THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — With the promise of an improved offense, the Los Angeles Rams‘ defense is getting ready for an encore efficiency.
Last season, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey spurred the unit to the highest of the NFL.
Both star playmakers return after a ten-6 season that resulted in divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. So does outdoors linebacker Leonard Floyd, who signed a 4-12 months, $64 million deal after a profession-greatest marketing campaign by which he tallied 10.5 sacks.
But gone is defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who inherited a defense that ranked ninth in effectivity and improved it to first in his solely season earlier than departing to turn into the Los Angeles Chargers‘ head coach. Enter defense coordinator Raheem Morris, who held the identical put up final season with the Atlanta Falcons for 5 video games earlier than being promoted to interim head coach.
Morris takes over a defense that allowed a league-low 18.5 factors in 2020. He is predicted to take care of what Staley put in, together with the bottom 3-4 scheme, but will add a few of his personal wrinkles to form a unit that may propel the Rams to Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium subsequent February.
“I don’t think it’s pressure,” Morris stated at his introductory information convention when requested about taking on the league’s prime-ranked defense. “I think it’s more of an opportunity.”
Last season, the Rams ranked No. 1 in passing yards allowed per sport at 190.7. They ranked No. 3 towards the run, permitting solely 91.3 dashing yards per sport.
However, there’s room for enchancment, particularly at creating turnovers. The Rams compelled 22 turnovers final season, which ranked tenth, and intercepted 14 passes, rating twelfth.
Entering the NFL draft final month, Rams coach Sean McVay stated the Rams didn’t have any obvious holes that wanted to be stuffed. Along with Donald, Ramsey and Floyd, the Rams additionally return cornerback Darious Williams, whose coming off a breakthrough season that included 4 interceptions, and defensive deal with Sebastian Joseph-Day, a former sixth-spherical choose who’s coming into his third season as a starter.
But a few of their key playmakers have departed.
Four defensive starters left this offseason, together with veteran defensive lineman Michael Brockers — who was traded to Detroit — outdoors linebacker Samson Ebukam, cornerback Troy Hill and security John Johnson III.
The Rams used 5 of their 9 draft picks to pick defensive gamers: South Carolina linebacker Ernest Jones, Texas A&M defensive lineman Bobby Brown III, Central Arkansas cornerback Robert Rochell, Northwestern defensive lineman Earnest Brown IV and Concordia-St. Paul outdoors linebacker Chris Garrett.
“You look at each of them and there’s a vision that we have for them and how they fit, how they provide value for a football team,” stated McVay, who’s coming into his fifth season as coach.
A 3rd-spherical choose, Jones is predicted to compete for enjoying time in a linebacking corps that has struggled with well being and depth the previous two seasons.
“I’m going to deliver whatever they tell [me] and the tasks they put in front of me,” Jones stated. “It’s going to get handled on my end.”
The Rams used two of their picks to herald reinforcements for the defensive position.
Bobby Brown III, a fourth-spherical choose, admitted within the moments after he was drafted that Donald was amongst his favourite gamers. Coming off a 13.5-sack season, Donald will try and make a fast research of Brown as the 2 attempt to construct a chemistry that Donald constructed over seven seasons taking part in alongside Brockers, a primary-spherical choose in 2012. Their first assembly was a constructive step in that route.
When you lastly get to satisfy @AaronDonald97.
Wholesome content material solely @bobbyiii5 🥺 pic.twitter.com/aZ2XCTkp8s
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) May 17, 2021
“Bobby is a large human being, very athletic, very strong,” Rams normal supervisor Les Snead stated. “So, definitely felt like he was worthy of picking there at the start of the fourth round based on that skillset.”
And Earnest Brown IV, a fifth-spherical choice, has the flexibility to play a number of spots like former Rams defensive lineman Morgan Fox, a key position participant who signed with Carolina in free company.
“He’s someone that can add versatility of maybe playing inside and also outside a little bit,” Snead stated of Brown IV.
The Rams’ rookie minicamp was extra an orientation and much less soccer instruction. The rookies can be thrown into the combination throughout voluntary group organized actions, which received underway this week, and the Rams are scheduled to carry necessary minicamp the second week of June.
As Morris’ defense begins to take form, a number of key questions should be answered by means of the offseason: Who will step as much as rush the passer reverse of Floyd? Who will take over because the sign-caller — a task beforehand held by Johnson? And how will Donald and Ramsey be deployed to maintain opponents guessing?
Second-year professional Terrell Lewis and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will compete to earn the beginning spot on the sting. Morris might choose to ship indicators in by way of linebacker or security — maybe Taylor Rapp, who is predicted to fill in for Johnson, who signed with Cleveland in free company.
And as for Donald and Ramsey, look ahead to Morris to make the most of their abilities in the same approach that Staley did, lining them up in typically surprising spots or formations to maximise their capability and enable them to make performs on the soccer.
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