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Rams Defensive Overview: Superstars record milestones in Week 3 dominance

Donald collects 100th sack, Wagner records 1400 tackles

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Ramsey and the Los Angeles Rams defense dominated in Week 3, keeping the Arizona Cardinals out of the end zone all afternoon. Arizona was only able to add 12 points all off the leg of Matt Prater. Playing with an early 10-0 lead and using a soft coverage on the outside, the Rams forced Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray to take what was given them. Outside of Ramsey, who else stepped up despite a depleted secondary to move the Rams above .500 (2-1) on the 2022 season?

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.

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: 90.2* (-1.0), A’Shawn Robinson: 55.6 (-5.5), Greg Gaines: 52.5 (-4.2), Marquise Copeland: 70.9 (+1.2), Bobby Brown III: SUS, Mike Hoecht: 62.2 (-0.1), Jonah Williams: 29.2 (DNP)

The Rams front seven continued to suffocate the opposing run game. The Cardinals only managed 70 yards on 21 carries (3.3/carry).

Aaron Donald recorded a sack, reaching the 100 milestone on his illustrious career. The seven-time first team all pro is already keeping pace with his 2021 season with 2.0 sacks on the young season. PFF currently has him ranked as the third highest graded defensive lineman in 2022.

Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson have been solid in their containment and complimentary play of Donald. It would be great to see Gaines add to his sack numbers with the type of speed he has for size. At the very least, the Rams may want to find a rotational lineman over the next few weeks that can spell Gaines in order to preserve the legs and lungs.

Week 3 Grade: B-, Season Grade: B-, Trend: Neutral


Bobby Wagner: 85.6* (+6.5), Ernest Jones: 73.7 (-6.5), Travin Howard: IR, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: DNP

Wagner and Jones combined for 14 tackles (11 solo). Wagner’s addition has transformed the team’s ability to defend the run while maintaining the ability to play the shell defense.

Congratulations to Wagner on reaching the 1400 career tackles. He is the only active player with that milestone. Without surprise, Wagner is PFF’s second highest graded inside linebacker in 2022.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams At Arizona Cardinals Michael Chow/The Republic

Week 3 Grade: B+, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Neutral


Leonard Floyd: 48.5 (-0.8), Justin Hollins: 47.9 (+3.3), Terrell Lewis: 72.3 (-6.6), Takarrist McKinley: 62.8, Daniel Hardy: IR

Terrell Lewis recorded his second sack for the season, but overall, the edge rotation has underwhelmed for the defense. Even before Von Miller came to LA in 2021, Leonard Floyd and Justin Hollins were wreaking havoc and pressuring quarterbacks with more frequency. LA may need to explore a trade for a pass rusher again at the trade deadline. Wonder if Montez Sweat’s name will be floated?

The Rams added Takarrist McKinley to the roster, waiving Keir Thomas after two games.

Week 3 Grade: C-, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Neutral


Jalen Ramsey: 82.3* (+16.0), Troy Hill: 69.5 (IR), David Long Jr.: 58.5 (INA), Robert Rochell: 54.4 (+12.6), Cobie Durant: 52.1 (INA), Derion Kendrick: 52.1, Grant Haley: 72.7

Jalen Ramsey was the star of the game. He punished Arizona’s offensive skill players on run plays and receptions. In coverage, he only allowed three receptions on five targets for 25 yards, adding in a pair of pass breakups. After a slow start against Buffalo, Ramsey is already listed as PFF’s third highest-graded cornerback.

With Troy Hill, David Long Jr., and Cobie Durant inactive, the Rams turned to Robert Rochell, Grant Haley, and Derion Kendrick to lock down the secondary. It turned out to actually be a tough hand for Rochell, who only played in 8 of the 83 defensive snaps (10%). Rochell had been active for the first two games, but Haley (practice squad) and Kendrick (inactive for first two games) played 81% and 90% of the snaps. Even though the LA pass defense gave up a lot of 314 yards, they forced Kyler to take everything underneath. Kyler was only 37/58 passing. Despite being targeted a whopping 16 times, Kendrick held his own. Again, the Rams defensive scheme was to play soft in coverage, so Kendrick cannot be blamed for following his assignment. The rookie also came up with a key 4th down pass breakup and earlier in the game blanketed a deep throw that went incomplete.

Week 3 Grade: A-, Season Grade: B, Trend: Slight Upward


Nick Scott: 70.8 (-9.5), Taylor Rapp: 56.1 (-7.8), Jordan Fuller: 66.6 (INA), Terrell Burgess: 54.9, Russ Yeast: INA, Quentin Lake: PUP

The safeties were not really challenged deep in this game, so they accomplished their goal to prevent explosives. I don’t anticipate Taylor Rapp getting moved this year, the Rams will likely want to receive a small compensatory pick when he signs elsewhere this offseason. Nick Scott is a name to continue monitoring as he is playing for his next contract and could be a name the Rams entertain keeping at the right price. But LA will not break the budget on safeties when they have Jordan Fuller, Terrell Burgess, Quentin Lake, and Russ Yeast.

Week 3 Grade: B, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Neutral

Special Teams

Riley Dixon: 63.1 (-2.9), Matt Gay: 76.3 (+0.4)

Matt Gay connected on two field goals, with the second one hitting off the right upright and taking a friendly bounce.

Dixon averaged 45.0 yards on three punts.

Brandon Powell was electric in the return game showing his burst in kickoffs and punt returns.

The Rams secured the onside kick attempt, something they failed to do last year when they played Detroit.

Week 3 Grade: B+, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Moderate Upward

Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis

Raheem Morris’s game plan with four secondary pieces missing was solid and it was smart that he didn’t overthink or require too much of his inexperienced players. The defense as a whole did a fantastic job of forcing Kyler Murray to stay in the pocket. At one point, Stafford had more rushing yards than Murray which is worth a laugh and an applause to Morris’s defense.

DeCamillis finally got the return game working more efficiently, outside of a Christian Rozeboom holding call. If you recall at this time last year, the special teams were a continuous disaster week to week until the last quarter of the season.

Week 3 Grade: B- (Morris), B+ (DeCamillis)

Season Grade: C+ (Morris), C- (DeCamillis)

Trend: Slight Upward (Morris), Moderate Upward (DeCamillis)