Following perhaps the worst “Run it Back” campaign in NFL history, many expected some drastic changes to the Los Angeles Rams. From the “stepping away” rumors of head coach Sean McVay to the idea of trading away Jalen Ramsey, change was imminent heading into this off-season.
Turned out, most of the change would come on the defensive side of the ball, as key contributors like Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, and Bobby Wagner will play elsewhere in the 2023-2024 season. More players like Greg Gaines, A’Shawn Robinson, Taylor Rapp, Troy Hill, and Nick Scott were not retained either, setting up an almost entirely new look for Raheem Morris’ group.
Given the moves (or lack thereof) the team has made, many have assumed that the Rams are “tanking” in order to secure a quarterback of the future. Hell, even I have made that assumption. Then, it occurred to me, could the Rams be trying a new manner in which to construct their roster? Surely there must be more ways to win Super Bowls than just trading all your picks for star players, right?
Well, look no further than the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Of course they have the best quarterback on the planet in Patrick Mahomes and one of the best weapons on the planet in Travis Kelce, but what about the defense? As the Super Bowl champs, that defense HAS to be star-studded, correct? Doesn’t defense win championships? You NEED stars on defense, right? Well not so fast, looking back at the way the Chiefs defense was set up, it was actually far from it.
In the 2022-2023 off-season, Kansas City lost Tyrann Mathieu, a cornerstone to their defense, a certified difference maker. Sound familiar? Furthermore, they entered the season with a defense littered with young guys (especially in the secondary), all surrounding one of the best defensive tackles in the world in Chris Jones. Are you connecting the dots yet?
Many assumed that the Chiefs defense would struggle with so many young guys and the loss of Mathieu, but that was far from the truth. Last season, the Chiefs were ranked 10th in against the run and 19th against the pass, not bad for a young group. In Super Bowl 57, the Chiefs had 4 rookies and a young linebacker in Nick Bolton starting in the game, a game in which the latter has 9 tackles and scored a touchdown.
Other than Chris Jones and maybe Frank Clark, the average football fan would have a tough time naming the starters on that Super Bowl winning defense. You know who the average fan can name? Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, two superstars that, with a good o-line, carried their team to victory after victory en route to a championship.
The Rams are going to try their own version of that this season with Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp as the catalyst. Offensive line will be priority numero uno in the NFL Draft, and the Rams will need to hit and grab a plug-and-play guy to start up front. Heath will dictate how well that unit performs, and it cannot get worse than what it was last season. Not only that, but the team will also need to hit on a DB or two to help sure up the secondary, just as the Chiefs did a year prior.
Defensively, it’ll be Aaron Donald and a bunch of young guns, similar to that of Chris Jones and his teammates on the Chiefs. Ernest Jones will be the young linebacker in the middle, with four very young DBs behind him, just like the Chiefs did. The Rams lost their do-it-all DB Jalen Ramsey, just like the Chiefs lost their do-it-all DB in Tyrann Mathieu. There is definitely a pattern that I am picking up, and honestly it gets me excited just thinking about it.
The “all-in” approach is very fun don’t get me wrong, but this approach seems much more sustainable if done right. Andy Reid’s mastermind played a big part in what the Chiefs did last season, and the Rams have a mastermind of their own in Sean McVay. This may disappoint some Rams fans, but this team is not trying to lose, they are trying out a new way to win.