LA Rams pass rush is teetering on the edge

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The LA Rams defense is predicated on three basic principles. The first principle is to apply a fast and constant pass rush on the opposing quarterback. The second principle is to have competent and disruptive pass coverage in the secondary. And the third principle is to defend the middle of the defense, both from a rushing attack as well as against short pass routes.

While it required quite a bit of trial and error, the LA Rams defense continued to get better over the entire course of the season. Thanks to the timely arrival of veteran outside linebacker Von Miller, who paired up nicely with veteran outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, the Rams pass rush was incredibly effective. It was so effective, that the Rams won nine of their last ten games played last year, including four consecutive playoff games.

We know, however, that the pass rush, specifically the outside linebacker position, is teetering on the edge this off-season. Why? Well, the LA Rams are currently projected to lose both Von Miller and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to free agency this year. So how does the LA Rams defense look on paper right now at the outside linebacker position?

Name                        Snaps      Tkls    Sacks
Leonard Floyd          932          70       9.5
Terrell Lewis            367          22       3.0
Justin Hollins           223          22       2.0
Chris Garrett                 4            0           0

Rams Roster – 2022 Edge FAs

Name                         Snaps       Tkls   Sacks
Von Miller                   434           31     5.0
Obo Okoronkwo       255           15      2.0
Justin Lawler               18            1           0 (signed by Titans on Feb. 23, 2022)

While on paper the Rams still have four players, a closer inspection reveals a bit of concern.  Of the total 2,233 defensive snaps played by the team’s outside linebackers in the 2021 NFL season, the defense is on track to lose 32 percent of their playing production. When it comes to the postseason, the Rams are currently projected to lose 47 percent of their playoff edge rush production.

I know that some believe that the LA Rams can expect the team to get more playing time out of Terrell Lewis, get more snaps out of Justin Hollins, get Chris Garrett into the defensive rotation, and even re-sign veteran Von Miller. But the LA Rams pass rush is teetering on the edge right now.

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Rams Roster teetering on the edge

While there are certainly opportunities to upgrade on the offensive line, running back, defensive back, inside linebacker, and even tight ends, on paper the LA Rams have enough returning players to address the needs. Of course, the hope is that the Rams will augment the team depth at a number of positions to make the roster a bit more rounded and logical.

The LA Rams defense cannot backslide at outside linebacker. Right now, the Rams have huge question marks regarding the durability of third-year veteran Terell Lewis. And despite a great preseason showing, Chris Garrett was afforded next to nothing in terms of experience playing in an NFL game.

Even if the Rams find the funds to extend Von Miller, which is no certainty, the Rams will only field five outside linebackers. The 2022 NFL Draft class is loaded with outside linebacker talent. So much so that the Rams could theoretically find a starting-caliber player outside of the Top-100, and could even find a player worth a 53-man roster spot after the draft ends.

Yes, the LA Rams have some players returning for the 2022 NFL Season. But two of the four, Terrell Lewis and Chris Garrett, saw no action for the final ten games of the season. And, the durability of both Justin Hollins and Terrell Lewis is questionable for a full 17 game season.

Like it or not, the LA Rams roster will need to add more outside linebackers to the position, either via free agency or the draft. Based on the rigors of playing the position, optimally the front office should add players from both sources. The Rams defense needs a speedy pass rush. Now, the question is, can the front office reassemble that same quickness at getting to the quarterback for the 2022 NFL season?

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