Whether or not Sean McVay will choose to sit his starters in the 2023 preseason or not, who those players will be for the Los Angeles Rams is not something that can be known by anyone. Not even Sean McVay.
For anyone arguing that the Rams should sit their starters on defense, please let us know—and Sean McVay too—who the hell they are. You know who the Rams are starting on defense? That’s amazing! Because this whole time I’ve been stumped.
To keep playing with the potential answers to that question, I wanted to compare the most-experienced defense against the least-experienced defense. You could go a lot of ways with the least-experienced defense, choosing any one of their rookies and undrafted free agents, but the most-experienced is straightforward: Aaron Donald has experience.
Almost nobody else does.
So I went by career snap counts and then if you didn’t make the most-experienced depth chart, you were eligible for the least-experienced. Here’s how they compare.
Rams Most-Experienced Defense
DL - Aaron Donald, Marquise Copeland, Larrell Murchison, Jonah Williams
LB - Ernest Jones, Christian Rozeboom
EDGE - Michael Hoecht, Keir Thomas
CB - Ahkello Witherspoon, Derion Kendrick, Cobie Durant
S - Jordan Fuller, Russ Yeast
With 7,603 career regular season snaps, Aaron Donald has more playing time than the rest of the defense combined and it’s not even close.
Marquise Copeland is next on the DL with 453 snaps (342 in 2022), followed by Larrell Murchison at 439 (54 with the Rams last season) and Jonah Williams is fourth at 437 snaps (341 in 2022). Bobby Brown III and Earnest Jones IV are well behind.
Ernest Jones is the only linebacker on the roster who has more than 10 career snaps, as he has 1,163 although he was essentially benched at points in 2022. Rozeboom has seven career snaps and Jake Hummel has zero career snaps on defense, but ONE career snap on offense. He’s the third-most experienced linebacker on L.A.’s roster.
Michael Hoecht has 518 career snaps on defense (408 in 2022) over two seasons, but not all of those have come as an edge player which is reportedly where he’s been training all offseason. Preseason standout Keir Thomas had 71 snaps as a rookie and Daniel Hardy had 41.
Recently-signed Ahkello Witherspoon is one of the oldest players on the defense at age 28. He has spent six seasons in the NFL but the Rams are his fourth team since 2020. He has played in 2,872 snaps, including 248 with the Steelers last season. Witherspoon reportedly allowed four touchdowns last year despite only being targeted 29 times.
Next to Witherspoon, you’d have Derion Kendrick, who had 483 snaps as a rookie sixth round pick in 2022. Then Durant narrowly edged out Robert Rochell, 281 snaps to 260 snaps. Of every other cornerback on the roster combined, there is zero career snaps.
At safety, Jordan Fuller brings 1,827 career snaps. But he only played 91 snaps in 2022 and I haven’t heard talk of him getting back “the green dot duties” this season, though maybe I missed that. Yeast is an easy pick for the next-most experienced safety on the roster at 113 career snaps.
Any defense with Aaron Donald here is going to be better than one without Donald, but the Rams surely might like some of their options more with regards to the defensive players who are less experienced and potentially offer more than some of their recent picks that didn’t pan out.
Rams Least-Experienced Defense
DL - Kobie Turner (3rd round), Bobby Brown III, Earnest Brown IV, Desjuan Johnson (7th)
LB - DeAndre Square (UDFA), Jaiden Woodbey (UDFA)
EDGE - Byron Young (3rd round), Nick Hampton (5th round)
CB - Robert Rochell, Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (6th round), Shaun Jolly
S - Quentin Lake, Jason Taylor II (7th round)
Some of these players will be starting in 2023, whether that’s in Week 1 or midseason. Their combined number of career snaps is 260 (Rochell) + 186 (BBIII) + 136 (EB4) + 63 (Lake) for a grand total of 645.
Turner has drawn rave reviews from Rams coaches in the offseason and could be a Week 1 starter, as could THT, Young, Hampton, and even one of those safeties.