Since Jeff Fisher has joined the Los Angeles Rams in 2012 and since they have had Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator, the team has been known for their good defense. While statistically they haven’t been ranked in the top 10, at times they have had dominant performances and they certainly have the talent of a top 10 defense.
With first rounders Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, Dominic Easley, and Michael Brockers, they certainly have the talent. However, while the talent is there, unlike the past couple of years, the Rams can’t rely on their defense in the 2016 season, at least in the early portion.
The losses of Chris Long and James Laurinaitis won’t go unnoticed. Those were two starters and two defensive leaders that were lost. That’s not to mention the team lost Janoris Jenkins and Rodney McLeod in the secondary and did not replace them.
Those are four starters or more than a third of the starting defense that won’t be returning to the field. While Ogletree is faster than Laurinaitis, he hasn’t played middle linebacker and will need to adjust to the most important spot on the defense. Mark Barron played well at outside linebacker last season, but can he do it full time all the time for a whole season? E.J. Gaines had a good rookie season, but can he replace Jenkins? The Rams have a lot of backup players that will be looking to replace McLeod. Lastly, Williams Hayes, while a good pass rusher, will need to prove that he can do it all and be an every down player.
Right now Jeff Fisher is relying on position changes and depth guys to come in and replace players who have been solid over the last few seasons.
Like it or not these are major changes and changes that will take time to adjust. It would not be shocking if the defense gets off to a slow start and finds their groove as the season goes on. As mentioned before, the talent is there, it’s just about putting it together and playing as a unit. This is a different unit than the past couple of year and that is going to change things. These players will need to get used to playing alongside one another.
As fans, we have gotten used to being able to rely on the defense. There is no doubt the Rams have won games because of their defense in the past. However, at least for the early portion of the 2016 season, relying on the defense could to be difficult.