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What do Rams have left on defense without Jalen Ramsey?

A former unit of stars is now a system revolving around a single sun—Aaron Donald.

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

While general manager Les Snead and the Los Angeles Rams are preferring to use the term “remodel” instead of “rebuild” to outline the plan for the 2023 offseason, LA’s defense is undeniably undergoing a total overhaul. Clearing cap space and moving on from Leonard Floyd and trading away Jalen Ramsey leaves Los Angeles with just a single star on defense—Aaron Donald.

The offense with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp will be expected to carry next year’s team, though it may already be time to temper expectations relative to where the standard has been set for the Rams of late.

The Rams did receive a third round draft selection and young TE Hunter Long from the Miami Dolphins in return for Ramsey, so by no means is the team done adding talent to the defensive side of the football. With that said, things look fairly bleak with free agency and the draft just around the corner. Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris has his work cut out for him this season.

Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Interior defensive line

DE - Aaron Donald

DT - Marquise Copeland

NT - Bobby Brown

Depth: Jonah Williams, Larrell Murchison, Earnest Brown

The Rams’ defensive line should be a strength for as long as Donald is wearing royal and sol, and he proved at times last year that he’s still more than capable of wrecking entire game plans.

A’Shawn Robinson and Greg Gaines will hit unrestricted free agency in just a matter of days. It’s almost certain that the team is unable to bring back both, and of the two they’d be more likely to bring back Gaines—who probably has the lower price tag. Marquise Copeland, who has played a lot of important minutes for Los Angeles over the last few seasons, is a restricted free agent and can be brought back at a reasonable rate.

Perhaps the most encouraging young player on the interior defensive line is former fourth rounder Bobby Brown. Brown essentially redshirted during his rookie year in 2021 and then was suspended for the first six games of his second season. He’s capable of flashy plays and can collapse the middle of the offensive line, but consistency is a major question mark.

Larrell Murchison and Earnest Brown are both former fifth rounders that offer some upside. Jonah Williams has been a solid rotational piece for LA, though he’s more of a run stuffer than pass rusher.

A low cost veteran could be brought in for a rotational role along the interior, and a developmental rookie would also be a welcome addition to this position group.

Outside Linebacker

ROLB - Michael Hoecht

LOLB - Daniel Hardy

Depth: Keir Thomas

The number one roster need for LA heading into this offseason has always been at edge defender—and the Rams could look to add an ascending talent that can help this year as well as serve as a transitional piece to the next version of the contending roster.

Michael Hoecht broke out in a big way last year when he transitioned from the interior, and a full offseason while working on his trade at OLB may help him set a stronger edge and hold up in the run game. Four and a half sacks in six starts is impressive, especially considering the recent position change, but the Rams should view Hoecht as a rotational contributor and not as a surefire starter.

Neither Daniel Hardy or Keir Thomas did enough as rookies to be counted on in a major way in 2023. Hardy was a seventh round draft selection and Thomas was a UDFA. The Rams aren’t done adding to this position, and it’s likely that they’ll make a long-term investment in an edge defender.

NFL: JAN 01 Rams at Chargers Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Off Ball Linebacker

MLB: Ernest Jones

Depth: Christian Rozeboom, Jake Gervase, Jake Hummell

Bobby Wagner’s absence looms large in this position group, but Jones is waiting in the wings as a qualified starter in his third year. While most 3-4 defenses would feature two starting inside linebackers, the Rams’ base defense is essentially nickel. Rozeboom played in packages along the goal line last year and could have a similar role in 2023.


Outside: Robert Rochell, Derion Kendrick

Inside: Cobie Durant, Grant Haley

Depth: Shaun Jolly

Robert Rochell impressed during the limited time he was healthy as a rookie, but he largely disappeared during his sophomore campaign. Derion Kendrick may lack the athleticism to become a starting level pro corner. Cobie Durant is probably the best of the bunch, though his smaller frame projects him more favorably in the nickel than outside against bigger bodied receivers.

The Rams need long-term answers to this position, and only Durant has inspired much confidence to be part of the plan moving forward.


FS: Quentin Lake

SS: Jordan Fuller

Depth: Russ Yeast

Fuller was immediately anointed as a starter in 2020 despite being a sixth round rookie at the time. The Ohio State product has struggled with injuries, missing four games in 2020, the entire playoff stretch in 2021, and then another 14 games in 2022. He heads into this season in a career year, but can the Rams depend on him after essentially sitting out last season?

Quentin Lake was drafted in the sixth round out of UCLA, but a mysterious knee injury held him out until the last few weeks of last season when he mostly appeared on special teams. He projects as a cover safety if he can stay healthy. Russ Yeast was taken a round later, and he can develop into a key piece on special teams.

The Rams have found notable success drafting safeties in the later rounds, so perhaps Snead can work his magic at this position again in 2023.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images