The LA Rams defense boasted six players who led the team with two interceptions in 2019. Who will lead the team in 2020?
The LA Rams defense was an assemblage of many NFL players in 2019. While there have been many discussions about the injuries suffered by the offensive line in 2019, and some talk about injuries to offensive skill players, not much was said about the Rams defense. In many ways, that defense was not only devastated by injuries, but further shaken by the loss of veteran NFL players via trades, free agency, and even retirement.
So when we inspect defensive statistics from the LA Rams 2019 defense, such as interceptions, there is an only mild surprise when we find six players led the team in that statistic last year. From that group of six players who led the team with just two interceptions, only four remain with the team: CB Darious Williams, S Taylor Rapp, S John Johnson III, and CB Troy Hill. CB Jalen Ramsey, a mid-season arrival to the team, recorded one interception. The remaining two are ILB Cory Littleton, who is now playing for the Las Vegas Raiders, and CB Marcus Peters, who is now playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
2020 INT leader?
But with four players tied for the team lead in interceptions from 2019, who will lead the team in interceptions in 2020? Is that a simple or difficult question? The first answer of course is to go with All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey. The problem in that is a simple fact that Ramsey has not intercepted many passes in his NFL career. In fact, he’s only intercepted four passes just once in his NFL career. Along the same lines, his teammate CB Troy Hill has never intercepted more than two passes in his NFL career of five seasons.
Both Taylor Rapp and Darious Williams recorded two interceptions each in their first year of playing for the Rams defense. Finally, Johnson has recorded as many as four interceptions in just his second season and was well on his way to six or more in 2019 before his season-ending injury. That places Johnson on track to lead the team in interceptions for 2020, in a normal season.
That opens one final question. Will 2020 be a normal year for the LA Rams defense? Right now, indications are that the new defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, is designing a not-so-normal defense. In the new scheme, quarterbacks will be confronted with mismatches that disappear when the play develops. That likely translates into a quarterback throwing into the best pass defender on the team. Right now, that’s Ramsey.
If Ramsey is targetted more than his normal rate, can he elevate his rate of interceptions? Or has he been trained to knock the ball down instead? I believe that Staley will go for the turnover, asking his All-Pro defensive back to play the ball. In fact, I suspect that will be the primary focus of the Rams in 2020. After all, the Rams were tied for 12th-best in 2019 in the NFL at interceptions with 13. To be ranked among the top five, the team will need at least 16 or 17 in 2020. To accomplish that, Ramsey will need to compete among the league lead. The top-ranked players for interceptions in 2019 recorded six interceptions.