LA Rams defense worth more than individual player stats

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams defense Brandon Staley
Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports /

Can PFF grades tell the whole story?

Where so many would-be analysts slip on the process of analyzing an NFL defense is a concept of mathematics. In short, many believe that the Rams defense as a whole is equal to the sum of the component players, or parts. So the next obvious answer is to list the Rams starters on defense, and investigate their Pro Football Focus current year grades at a minimum.  So let’s check out their performance.

We can break it down by the units at the midseason mark.  The starters on the Rams defensive line are Aaron Donald, with an outstanding PFF grade of 93.1. Next up is Michael Brockers, with a surprisingly low PFF grade of 59.4.  Finally, there is Sebastian Joseph Day, with another good PFF grade of 70.4.

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Can Rams linebackers be THAT bad?

Next, we come to the Rams linebackers unit. Starting outside linebacker Leonard Floyd has a PFF grade of 61.2.  Part-time starter Samson Ebukam has a PFF grade of 55.1. Inside linebacker Micah Kiser has a horrific grade of 38.0 from Pro Football Focus. His teammate, Inside linebacker Kenny Young, is even worse, coming in at a paltry 36.2, one of the lowest grades awarded to an NFL starter this year.

So far we’ve discovered that the LA Rams defense is not composed of 11 All-Pro defenders. In fact, in some eyes, only Aaron Donald is an unquestioned contributor to this defense this year. The interior linebacker grades are horrific, and yet, the Rams have yet to allow a single running back to put up 100 yards against them.  In 2019, the LA Rams defense allowed five different running backs to gash them for over 100 yards. Against the Dallas Cowboys, two running backs rushed for over 100 yards in the same game.