Can OLB Leonard Floyd reform the LA Rams linebackers

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

After the LA Rams parted ways with practically all four designated linebacker starters after the 2019 season: Dante Fowler Jr., Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, and Clay Matthews; The LA Rams found themselves in need of a veteran lynchpin to pull together a new set of linebackers to start in their 3-4 defensive front.

Their choice for the go-to guy to form that linebacking corps around had to possess those distinctive qualities that would be the trademark for the entire team. He had to be better against the run than his predecessors. That meant that he could not sell out to get to the quarterback, but would rather need to set an impenetrable edge first, and then stampede to the quarterback.

He had to have the ability to defend the pass as well. The Rams primary outside linebacker would be ineffective if opposing offenses could gain yardage at will simply be targeting him in a quick tempo passing game. He had to have the ability to shed blockers at will to tackle the ball carrier but to stand toe-to-toe with them to ensure that he could shed them in the right direction when the runner made his break with the ball.

Go back, Jack, do it again

When the LA Rams signed free agent Leonard Floyd, they found the right fit. He was such a player. To be honest, he checked all of the boxes for the Rams defense for their first and only season under defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. In fact, he did so well in his prove-it one-year deal for the Rams defense, that the Rams brought him back.  He gets to do it all over again for 2021.

What, you didn’t see that coming?

It was clear from the fact that the Rams prioritized Floyd to re-sign that the next incoming defensive coordinator, Raheem Morris, needed a leader among the Rams youngish linebackers in his defense.  And yes, he was part of the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff that surrendered so many leads late in the game to lose. One of those losses came at the hands of Matthew Stafford, with just 64 seconds remaining.

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Is Floyd better than Fowler?

Of course, that Falcons defense boasted Dante Fowler jr. But they don’t have defensive back, Jalen Ramsey. And perhaps most of all, they don’t have defensive lineman Aaron Donald. The Rams defense has both star defenders.

And now they have Leonard Floyd.

2021 will be a familiar script for Floyd. He is the veteran who must lead younger teammates to excel in a new defensive philosophy.  Even as the Rams wish to retain their 2020 dominance over offenses, this is a new defense with new faces. New players will contribute. The Rams will likely set the bar higher for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Justin Hollins, and second-year edge rusher Terrell Lewis.

We know that Dante Fowler Jr. didn’t have a great debut in the Falcons defense in 2020 for Raheem Morris. Now, we’ll have a chance to determine just how effective Leonard Floyd is in the Morris defense. One of the big drawbacks to the Fowler for the Falcons was the comment that he was signed to sack the quarterback, but he wasn’t able to put up many sacks last year.

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Will Floyd be able to sack the quarterback in Morris’ defense? Well, he has two distinct advantages going for him that Fowler didn’t have last year. First of all, he does so much more for the Rams defense than just sack the quarterback. Secondly, he is lining up next to Aaron Donald in 2021.  In fact, thanks to the new contract he signed in the off-season, he will be lining up next to Aaron Donald for years to come.