One of the biggest question marks this season when it comes to the Los Angeles Rams is with their defense. Outside of Aaron Donald, much of the talent is very much unproven. It’s because of this that many in the NFL media are so down on the Rams defense. In many cases, the Rams defense is ranked as the worst unit in the NFL. There have been some hyperbolic statements that this might be one of the worst defenses of the last 20 years.
As Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris put perfectly while speaking to the media last week,
“When you don’t know the people, obviously, you’re going to say they’re the worst secondary, they got the worst whatever, but that’s part of the challenge is to go out there and let somebody arise to the occasion and go out there and make those things.”
It’s difficult to project how unknown players are going to perform. That doesn’t mean that they can’t perform. It’s part of what makes the NFL difficult, especially when it comes to the draft. However, it’s relevant in other areas of team-building as well.
As I’ve stated previously this offseason, it’s hard to see a defense with Aaron Donald being one of, if not the worst, defense in the NFL. Still, it takes 11 players for success to happen in the NFL. Outside of Donald, who is the most important player on the Rams defense?
1. CB Cobie Durant
The Rams are expecting a lot out of Durant in 2023 and because of that, he is arguably the most important player on the defense outside of Donald. He won’t necessarily be asked to replace Jalen Ramsey as that would be unfair to any player. However, he will be asked to play the star role which handles a lot of responsibility in the secondary.
Durant will be asked to switch from inside-outside responsibilities. There will be times where he’s asked to drop back like a safety and others when he’ll be asked to blitz. In run packages, you may see Durant line up in the box like a linebacker. That’s the role of the star. He’s an extremely versatile player and should be able to handle it. Still, a player with that much responsibility is going to be integral to the overall success of that unit.
2. LB Ernest Jones
You could really put Durant and Jones as a 1a/1b in terms of how important they are to the Rams defense. This is a big year for Jones as he steps in to replace Bobby Wagner. He was probably ready for a full-time role last season. However, a season learning from one of the best linebackers of all-time certainly didn’t hurt his development.
Jones will be responsible for much of the communication on the defense as he’ll be the one wearing the green dot. The third-year linebacker will be taking on much more of a leadership role in 2023 and with that comes a lot of responsibility. That leadership role in itself, added onto the fact that he’ll be wearing the green dot, makes him one of the most important players on the Rams defense.
3. S Jordan Fuller
After nearly a year and a half of injuries, it’s been forgotten how important Fuller was to the Rams defense early in his career. As a sixth-round pick, Fuller immediately made an impact and became an important part of the Rams secondary. He was very good in year two until he got hurt right before the playoff run and then spent most of last season injured as well.
In year two, Fuller was given the green dot as a safety. That’s not something that’s seen very often in the NFL as this is usually reserved for the middle linebacker. Still, this was a responsibility given to Fuller. He won’t have that responsibility heading into a contract year, but he will have a lot to prove coming off of an injury-riddled season. He’s the most experienced player in the Rams secondary outside of Ahkello Witherspoon. However, Fuller is undoubtedly the most experienced in the system. It will be important for the former Ohio State safety to stay healthy because the Rams will be relying on him for their defense to succeed in 2023.