LA Rams: Three ways the team’s playoff hopes could derail in 2021

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News Raheem Morris
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Defense regresses too much

The LA Rams would get incredibly hard-pressed to repeat as the number-one ranked defense in the NFL even if defensive coordinator Brandon Staley had returned.  His exodus has made repeating even more difficult. It’s not that the LA Rams are suddenly devoid of playmakers. It’s simply that the history of the NFL has not had a top-ranked defense repeat that performance on the following year for a very long time.

Even as the Green Bay Packers defeated the LA Rams with a strong offensive showing, there was a larger story than simply the injury to Aaron Donald. The Packers succeeded by remaining patient against a Rams defense designed to stop big plays.  Instead, the Packers dinked and dunked a constant stream of running plays mixed with short and intermediate route pass plays.

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Word of that success against the Rams’ top-ranked defense travels fast. All three NFC West teams no doubt studied the Packers’ offense over and over and over this offseason, and added a number of formations and plays that frustrated the Rams. The team can expect a steady diet of Packer plays until the defense demonstrates the ability to force 3-and-outs.

New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris inherits the same elite defensive players that Brandon Staley was given: Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. Staley amplified both All-Pro defenders’ abilities to impact the game by unleashing them from a traditional defensive role. Donald was able to pick his spot along the line of scrimmage, while Ramsey was able to pick his receiver in pass coverage. Will Morris replicate that, or will the Rams resume the script of a more traditional defense? The Rams will likely backslide somewhat on defense this year. But if the Rams defense falls out of the top-five ranking, the team’s hopes to appear in Super Bowl LVI could derail.