The LA Rams lost 40 percent of their defensive secondary this offseason, but when the defensive backs continue to be led by All-Pro veteran Jalen Ramsey, it’s truly difficult to envision any decline to the Rams pass defense. While the Rams will certainly miss out on the production of veteran John Johnson III, the Rams played most of the 2019 season with rookie Taylor Rapp covering his role. Taylor Rapp is looking forward to reclaiming a starting role this year.
I think that the return of Ramsey’s partner, Darious Williams, will prove to have a greater benefit than many predict, and I suspect the debut of David Long Jr into the coverage will give the Rams a bit more physicality. Protecting the back of the defense will be the likely combination of Taylor Rapp and Jordan Fuller. Even though the Rams will notice the lack of Johnson, a full second-year of Fuller will certainly help quite a bit this year. And finally, the Rams will have Robert Rochell, Terrell Burgess, and Nick Scott as potential rotational players.
While this year’s secondary gives up some in terms of experience, there is strong evidence that the Rams’ defensive backs will be more physical, faster, and more determined than ever. The front office definitely pursued athleticism, size, and power in their efforts to restock the roster via the 2021 NFL Draft, and one of the most impressive athletes of this year’s draft class is Robert Rochell.
Any downside to new players: The LA Rams secondary, much like the offensive line, is rather dependant upon familiarity with one another as it is upon individual player’s talents. So any season with significant changes creates hurdles for the team to get across. Thankfully, Rapp, Burgess, and Long Jr. have all worked with this group. Robert Rochell, as the rookie addition, will need to develop that sense of his teammates, and they in him.
Any upside to new players: The Rams’ secondary was smothering a year ago, collapsing almost instantly on a receiver as soon as he caught the ball. This year, the Rams secondary may be hard-pressed to repeat that performance, but the team could improve their 63.3 percent completion down to the 60 percent range. How? More physical coverage and more athletic defensive backs.
Overall effect expected: The Rams had the best pass defense in 2020 in terms of both yards and points allowed. The secondary didn’t really begin to click until October of 2020, while I suspect that the defensive backs will come out firing on all cylinders this year. It will be tough to best last year’s performance. But don’t look for the secondary to regress either.