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Trying to make sense of the Rams defense after Week 4 of training camp

Run defense shows some minor improvement versus the Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Rams
Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson breaks up a pass
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams took on a Sin City attitude for Week 4 of 2023 training camp by hosting the Las Vegas Raiders in two mid-week joint practices and the second preseason game of the season. The 34-17 losing score mirrored L.A.’s Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Las Vegas did its damage via the airways, completing 27 of 44 passes for 342 yards on their way to 440 total yards on 70 plays. The Rams did shore up their run defense, allowing 98 yards on 25 carries. Over the two preseason games, L.A. has relinquished 759 total yards, 312 rushing and 447 passing.

Rams Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris is unfazed about the numbers. In his mid-week presser Morris said,

“... And you know how I feel about numbers, they’re for losers, right? It’s more about the process of going through the mechanics of it all, setting real blocks, how hard you hit a block, how much you can engage into a guy before you can shed and release and get off... It’s really more about our technique, it’s about us, it’s about our process, and going through that process to get us better.”

Most of the reports from the Rams/Raiders joint practices were very limited in detail. Most of the beat writers and blog writers shade their reports towards their home team. These workouts are have very little live hitting and very quick whistles. Most of this week’s defensive update is based on the preseason game unless noted.

Defensive line

The Rams front was better against the run, but the Raiders came out to work on their passing game. By my rough count, they lined up in 5-2-4 31 times, on 1st downs and most short yardage plays. They switched to a 4-2-5 on plays that would be considered passing downs and in the red zone.

Marquise Copeland had another tough game, getting pushed off the line on a regular basis. Bobby Brown got a shout out from Sean McVay for improved play. He did get penetration on a run play for a loss and stopped another for a two yard gain, but more often than not was handled easily. Jonah Williams created some pressure and got very close without getting a sack. He showed a sweet spin move on one pressure. The others were generally solid versus the run, but did not threaten the quarterback.


Reports from the Rams/Raiders joint practice were that Byron Young stood out. He didn’t play in the preseason game and is likely done. Hoecht played pretty well against the run. I don’t see many other pass rush moves other than bullrushes from the edges, are they slow playing it? It speaks volumes that that Keir Thomas and Zach VanValkenburg are arguably playing the best of all the edges.

Off ball linebacker

Rozeboom and Hummel started and played most of the 1st half. There were only a couple of instances where a safety was subbed in for Rozeboom, on 3rd and long scenarios. The Raiders attacked the flat with success early in the game, that’s the weak spot in the Rams (or any) match quarters defense.

One thing I noticed with Rozeboom is when crashes down to fill gaps. He’s very aggressive and smacks hard, but does not use his hands to shed and is basically either locked up or tries to slither around the blocker, Even though he gets good push into the backfield, he doesn’t make tackles for loss. Hummel had another solid, not flashy game, excepting the touchdown interception return.

Jaiden Woodbey was first off the bench towards the mid-point and partnered to start the 2nd half with DeAndre Square. Kelechie Anyalebechie and Ryan Smenda mopped up.


This group stayed generally in two-deep and stayed back there. The Raiders did take a fair amount of long shots down the sideline, but the safeties, as deep as there were, never got over to help out. Early in the game, they seemed a bit slow to react. An example was on the Raiders first drive, Jonah Williams got into Jimmy Garoppolo’s face. He made a poor decision and tossed a floater up for grabs, Russ Yeast seemed slow to break on the ball and it went for a medium length completion.

John Johnson looked active and made a few tackles. Quentin Lake was moved around the defense. I thought his play was a mixed bag. Not up to all the camp hype he’s getting. Jason Taylor didn’t play at all, no reports on possible injuries. Quindell Johnson made one outstanding play, busting down from safety on a swing pass and tackling the receiver short of the line to gain. Good angle, solid hit, an NFL play. Ingle and Torrence did not make much impact. Neither played bad, just need to get it going for any move up the depth chart.


Hallelujah! Hells bells! There was some press/man. Is it just some preseason dream sequence? It kind of looked like the Rams traditional match quarters zone defense, but they were predominantly matching up with individual receivers and not dropping into a space. Maybe there’s been more press in the Raheem Morris years and I didn’t notice, but vs. the Raiders they ofttimes used press on one side of the field.

Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson had another good outing, as did Robert Rochell. DeCobie Durant, Ahkello Witherspoon, and Derion Kendrick did not play. I thought Cam McCutcheon showed some promise as an aggressive press/man outside corner. Jordan Jones was outside, in the slot and at deep safety. Timarcus Davis struggled again and the others did mop up work.

Final thoughts

The Raiders have improved their offense and played with consistency and discipline.While I don’t believe they have upgraded at quarterback, the wide receiver and offensive line groups are much better. When/if Josh Jacobs comes back, this offense will move the ball.

The Rams were able to handle the run game when Las Vegas used a zone attack. When it came to the I-formation iso run game behind a fullback, L.A. was bullied. The L.A. defensive plan is quite basic and undoubtedly the regular season scheme will be more multiple, but I’m afraid the defensive line’s lack of size is going to a point of contention for fans all season.

Another week with little quarterback pressure without the help of the blitz. There were some individual flashes and “close, but no cigar” plays, but still no consistent pass rush. Keir Thomas got himself another sack, but it was a coverage sack, not where he beat his opponent off the line.

Coverage went pretty much as you would expect, mostly match quarters and cover3. The “starters” played well and the lion’s share of Raider pass yardage was against guys who are not going to make the team. Aiden O’Connell has a pretty good short/mid range game and little pressure allowed him 163 passing yards in the 2nd half.

Trending up: VanValkenburg had another good outing, as did Hodges-Tomlinson. Jonah Williams created some early game QB pressure. John Johnson’s addition will pay dividends.

Trending down: Timarcus Davis had another tough game. Gave up 130+ receiving, had a pass interference penalty in the red zone, and lost outside contain (missed tackle, too) on a long punt return. Marquise Copeland was again pushed around on the defensive line. Nick Hampton is getting plenty of snaps but not showing progress.

It’s tough to say the defense improved when they gave up 440 yards. But...

Even though the defense was a bit bullied by the downhill run game, they were much improved against the zone, containing the edge and defending off tackle. Looking forward into the regular season, holding teams to less than 100 yards and under 4.0 per carry would be a big step.

Of the 54 points allowed by the defense, 38 have come in the final drive of the 1st half and 2nd halves against the back end of the depth chart. Same deal with total yards 469 of 759 were gained in that same period.

But, numbers are for losers, right?