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Is this the best compliment that Raheem Morris has ever received?

Morris will have the test of his lifetime in 2023

Los Angeles Rams Offseason Workout Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Of all the things that Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was called in 2022, “the seventh-best play caller in the NFL” was not one of them. Maybe he is, maybe it’s true, but amid the Rams torturous 5-12 season last year, Morris was often taking the brunt of the criticisms from fans, not the lion’s share of compliments from NFL media.

At least one analyst says though that he believes Morris is a top-10 defensive coordinator: PFF’s Trevor Sikkema, who ranked him seventh overall. That’s two spots ahead of former Rams defensive assistant Ejiro Evero.

Ranked behind only Bill Belichick, Lou Anarumo, Vic Fangio, Dan Quinn, Steve Spagnuolo, and Wink Martindale, Morris is going into only his third career season as a full-time defensive coordinator. He sometimes had those duties when he was the Tampa Bay Bucs head coach from 2009-2010, and took over midseason when he was on that Atlanta Falcons under Quinn, but Morris was hired to actually be a defensive coordinator for the first time by Sean McVay in 2021.

Replacing Brandon Staley, who helped the Rams achieve the number one defense in the NFL in 2020, Morris did well enough to assure that L.A. won the Super Bowl that year. The Rams ranked 17th in yards allowed and 15th in points allowed, but fifth in DVOA and sixth against the pass by DVOA.

In 2022, the Rams dropped to 19th in yards, 21st in points, plus 18th in DVOA and 24th against the pass by DVOA.

Morris has gone through the head coaching interview process again but with no luck, being passed over by the Indianapolis Colts prior to them hiring Shane Steichen. He returns to the Rams to face his biggest test yet: If he’s a top-8 play caller on defense, we’ll see it in 2023, that’s for sure.

L.A. has parted with Jalen Ramsey, Bobby Wagner, Leonard Floyd, Greg Gaines, Taylor Rapp, Nick Scott—their top-six players in snaps played in 2022—plus Troy Hill, A’Shawn Robinson, David Long, and several other role players. Their replacements are mostly made up of first-time starters, if not rookies, and most of them are undrafted or day two/day three picks. Plus, Aaron Donald, we think.

Even if the Rams can maintain a top-20 ranking, without improvement, that alone will be a mark in favor of Raheem Morris as a defensive coordinator. If the Rams do not improve, however, and get worse on defense, then there won’t be much talk about the lack of experienced talent on that side of the ball.