The Los Angeles Rams defense has been surprisingly good through four games of the season. Given their youth many expected the team to be in the bottom for most defensive statistics before the season started, however, Los Angeles is currently ranked seventh in the NFL against the pass.
If there is an area the Rams have struggled a bit, it is along the defensive line and edge pressure, where they currently rank 14th against the run and 26th in sacks. LA may be getting some help this week though, in the return of sixth round pick Ochaun Mathis from IR. Mathis injured his hamstring in training camp this offseason, much like WR Cooper Kupp, but both have been designated to return to practice this week.
Head coach Sean McVay sounded excited to have the rookie back, saying on his weekly “Coach McVay Show”:
“We’re excited to be able to get Ochaun back out on the grass,” McVay said. “He’s a guy that, he’s got the length, he’s got the athleticism, he’s got some nuances with his ability to rush and put pressure on the quarterback. He was a guy that had really taken great steps throughout the offseason program and then had the unfortunate setback in training camp where he was able to just get going and that happened in the five-day acclimation period. But he’s attacked his rehab the right way, he looks the part. I thought he had some tangible evidence of saying it’s not just looking the part, but also being able to deliver on that – with a small body of work, but something we’re excited to be able to start that window, see exactly when that’d be that he’d be ready to return to action. Certainly wouldn’t rule out Philly this week, but again, let’s get these guys out on the field, both he and Cooper, and see what that means as it relates to this coming Sunday.”
Current starter Michael Hoecht has struggled in his move from the defensive line to OLB, specifically in coverage. The Rams would welcome some extra help at the position, while Mathis was only a sixth round pick, and probably won’t be handed the starting position right away, his size at 6’5’’ 260lbs makes his potential greater than where he was drafted, alluded to by McVay’s comment about Mathis’ length and athleticism helping to rush and put pressure on the quarterback.
In Mathis’ lone season with the Nebraska Huskers, he registered 50 tackles (five for loss), 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups after transferring from TCU.
With LA basically only being able to count on Byron Young and Hoecht at edge rusher currently, Mathis will, at a minimum, provide some great rotational depth at outside linebacker. It may also open the door for Hoecht to return to the defensive line, a position where he was able to find most of his success in 2022.
Rookies WR Puka Nacua, LG Steve Avila, OLB Byron Young, DT Kobie Turner and P Ethan Evans all looking like big players in the future of the Rams franchise going forward, it wouldn’t be shocking if LA was able to pull one more gem from the 2023 draft in the form of Mathis.