People say defense wins championships and for the Los Angeles Rams, this may be the case after the offseason they have had so far.
The Rams added three former All-Pros to their defense this offseason in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Ndamukong Suh to try to improve on their 19th ranked defense in 2017. 2017 AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is looking to repeat on his award, as there is video of him training with fake knives. But even with talent, it still needs to be put together with a proper system in place. For the Rams, they have the proper coach in Wade Phillips to give the defense what it needs.
Phillips was hired by the Rams last season as their defensive coordinator after Rams’ coach Sean McVay lured him away from the Denver Broncos. With the offseason moves the Rams have made to improve their defense, they mirror the Broncos 2015 Super Bowl team in terms of talent. That team had Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr., Malik Jackson, Derek Wolfe and new LA Ram Talib, dominating opposing offenses.
The Broncos defense ranked first in total yards allowed (283.1 per game), passing yards allowed (199.6 per game), sacks (52), and was fourth in rushing yards allowed (83.6 per game). The Phillips led Broncos’ defense was able to achieve those numbers due to his willingness to fit his defensive scheme around the strengths of his players.
“Wade is brilliant,” said Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall to USA Today. “You mix his scheme with great players, and you see the results.”
His 3-4 defense is suited to play fast, get to the quarterback and create turnovers. Donald was able to tie his career-high in sacks with 11, even after he held out of training camp and missed the opening game last season. It’s the reason Lamarcus Joyner was able to move to safety from cornerback and tie the team-high with three interceptions after having zero the first three years of his career. With with Suh, Peters and Talib, Phillips has the opportunity to improve the Rams 48 sack total and 18 interceptions.
In 2017, Suh had 43 total pressures, including 30 quarterback hurries, eight hits and five sacks with the Miami Dolphins. He ranked 21st in pass-rush productivity at 6.8 among qualifying interior defenders. He has not reached at least 10 sacks since his rookie season, but may be able to break that streak thanks to his new partner in Donald drawing attention for Suh to make plays.
Donald ranked first in pass-rush productivity for interior defenders (14.8), logging 66 quarterback hurries, 13 hits and 11 sacks. The Rams will want Suh and Donald to create pressure on the quarterback so their two new starting cornerbacks can intercept the ball.
Peters and Talib are the definition of ball hawks at the cornerback position. Peters has led the NFL in interceptions since 2015 with 19, and Talib ranks fourth in career active interception leaders (34) and fourth all-time interceptions returned for touchdowns (10). The Rams’ new cornerback duo will stay on their respective side of the field unless the team sees a ‘specific matchup’ according to McVay.
Both players look to play energized as Peters is in a contract year and Talib, 32, can show people around the league age is nothing but a number.
The Rams are coming off a season where their offense led the league in points per game (29.9) and 10th in yards per game (361.5). If Phillips is able to turn the Rams into an elite level defense, they may very well be the NFC participant in the Super Bowl next season.
Phillips will have the first opportunity to put his defense together on April 16th when the Rams begin their voluntary offseason program. This is definitely exciting times in Los Angeles.