The Los Angeles Rams are still in search of a defensive coordinator following Raheem Morris’ departure to the Atlanta Falcons. Following Dennard Wilson’s hire by the Tennessee Titans, the Rams now have just two outside candidates remaining in their pool. One of those candidates is of course Brandon Staley and the other is Cowboys defensive line coach, Aden Durde. Durde was the first coach that the Rams requested to interview, meaning that he was clearly somebody that Sean McVay thought highly of as a potential candidate.
Multiple people with knowledge of the process said Green Bay, LA Rams and Atlanta asked to speak to Cowboys DL coach Aden Durde for their vacant defensive coordinator position.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 26, 2024
The question is obviously, how serious of a candidate is he, especially when compared to someone like Brandon Staley who has experience. Durde wasn’t on a lot of people’s lists coming into the interview process and yet was the first person that the Rams requested to interview.
Durde comes from the Dan Quinn coaching tree as that’s who he’s coached under since joining the NFL in 2018. The Cowboys defensive line coach started as the defensive quality control coach with the Atlanta Falcons and then was promoted to outside linebackers coach in 2020. It’s fair to note that Durde and Morris were together in Atlanta on the defensive staff. Durde followed Quinn to Dallas where he has been the defensive line coach since 2021.
In short, he’s a Quinn disciple and would likely bring with him many elements of that scheme. With that, there’s going to be a lot of Cover 3 principles in the defense. The Rams ran Cover 3 on 32.6 percent of their defensive snaps this season. Comparatively, the Cowboys ran Cover 3 on 41.8 percent of their snaps which was the ninth highest rate in the NFL. According to Cody Alexander of Match Quarters,
“Quinn’s coaching lineage is heavy on the Cover 3 side...Though Quinn carries more of a zone-match Cover 3 philosophy, he loves to run Cover 1. Until this past season, Quinn has run man-free coverages as a dominant scheme alongside Cover 3. Going from man-match to zone principles helps Quinn keep the playbook simple.”
If Durde carries some of that same philosophy as a defensive coordinator, that simplicity for a young defense and what will be a young secondary could end up being beneficial. However, that doesn’t mean that the Cowboys haven’t also made things chaotic for opposing offenses as they’ve been one of the best defenses in the NFL over the past two seasons. Joey Ickes over at Blogging the Boys described the Cowboys defense below,
“But how has Quinn crafted one to the top units in the league? It boils down to two words—chaotic simplicity...Quinn has been able to create this chaos using mostly four or five man pressures and very traditional and sound coverage structures. In fact, of the 207 blitzes the Cowboys ran against the pass in 2022, over 80% were only five man rushes, and another 10% were “simulated” pressures, where a non-defensive lineman rushed, but only four total players actually rushed the passer...Plays like this exist all over the Cowboys tape, defensive linemen slanting, twisting, and stunting in every imaginable direction, combined with individuals winning their matchups, and the result is chaos for offenses.”
That sounds similar to what the Rams did this past season to create pressure. Morris used a lot of simulated pressures with Ernest Jones and it’s why he became one of the best blitzing linebackers in the NFL. This caused the Rams to drop players like Michael Hoecht into coverage, but it created chaos. The stunts along the defensive line are certainly things that Durde would have had a hand in when it comes to the scheme.
the Cowboys pass rush recreating the Fury Road in the pocket pic.twitter.com/VjUKTc0GRv— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 3, 2022
Under Durde’s coaching, players like Osa Odighizuwa who was a third round pick became a staple along the Cowboys defensive line. Dorance Armstrong was a fourth-round pick and had a career-year this season in Dallas.
The Rams’ best players on defense are on the defensive line when you consider Aaron Donald and Kobie Turner. Bringing in a coach like Durde may be beneficial for someone like Turner’s development as he looks to build on a strong rookie campaign.
On his coaching style, Justin Morris from Blogging the Boys said,
“Durde clearly has a “take no prisoners” type of mentality. His words are distinct due to his intonation, but he doesn’t mince them, and each is used effectively and with force. He’s a tough love kind of mentor, but that doesn’t minimize the visible love that’s present from him to his mentees. He wants success, his knowledge about the game is impressive, and it’s clear that Durde will accept nothing less than that from his big guys in the trenches.”
Durde has been one of the faster rising defensive coaches in the NFL over the last five years as a native of the hybrid and pre/post-snap motion modern defensive era. He was the NFL’s first full-time British coach as he joined the Falcons after leading NFL UK head of football development previously.
With the success of the Cowboys defense, it makes sense that McVay would at least want to get some insight and the pick the brain of someone who was on that defensive staff. While Durde is a fast-rising coach, he may still be a year or two away from being coordinator-ready.