The Los Angeles Rams defensive performance in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons was a more realistic look of how the defense will play moving forward. Despite allowing the Falcons to creep back into the game late in the second half, the defense as a whole registered three sacks, four tackles for loss, and two interceptions. Cobie Durant emerged as a defensive playmaker in the game, but who else impressed in the game?
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 2 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. Be sure to check out the offensive player PFF grades from Week 2!
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: 91.2* (+9.5), A’Shawn Robinson: 61.1 (+8.0), Greg Gaines: 56.7 (+6.6), Marquise Copeland: 69.7 (-9.2), Bobby Brown III: SUS, Mike Hoecht: 62.3 (+2.3), Jonah Williams: 45.0 (-15.8)
The Rams' run defense was solid against Atlanta. The Falcons only managed 90 yards on 27 carries (3.3 avg). Their longest run was 11 yards. A’Shawn Robinson showed his strength in the middle. Donald was quiet in the box score, but Atlanta had to adjust and account for his usual game-wrecking play. Overall, it was a solid performance to build off of.
Week 2 Grade: B-, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Slight Upward
Bobby Wagner: 79.1 (+6.6), Ernest Jones: 80.2 (-11.0), Travin Howard: IR, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: DNP
It’s been a long time since the Rams were considered a team to have stout linebackers. LA might have two of three best linebackers in the NFC West.
After an impressive week one, Ernest Jones played 48 of 61 snaps (79%), which is a clear indication that Sean McVay and Raheem Morris want to get him on the field as much as possible. He paced the defense with 12 tackles (five solo) and a tackle for a loss. I thought he did a great job in zone coverage covering a few crossing routes. He understands his space and responsibility. Maybe he will do this again in Week 3...
So excited for Ernest Jones in year 2! Next to Bobby Wagner!?— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) August 8, 2022
(Great pass rush AD) pic.twitter.com/tM1rg7gYol
Bobby Wagner added another sack to his LA Rams log. Wags is a candidate to reach double digit sack totals in this defense with the Rams tendency to blitz their linebackers. And with AD99 taking double teams, Wagner will have clear shots up the middle like he did on Sunday.
Week 2 Grade: B+, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Neutral
Leonard Floyd: 49.3 (+11.6), Justin Hollins: 44.6 (+13.0), Terrell Lewis: 78.9 (+10.4), Keir Thomas: 47.5 (-12.5), Daniel Hardy: IR
Justin Hollins provided some late game heroics with his sack and forced fumble on Marcus Mariota. Week 2 was an even split between Hollins and Lewis with both playing 49% of the defensive snaps. Lewis has opened up the season in strong fashion and if he remains healthy, his availability may turn into a starting position before too long because of his ability as a pass rusher over Justin Hollins.
Justin Hollins has stepped in really nicely opposite Leonard Floyd. Not as effective as a pass rusher, but leads edge rushers in run-stop win-rate.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) September 20, 2022
A'Shawn Robinson also ranks fourth among DTs.
Having faced another mobile quarterback, the edge rushers did a solid job in not allowing Mariota to get outside the pocket and pick up yardage with his legs. Next up: another mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray.
Week 2 Grade: C, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 66.3 (+11.8), Troy Hill: 69.5 (-17.0), David Long Jr.: 58.5 (-9.0), Robert Rochell: 41.8, Cobie Durant: 52.1, Derion Kendrick: INA
“The comeback about to be legendary.”
Jalen wasn’t perfect on Sunday, but he continues to be a difference maker. His interception is not made by 95% of cornerbacks in the league. His athleticism is not paralleled by many. Not to mention, Ramsey’s tackling for a cornerback is one of the best in the league. His open field tackle on Mariota was textbook.
Cobie Durant ended up being the star of the game after Troy Hill exited with a groin injury. Durant himself was dealing with a hamstring strain but managed to intercept and sack Mariota. The interception was a gift, but the “land shark” turned it into a 51-yard return; allowing the offense to add points before halftime.
David Long Jr. (75%) struggled in this one again. With Troy Hill injured, teams may target Long more now that he will likely be asked to primary or number two assignments. If he doesn’t improve in the next week or two, he could see a similar benching like after Week 4 in the 2021 season.
There were a couple missed tackles (Hill and Long Jr) and at least two defensive pass interference calls.
Week 2 Grade: B-, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Very Slight Upward
Nick Scott: 80.3 (-4.9), Taylor Rapp: 63.9 (-2.0), Jordan Fuller: 66.6 (+4.3), Terrell Burgess: DNP, Russ Yeast: DNP, Quentin Lake: PUP
There still hasn’t been an explanation as to why Jordan Fuller was demoted from starter/signal caller in 2021 to the number three safety in 2022. Nonetheless, Fuller already saw a jump in playing time from week one to two, playing 59% against ATL. His impact when on the field may get him his spot back as he totaled eight tackles (six solo). Rapp and Scott combined for six tackles (four solo). Granted, Fuller’s role does involve playing more of the middle of the field near the linebackers’ level.
Overall, the safeties were really solid. Unfortunately, Ramsey’s DPI negated a Nick Scott first half interception.
Week 2 Grade: B, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Slight Upward
Riley Dixon: 66.2 (-0.2), Matt Gay: 75.9 (+1.0)
Riley Dixon had a punt blocked, but when a defender comes rushing up the middle unblocked, you can hardly fault the punter.
Matt Gay chipped in a field goal from 20 yards away which is more so a knock on the offense for failing to score from the one-yard line.
Special teams punt and kickoff return blocking continues to be behind schedule. Brandon Powell has had zero running lanes.
Week 2 Grade: D-, Season Grade: D, Trend: Moderate Downward
Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Morris’ run defense has bottled up opposing offenses. That might be more of a credit to Bobby Wagner’s play recognition and ability to knife through blockers.
This is two straight years now where DeCamillis’ special teams' unit has been slow out of the gate. If you recall, the Rams had a special team's gaffe in Week 2 of 2021 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Week 2 Grade: B- (Morris), C- (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C (Morris), D- (DeCamillis)
Trend: Slight Upward (Morris), Moderate Downward (DeCamillis)