The LA Rams are testing the limits of ‘too much of a good thing’

Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams Free Agency Brandon Staley Bobby Wagner
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Powering up the secondary

While the LA Rams added All-Pro defensive back, Jalen Ramsey, during Phillips’ watch, he was truly unlocked by the defensive scheming of DC Vic Fangio’s protege’, Brandon Staley. Fangio reassemble the 3-4 defensive concepts of Phillips’ base defense and added a few wrinkles to the mix to shore up the run defense.

Not just bells and whistles, Staley’s defense forged a solid practice of showing opposing quarterbacks one look, but then reconfiguring the secondary coverage scheme at the snap, forcing quarterbacks to misread, hesitate, and otherwise struggle in the pocket.

That lead to the LA Rams leading the NFL in pass defense and in overall defense. But it did come at a price. For starters, offenses simply located All-Pro defensive back, Jalen Ramsey, on the football field, and then threw to anyone he was not covering.  While that aided the Rams’ defense by effectively neutralizing their best receiver, it also limited the effectiveness of one of the LA Rams’ best defensive backs.

That damned defensive donut holes

A greater problem surfaced in the game against the New York Jets and was exploited several times afterward. Staley’s defense was ultimately based on creating a shell defense, and keeping everything in front of them. Well, the defense did not invest in the inside linebacker position, so patient offenses quickly learned that aggressive play-calling to attack the middle of the defense would move the chains, keep the offense off the field, and eventually force the defense to crowd the box which opened up deeper passing routes.

In the NFC Divisional Round, the Green Bay Packers’ offense ran that dink-and-dunk offensive strategy to perfection. The LA Rams could not get the Packers’ offense off the field, and that wore down the defense. But help was soon on the way.