Have the Rams Built the NFL’s Best Defense?
48 sacks. This number was tied for fourth in league last season. If the Rams defensive line wasn’t already scary enough, it’s terrifying now. Already containing Michael Brockers and arguably the league’s best defensive lineman Aaron Donald, the Rams have now added Ndamukong Suh. Since entering the league in 2010 after being drafted by the Detroit Lions, Suh has been a dominating force on the defensive side of the ball.
Teams already had trouble keeping their quarterback from hitting the ground against the Rams, but now it’s going to be even harder. The addition of Suh will cause nightmares for teams, especially a divisional rival Seattle Seahawks team who has several problems along their offensive line. Double teaming will be much harder now that there’s an additional force to worry about, leaving Suh or Donald with one on one situations. If a team does to double team one of these guys, it makes it that much easier for linebackers or safeties to blitz the open gaps.
One of the problems the Rams had on defense last season was against the run. They ranked 28th in the league after giving up 1,959 rushing yards. Suh will almost definitely help improve those numbers as another big body in the middle. As the pass rush and rush defense improves, it will translate to a better passing defense, where the Rams could also use some improvement after ranking 13th in the league.
Speaking of improving the pass defense, the Rams traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib this offseason. These two corners have been some of the best corners in football over the last few years. Since Marcus Peters entered the NFL in 2015, no player has more interceptions (19) or passes defended (55). Talib may have taken a slight step back from his prime, but he’s still been consistent and has 34 career interceptions. In addition to Talib and Peters, the Rams also signed former Packers and Pro Bowl corner, Sam Shields. Another great move by the Rams was franchise tagging safety Lamarcus Joyner, who would have been the best free agent safety available had he hit free agency.
Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Sam Shields, and Lamarcus Joyner. Sounds like a scary defense right? Have the Rams created the NFL’s best defense? On paper it certainly looks like it. The talent level of all these guys would indicate they have, but talent and putting that talent together are two different things.
It’s a good thing the Rams have a coaching staff that knows how to put talent together. In 2017, the Rams defense improved their sack total by 17. They improved the passing defense by going from 233.2 yards to 216.3 yards allowed per game. The rushing defense did take a slight step back, but that’s a reason why they went after Suh. Now they have a piece to improve that.
The makeup of this defense doesn’t strike me as a defense full of big names who will fail to make their expected impact. The acquisition of these big name players is bringing big expectations to the Rams defense, and I think they’ll live up to what we’re expecting them to be. They do have some holes they still need to fill, especially after trading linebacker Alec Ogletree, but the NFL Draft is still to come. I expect defense, specifically a linebacker to be a top priority for the Rams. Filling that spot or any spot on the defense left to fill only increases their potential.
Being the best defense in the NFL is tough regardless of what players you have, but having the right players certainly makes it easier. The Rams will be competing with the likes of the Eagles, Vikings, Jaguars and a few others for the title of best defense. Much like the the Jaguars defense carried them to a Conference Championship game last season, I expect the Rams to have the same kind of impact. This defense will be scary, especially come playoff time. Will they be the best? We’ll have to wait and see, but the potential to be the best is certainly there.