Will the return of LA Rams S Jordan Fuller restore balance to defense?
Per The Athletic’s Jordan Rodrigue, the LA Rams look to bring back rookie safety Jordan Fuller this week. After a bad defensive showing against the Buffalo Bills, and a victory that was a bit of an eyesore, getting Fuller back to the defensive secondary will be welcome news. But is this one of those cases of absence making the heart grow fonder? After all, will simply getting Jordan Fuller to return to his starting role be enough to halt the pattern opposing offenses have exploited on the Rams defense with double-crossing routes?
We’ll soon find out, as the Rams would prepare to face more of the same against the Washington Football team this weekend. If you don’t already know, the NFL is a copycat league. Teams will mimic anything that had success against the Rams until the Rams prove that they can stop it. Right now, offenses have learned to run double-crossing routes, and prepare to run the majority of their offense through their third and fourth receiving options.
What Fuller won’t fix
The LA Rams defense continues to be a work in process. And as players fall to minor injuries, and reserve players are suddenly thrust into the spotlight of starting in an NFL game, some decline of play quality is inevitable. So for the time being, opposing offenses will likely find some success by passing the ball to outlet receivers.
For that matter, the Rams allow opposing offenses to run better than their season average. Don’t look for Fuller’s return to a starting role to fix that. The Rams need to get stronger play from the middle of their defense, and right now they are down to starting two inside linebackers in Kenny Young and Troy Reeder.
What Fuller will fix
The Rams have struggled in the secondary since Fuller’s absence with third receiver options. While that is not entirely the area of Fuller’s responsibility, offenses seem to find softer ‘soft coverage’ in the Rams secondary when Fuller is not enforcing his no-fly-zone in his deep half of the field. That has allowed teams to push for first downs and sustain offensive drives.
With Fuller, the battle for time of possession will begin to tilt back to the favor of the Rams offense. With less time on the field, the Rams defense will look fresher late in the game. With more offense, the Rams will have a chance to get more players involved in plays. That means fringe players like Josh Reynolds, Van Jefferson, and Gerald Everett will see a few more passes thrown their way.
Rams rookie safety Jordan Fuller is not a WD40 solution to the defense. But he will help the defense play as it is intended. The Rams will need to improve across the board now that they are entering the heart of the 2020 NFL season. Fuller’s return will allow the defense to do exactly that.