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By: Steven Ridings
Is LA using their star corner efficiently?
The Los Angeles Rams defense this season has fallen from its elite status that it once held in 2020 and 2021. Against teams that are .500 or better, the defense has allowed 25.7 points per game. Against teams that are below .500, the defense has allowed 19.0 points per game. I believe one of the reasons the defense has been inconsistent is because they have misused Jalen Ramsey. How is the star cornerback and the secondary trending?
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 17 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.
Be sure to read about the Rams Week 17 offensive grades.
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
Greg Gaines: 60.0 (-0.7), Marquise Copeland: 66.5 (+0.7), Bobby Brown III: 67.7 (-1.6), Jonah Williams: 54.8 (+2.4), TJ Carter: 70.6 (PS) Larrell Murchison: 57.0 (-1.5), Earnest Brown IV: 45.5 (-4.7), Aaron Donald: 90.5* (INA), A’Shawn Robinson: 64.4 (IR)
Greg Gaines only played 14 of 64 defensive snaps (22%) because of a shoulder injury that he incurred earlier in the week.
The defensive line failed to win the line of scrimmage against the Chargers, paving the way for Austin Ekeler to be the first running back to exceed 100 yards this season against the Rams run defense.
As for the pass rush, none of the defensive linemen even managed to tally a quarterback hit on Justin Herbert.
Week 17 Grade: D-, Season Grade: C+, Trend: Slight Downward
Bobby Wagner: 90.9* (-0.4), Ernest Jones: 64.2 (-0.3), Travin Howard: INA, Christian Rozeboom: 79.8 (DNP), Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (IR)
This was one of Wagner’s worse games of the year. PFF gave him a grade of 57.5 which seemed pretty fair considering he allowed four receptions (four targets) for 37 yards, and he only collected seven tackles (five solo).
The Chargers effectively pulled their guards on power run plays, effectively wiping out Wagner from making an attempt on the ball carrier. In Wagner’s youth, he typically beat these guards to the spot and stuffed run plays at the line of scrimmage. However, Wagner has lost a step and isn’t always consistent at filling the lane.
Week 17 Grade: D, Season Grade: A-, Trend: Slight Downward
Leonard Floyd: 68.9 (-0.6), Mike Hoecht: 68.2 (+2.8), Daniel Hardy: 51.8 (+3.0), Keir Thomas: 57.4 (-6.8), Brayden Thomas: 60.4 (PS)
I am continually encouraged by the performances of Michael Hoecht. He is still learning to properly set the edge on boundary plays but he is typically around the football. He has a motor that runs hot.
Michael Hoecht had ahold of Justin Herbert with both arms, and Herbert still completes a pass. Crazy play, but the Bolts still have to punt.
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) January 1, 2023
Floyd had four pressures while Hoecht only had two. However, Hoecht was the highest graded Rams defender with a grade of 73.2.
Week 17 Grade: D, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Slight Downward
Jalen Ramsey: 83.4* (+0.9), Troy Hill: 64.8 (+0.2), David Long Jr.: 53.1 (DNP), Robert Rochell: 49.5 (DNP), Derion Kendrick: 43.7 (DNP), Cobie Durant: 78.2 (-8.5), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)
Jalen Ramsey has been a solid cornerback and top three according to PFF. But 2022 has been an inconsistent year for him and will likely break his five-year streak of all pro nominations.
When looking at the numbers Jalen Ramsey’s play this past year under Raheem Morris has not been up to his caliber.
I strongly believe that Raheem has misused Ramsey’s talent this year. He has blitzed a career-high 21 times. He only has four quarterback pressures (19%). Why blitz your best coverage defensive back? Why not blitz Cobie Durant or Troy Hill? Or a safety that plays in the box on dime packages (i.e. Taylor Rapp). Since the defensive scheme is a soft shell, quarterbacks will get the ball out quick on a blitz. Jalen Ramsey is the player you want breaking on a short, quick pass.
In 2020 with Brandon Staley, Ramsey had his best season. He only allowed 36 completions and 354 receiving yards (23.6 yards/game).
To improve the defense in 2023, returning Jalen Ramsey to his all-pro dominance would be one of my first action points this offseason.
Week 17 Grade: C-, Season Grade: C, Trend: Slight Downward
Nick Scott: 55.4 (+0.1), Taylor Rapp: 72.9 (-0.6), Russ Yeast: 49.2 (-2.7), Quentin Lake: 66.0 (DNP), T.J. Carter: 60.0 (PS), Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR)
Taylor Rapp received a neutral grade of 60.0 which was a bit surprising considering he was the culprit of two Charger touchdowns. The first was a poor angle that Austin Ekeler exploited for a 72-yard touchdown run. The other missed assignment was allowing Donald Parham Jr to beat him in the red zone for an easy score.
Touchdown número 39 de 2022
Donald Parham Jr. ⚡️pic.twitter.com/4yyUfZa9QR
— Charjão (10-6) ⚡️ (@ChargerClubista) January 1, 2023
Taylor Rapp may make a splash play here or there but overall he is not enough of a difference maker for being a second-round pick. He is very reactive in coverage and that often results in him being a target of quarterbacks.
If I were an offense game-planning against the Rams, I would do one thing: Throw at Taylor Rapp.
— Mike Winchell (@mrmikewinch) January 2, 2023
Week 17 Grade: D-, Season Grade: D+, Trend: Slight Downward
Riley Dixon: 80.1* (+0.4), Matt Gay: 89.3 (+0.0)
Matt Gay connected on a 23-yard field goal, giving him 25 field goals in 2022.
Riley Dixon punted five times for 222 yards (44.4 avg) with one punt inside the 20.
Brandon Powell did not have a kick or punt return.
Week 17 Grade: B-, Season Grade: A, Trend: Neutral
Coordinators – Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Raheem Morris has underdelivered this year. The defense has surrendered 22.8 points per game. In 2021, the defense surrendered 21.9 PPG. Under Brandon Staley in 2020, the defense only allowed 18.5 PPG. I will be intrigued to know whether Sean McVay keeps his friend on the coaching staff or if he opts to go in another direction. McVay has to consider that Aaron Donald, Bobby Wagner, and Jalen Ramsey only have so much time left in their primes. Capitalizing on their talents is paramount to a return to the playoffs in 2023.
Week 17 Grade: D- (Morris), B- (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C- (Morris), A (DeCamillis)
Trend: Moderate Downward (Morris), Neutral (DeCamillis)