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By: Steven Ridings
How many more games should LA play before giving rookies snaps?
The Los Angeles Rams defense picked a tough day to let up 27 points when Sean McVay had pre-planned for the defense to win the game. The run defense was its usual stout self, but the pass rush and secondary struggled to expose a limited Colt McCoy. Even Aaron Donald couldn’t elevate the defense like he has in years past. At 3-6, there could be changes on the defense to allow young players at opportunity. Which players could be looking at a demotion?
In order to gain a sense of the performance of the roster and its direction, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded out all the players from the Week 10 contest. Using the PFF grades and the eye test of watching the game, I will provide a weekly evaluation and grade of the defensive positions.
Los Angeles Rams | NFL roster by position | PFF
Weekly Grade: Grade for that respective week
Season Grade: Grade for the position over the course of the season
Trend: Direction of the position group from last week to this week
* Denotes player is Top 3 at position in NFL
Aaron Donald: 90.3 (-0.2), A’Shawn Robinson: 64.5 (-2.3), Greg Gaines: 57.7 (INA), Marquise Copeland: 67.9 (-2.9), Bobby Brown III: 60.6, Mike Hoecht: 64.8 (+0.4), Jonah Williams: 42.4 (+7.1)
I wrote on Monday that Aaron Donald’s 2022 season shows signs of decline. I am not saying that he is dropping off. He is still the best in the NFL at the position. But the defensive tackle needs help along the defensive line for next year. Stacking the defensive line with bodies that can win one-on-one in passing situations. We saw the effect when Von Miller came to LA last year.
Week 10 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Slight Downward
Bobby Wagner: 88.8* (+1.7), Ernest Jones: 73.7 (+0.0), Travin Howard: DNP, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP)
The one positive in 2022 has been the play of Bobby Wagner. He has a run defense grade of 90.2 and a pass coverage grade of 74.7. The Rams run defense is ranked fourth, only allowing 96.1 yards per game. More impressively, it’s been the run defense on the road that has allowed just 69.7 yards. Wagner has collected three sacks which is two shy of his career best.
Week 10 Grade: B+, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Slight Upward
Leonard Floyd: 65.4 (-1.9), Justin Hollins: 54.4 (-2.3), Terrell Lewis: 48.8 (+0.7), Daniel Hardy: IR
Kenneth Arthur recently just wrote about Leonard Floyd’s usage this year. It is hard to justify using $22,000,000 on Floyd in 2023 if he isn’t rushing the passer. The Rams run defense is elite, but I hope you can find a cheaper alternative that can defend the run, but also rush the passer.
Justin Hollins (51% snap share) had one quarterback hit and two pressures. Should LA bring back Hollins on the minimum? Terrell Lewis (62%) only had one quarterback hit.
Watch Terrell Lewis here and tell me this is effort. Aaron Donald is double-teamed and Lewis is completely free to slide and plug this hole. Dude doesn’t even try. pic.twitter.com/oOidU0pkGU
— Mike Winchell (@mrmikewinch) November 13, 2022
One also has to wonder about Thad Bogardus’s job security with this unit. Leonard Floyd blitzing less? Terrell Lewis with not much to show in his pro development?
Week 10 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Neutral
Jalen Ramsey: 84.1 (-2.6), Troy Hill: 74.3 (-5.5), David Long Jr.: 57.9 (+0.0), Robert Rochell: 58.1 (+0.1), Derion Kendrick: 45.7 (+0.1), Cobie Durant: 52.1 (DNP), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)
This was probably Ramsey’s worst game since Buffalo. DeAndre Hopkins benefitted from the Rams soft zone coverage.
DeAndre Hopkins faced Jalen Ramsey on 26 of his 39 routes in Week 10 (67%).
Hopkins caught 8 of 10 targets for 83 yards with Ramsey in coverage, the most receptions allowed by a defender to a receiver over the last two seasons.#AZvsLAR | #BirdCityFootball pic.twitter.com/3KRiJJw8y9
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 14, 2022
Ramsey has played at a high level almost all season, so a bounce back performance in Week 11 seems likely.
David Long Jr’s afternoon ended in rough fashion. After reclaiming the third cornerback spot, Long missed a crucial third down tackle, was beat over the top in press man, and then allowed a touchdown to AJ Green on an end zone fade.
David long jr. for the @RamsNFL just cost them the game. Missed tackle (on 3 &17), completion on 4th down, missed tackle for a TD. I mean the rams are finding ways to lose. Just brutal ♂️
— AT (@adrianwla) November 14, 2022
The Rams chances of making the playoffs will not stay open much longer. The writing is on the wall. Sean McVay and Raheem Morris will face the decision of whether to play rookies Cobie Durant and Derion Kendrick in the coming weeks in place of David Long Jr.
Week 10 Grade: D+, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight-to-Moderate Downward
Nick Scott: 67.4 (+5.9), Taylor Rapp: 65.6 (+3.3), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR), Russ Yeast: 68.6, Quentin Lake: DNP
I did not see any glaring mistakes by the safeties. Nick Scott showed good pop coming downhill. Even Russ Yeast (4% snap share) looked fast coming in briefly for a momentarily injured Taylor Rapp. I think Nick Scott will continue to see snaps whether LA is or is not in playoff contention, but Taylor Rapp should be worried about losing time to Russ Yeast, Jordan Fuller, and/or Quentin Lake.
Jordan Fuller’s hamstring injury status still remains up in the air, since he has been out since Week 4 @ San Francisco. His timeline was four weeks, and he has been out for six.
Week 10 Grade: B, Season Grade: C-, Trend: Slight-to-Moderate Upward
Riley Dixon: 83.8* (+2.4), Matt Gay: 72.6 (+0.9)
Based on the Rams frequency to go three and out, you shouldn’t be surprised by Riley Dixon’s high grade. Dixon checks in as PFF’s second ranked punter. Not exactly something to get fired up about, but also not a bad sign that he has handled the punting duties fairly well.
Matt Gay is 12/13 (92.3%) on field goals this year with a career percentage of 86.7%. He may be a guy the Rams look to lock up with a longer term deal this offseason.
Week 10 Grade: A, Season Grade: B+, Trend: Moderate Upward
Coordinators – Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
The game plan by Raheem Morris was choppy. There were instances where varied his looks with soft zone and press man. At the end of the day, players have to execute and guys like David Long Jr did not. With that being said, Colt McCoy should not beat your defense to the tune of 27 points.
DeCamillis’s unit is ranked 31st in Special teams DVOA according to Football outsiders. The rankings reveal that the Rams struggle most in punt coverage and kickoff returns. Since PFF does not grade individual special teams’ players, it is hard to identify where the root cause is, but the eye test does show that LA could tighten up in punt coverage and generate better field position with blocking in its kick returns.
Week 10 Grade: C- (Morris), B+ (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C- (Morris), B (DeCamillis)
Trend: Neutral (Morris), Slight Upward (DeCamillis)