July 2020 brings LA Rams to training camp, are they ready?

(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /
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LA Rams News
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Defensive deception

Of course, the real draw to the LA Rams this training camp will be all about the defense. More specifically, what has the evil genius of Rams new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley have in store for the rest of the NFL? For starters, the Rams defense is bringing back both All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald and All-Pro cornerback  Jalen Ramsey. But whether the Rams will use them in recognizable roles is still anyone’s guess. And that’s what all the excitement is about, after all.

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We know that the LA Rams have grown much stronger up front, thanks to the addition of nose tackle A’Shawn Robinson. With his power anchoring the LA Rams front seven, the Rams will be a much stronger group against the run. But the Staley 3-4 defense will act a bit differently from the Wade Phillips 3-4 defense. After all, the 3-4 is a base that will likely see about 20 percent of the defensive snaps.  The Rams will likely go more towards a 3-3-5 configuration. But the team could flirt with a 4-3-4 or even a 5-2-4 alignment as well.  There has even been speculation that the Rams could line up in a 2-4-5 setup as well.  With A’Shawn Robinson and Aaron Donald as the two down linemen, that could be devastatingly effective.

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Versatility is the key

The Staley defense will show one defense and then play another. That is not just about pass coverage assignments, but also gap assignments, who is and is not rushing the passer, and who is in the box and who is responsible for covering deep threats.  The Rams defense was probably the surprising winner from the NFL Draft, adding as many as four playmakers: OLB Terrell Lewis, S/CB Terrell Burgess, S Jordan Fuller, and LB Clay Johnston. The defense also picked up NT A’Shawn Robinson and OLB Leonard Floyd in free agency.

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Could Staley lay an egg in his rookie season? Denying that possibility is foolish. Yes, Staley could be way over his head. This will be his first true defensive coordinator role, and as such he is still learning how to call and signal in his defensive plays. But let’s not forget that he was hired by, and vetted by, one of the best offensive minds in the modern NFL right now in Rams head coach Sean McVay.  That hire, as well as the other two coordinator hires, were as much about setting the team back on course as it was about fortifying a head coach’s control over his team. The Rams hired McVay as the team’s head coach in 2017 and were competing in Super Bowl LIII at the end of the 2018 season.  Now Sean McVay has transformed the coaching staff into a more familiar style. How long will it be before the team returns to compete in the next Super Bowl?