There is a new king of the defense, and he goes by the name of Raheem Morris. Now, he may be the new defensive coordinator, but don’t expect wholesale changes from the scheme that put the LA Rams defense atop the rest of the NFL in 2020. While the overall scheme may remain similar, there will be subtle changes. So where should we look for those changes? Let’s discuss…
I. Will the Rams use nickel sub-packages frequently?
Of course, one of the first questions about the new defensive coordinator is how he will defend the pass and the run. The passing offense has taken over in the NFL due to favorable rule changes, so any defensive coordinator who is worth his weight will emphasize a pass defense. The 2020 defense was able to generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback with just four rushers, which allowed the secondary to squelch pass plays by outnumbering the offensive receivers. Will the Rams emphasize their nickel coverages in 2021 as well? If so, will the Rams put out a third safety, or a third cornerback?
II. How active is the inside linebacker on third and long?
The LA Rams have made their decisions about starting inside linebackers. But to be honest, they may or may not be the opening day starters. But one thing seems to be gaining more and more evidence in the Raheem Morris defense. Inside linebackers will not be permitted to play in the safe zone shadow of Aaron Donald and other defensive linemen any longer. While that can mean many things, one area is the chance to involve linebackers in rushing the quarterback? After all, we know that the Rams have historically struggled with A-gap blitzes. It would be nice to see the LA Rams give some of that back to opposing offenses. But even more so, the Rams will need to demo the ability to cover passes over the middle.
III. How well do Rams defend the run?
Okay, we talked earlier about how well the Rams defense can defend the pass. So it only makes sense to ask the same question about the run defense. This will be a huge need for the LA Rams in 2021. While the Rams did a fairly good job in 2020, the Rams will face the San Franciso 49ers, the Baltimore Ravens, the Minnesota Vikings, the Arizona Cardinals, and the Green Bay Packers in 2021. All of these teams were among the best running offenses in 2020. The reason for a more urgent need to stop rushing offenses is that one way to counter the Rams offensive upgrades is to control the time of possession and limit the LA Rams’ number of opportunities with the football. So keep an eye on how the Rams counter the run.