Few players on the roster of the Los Angeles Rams have been maligned as much as safety Taylor Rapp in recent years.
Selected in the second round of the 2019 draft out of Washington, Rapp was billed as a box safety who had a nose for the football and was a sure tackler. In 2019 the Rams were still deploying Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme where the two safeties had distinct roles—one was more of a center field type and the other played closer to the line of scrimmage.
But Los Angeles overhauled it’s defensive plan the following year when they decided to move on from Phillips and hire Brandon Staley, an understudy of Vic Fangio.
Underrated possible loss this off-season: Taylor Rapp— MyLASports (@BestBlogOnTurf) March 3, 2023
Solid starter in 2022 who’s an unrestricted free agent. Will be tough to bring back looking at the cap sheet but who knows ♂️ pic.twitter.com/pIzRVC9Fx8
The Fangio-Staley defense is trademarked by how often they deploy a two-high safety look, a measure taken to prevent explosive passing plays. While Phillips’ scheme required two safeties with very different skillsets, Staley valued coverage players first. After a promising rookie season, Rapp quickly found himself relegated to reserve duties in his second year—replaced in the starting lineup by a sixth round rookie in Jordan Fuller who played alongside defensive captain John Johnson. Johnson’s 2021 free agency departure to the Cleveland Browns opened up a path to playing time for Rapp. Fuller struggled with injuries and Nick Scott also emerged as a starting level player.
The end result was Rapp forced to play a role at safety that was vastly different than what the Rams envisioned at the time they drafted him, but that also lends hope to his free agent prospects. While the Fangio-Staley defense has become widely adopted across the NFL, and almost all teams are running some concepts from this coaching tree, there are still teams that could use the box safety skillset that Rapp offers. Rapp is still the reliable tackler that he was billed as coming out of college, though he’s had some missteps along the way with the Rams.
Potential free agent fits:
Shane Steichen retained Gus Bradley as head coach, and while Bradley has leveraged more two-high safety looks than he historically has, his defense is still based in cover three principles. Former Ram Rodney McLeod is a free agent, and outside of Stephon Gilmore and Kenny Moore the Colts don’t have much talent in the secondary.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs play defense different under former Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, mostly because they know their offense will put up points and they can be more aggressive and steal possessions. Kansas City is potentially losing Juan Thornhill to free agency, though they’ve already made a sizeable investment in Justin Reid. Brian Cook was the team’s second round pick a year ago, though he recorded only a single start.
Ron Rivera has survived another NFL offseason, and he’ll need a big year in order to stick around the head coaching ranks beyond 2023. Adding a savvy veteran like Rapp will help his cause, and scheme-wise it’s a decent fit.