LA Rams: Evolution of NT role and 2021 impact to Rams defense

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /
3 of 6
LA Rams News Kevin Greene
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Innovation, renovation, and implementation

The NFL needed to transform the traditional role of the outside linebacker from pass coverage/ run support to pass rusher/ run support.  In fact, former LA Rams outside linebacker Kevin Greene was one of the reasons for that transformation. You see, he was a fifth-round pick for the LA Rams at the outside linebacker role. The problem was that he couldn’t cover the pass to save his career. But he could rush the passer.  Now, the 3-4 could hold its own. Still, the lack of quality nose tackles and edge rushers caused shortages for NFL defenses. That forced

Greene would take his pass-rushing persona on to the Pittsburgh Steelers where he would join forces with defensive coordinator Dom Capers.  They would continue to dominate the NFL defensive landscape for the rest of Greene’s career. Eventually, Greene retired, Capers was fired, and the 3-4 defense appeared to be sunsetting in the NFL once more.

In fact, the only team that ran a 3-4 defense in 2001 was the Pittsburgh Steelers, who happened to boast the best defense in the NFL that year. Since that time, the 3-4 defense has become more popular once more. You see, in the meantime, college defenses began to adopt the 3-4 defense as well. That meant a greater supply of players who could play nose tackle and edge rusher.

Of course, the Rams reverted to a 4-3 defense and were running that under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams when the team shook up the coaching staff. After hiring head coach Sean McVay, the team hired venerable defensive coordinator Wade Phillips who installed the 3-4 defense for the LA Rams once more.  The reason? Simply stated, he believes that the 3-4 configuration is better suited to defend the pass.

Okay, so the LA Rams are back to the 3-4. So how does that impact the nose tackle role for the LA Rams, and ultimately their defense?