at safety. I have confidence that schematically he can put his players in good positions.
Pressure the QB. Pressuring a QB can make mediocre secondary players look elite. If you can’t apply pressure it puts strain on the entire defense. See how it affects Wilson & Brady (4 wins against Wilson & Brady in 2021) when you do. And see how it affects you when you don’t (loss to Rodgers).
Venie Randy Soares:
Raheem Morris has shown he likes to blitz and use four-man fronts. With Bobby Wagner in the fold, I expect a lot more. The upper-tier teams with offensive discipline and quarterbacks are better suited to exploit this. Suddenly, the Rams are very inexperienced in the secondary and there will have to be some growing pains. The edges need to step up their, as of two games, invisible pass rush and give the secondary a chance to ballhawk. This year’s playoff stretch run is going to be crazy intense.