The storyline heading into the Week 18 showdown between the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks was Bobby Wagner’s return to Lumen Field. Unfortunately, the Rams were not able to give Wagner a win, but the inside linebacker was influential to the team’s focus and morale during a losing season. Going into the offseason, LA will look to add depth to the defensive side of the ball to aid Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey.
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 18 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.
For Week 18’s offensive grades, click here.
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
Greg Gaines: 59.1 (-0.9), Marquise Copeland: 68.3 (+0.8), Bobby Brown III: 62.8 (-4.9), Jonah Williams: 53.6 (-1.2), TJ Carter: 70.6 (PS) Larrell Murchison: 56.2 (-0.8), Earnest Brown IV: 46.0 (+0.5), Aaron Donald: 90.5* (INA), A’Shawn Robinson: 64.4 (IR)
The Rams defensive line closed out the season by allowing Austin Ekeler and Kenneth Walker to rush for 100 yards each after not allowing a 100-yard rusher all season. Greg Gaines was limited to just 26% of the defensive snaps because of an injury.
Eric Henderson also experimented with using Earnest Brown IV (77%), Jonah Williams (57%), and Marquise Copeland (57%) as his starters. Copeland was the only one that had any efficiency at defending both the run and pass.
The Rams will need to find a player this offseason that can rush the passer from the defensive line. Calijah Kancey out of Pittsburgh may not be Aaron Donald, but he could be used on 2nd/3rd down situations.
Week 18 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C, Trend: Neutral
Bobby Wagner: 90.7* (-0.2), Ernest Jones: 62.7 (-1.5), Travin Howard: INA, Christian Rozeboom: 77.0 (-2.8), Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (IR)
Wagner was the clear-cut number one player on the team this year. His team MVP award was warranted. If he plays next year the way he did in his age 32 season then the Rams have a chance to rebound.
Ernest Jones did not have a great second season after playing really well down the stretch during the Super Bowl run. He admitted as much and has vowed to come back better. Part of the reason is that I think the Rams need to carve out a better role for him. He showed great skill in being able to rush the passer.
Fresh off a Super Bowl, Ernest Jones looked to improve after a spectacular showing on the big stage and after a good rookie season. Jones ended his 2nd season in the NFL with 109 TOT, 1 FF, and 1 INT. pic.twitter.com/B65bIxcfvF— Famously Garnet Sports (@FamouslyGarnet) January 9, 2023
Week 18 Grade: B-, Season Grade: A-, Trend: Neutral
Leonard Floyd: 65.7 (-3.2), Mike Hoecht: 65.3 (-2.9), Daniel Hardy: 52.1 (+0.3), Keir Thomas: 56.3 (-1.1), Brayden Thomas: 60.4 (PS)
Leonard Floyd was a tale of two halves. In the first half of the season, he only notched two sacks. In the final nine games, he registered 7 sacks. He was a completely different player when Raheem Morris dialed up pressures for him to go after the quarterback. I’m still not sure why Morris used him in off ball coverage, but every coach has their reasoning.
Leonard Floyd battled injuries and started the first 6 games with 9 pressures and no sacks but finished with over 50 pressures and 9 sacks on the year even with AD out since week 10— Koll_0ne (@Koll_0ne) January 9, 2023
Mike Hoecht will be a restricted free agent this offseason, but I expect the Rams to make him a priority and will re-sign him to shore up their lack of talent at the edge position.
Week 18 Grade: B, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 86.4* (+3.0), Troy Hill: 65.4 (+0.6), David Long Jr.: 53.1 (DNP), Robert Rochell: 49.5 (DNP), Derion Kendrick: 43.7 (DNP), Cobie Durant: 73.3 (-4.9), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)
Despite allowing a career high in touchdowns, Jalen Ramsey ended his 2022 season in style. Ramsey picked off Geno Smith twice, with both intended passes for DK Metcalf. #5 also collected five tackles. His goal line stop to force Kenneth Walker was impressive and highlighted his speed and range.
The all-pro corner back finished with a Top 3 PFF grade at the position despite a down year. With the Rams missing Aaron Donald and multiple secondary pieces missing extended time, Ramsey has proven that he has more elite years left in the tank.
Week 18 Grade: A-, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Slight Upward
Nick Scott: 55.0 (-0.4), Taylor Rapp: 76.2 (+3.3), Russ Yeast: 57.4 (+8.2), Quentin Lake: 71.7 (+5.7), T.J. Carter: 54.6 (-5.4), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR)
The way that Taylor Rapp played in Week 18 was the way that Rams fans wanted to see him play over the last four years. He tallied five tackles (three solo) and two tackles for loss en route to an 85.1 PFF grade.
Russ Yeast got his first start as a Ram but was forced out due to a pulmonary contusion. He added three tackles and one for a loss.
Quentin Lake showcased strong ability in his first extended look. He led the team in tackles and recorded his first sack. He nearly brought in his first interception had he not gotten the jitters.
Key Defensive Players: #LARvsSEA 1/8— Tahoe (@scheftnuts) January 9, 2023
Jalen Ramsey: 2ints, 5tkls, 1stf, 3pd
Quentin Lake: 1sck, 8tkls, 1pd
Bobby Wagner: 7tkls, 2stfs
Leonard Floyd: 1sck, 5tkls
2023 will feature a new wave at safety with Rapp and Scott likely to leave in free agency. Jordan Fuller, Quentin Lake, and Russ Yeast are expected to fill the three spots in passing situations.
Week 18 Grade: B, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight Upward
Riley Dixon: 79.5* (-0.6), Matt Gay: 90.0 (+0.7)
Matt Gay was nearly flawless all season, finishing 28/30 (93.3%) on field goal attempts with his only misses coming from 51 and 61. He was 31/32 on his XP attempts.
Against Seattle, Riley Dixon punted six time for 286 yards (47.7 avg) with two touchbacks and three punts inside the SEA 20. His longest punt was 67 yards. Had Robert Rochell not botched two perfectly placed punts by Dixon is average would have been significantly higher.
Week 18 Grade: A-, Season Grade: A, Trend: Neutral
Coordinators - Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Based on the talent level, Raheem Morris produced an underwhelming defense. The Rams were the 21st ranked (22.6 ppg). If the Rams want more out of their start players, they will need to give their star players quality help. I believe rebuilding the front seven of the defense should be the main focus. Aaron Donald has long needed a running mate to rush the passer. He was at his best when Von Miller joined the team. Giving him a defensive end that can generate one on one pressure on the interior and an edge rusher to collapse the pocket should get the Rams back into top 10 contention. Look no further than the depth on the Eagles who devastated opposing teams with 70 sacks.
DeCamillis’s entire special teams cast are free agents. Matt Gay, Matt Orzech, Riley Dixon, and Brandon Powell need new contracts. Gay and Dixon had career years and should cash in. LA will hope to retain at least Matt Gay after two consistent years as the place kicker.
Week 18 Grade: B (Morris), A+ (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C (Morris), A (DeCamillis)
Trend: Slight Upward (Morris), Slight Upward (DeCamillis)
Is Edge rusher or Defensive End more important to add?
This poll is closed