LA Rams should add ‘pass-rush specialist’ in free agency

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04: Yannick Ngakoue #91 of the Indianapolis Colts defends against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 4, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 04: Yannick Ngakoue #91 of the Indianapolis Colts defends against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 4, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams need to find ways of generating more pressure after logging a mere 38 sacks during the 2022 NFL regular season. One of the better solutions to the problem would involve Rams’ general manager Les Snead signing Indianapolis Colts’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in free agency.

Ngakoue is the ideal defensive target for the Rams, according to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus. Spielberger believes Ngakoue would act as the perfect bookend to LA Rams’ outside linebacker Leonard Floyd:

"“Ngakoue is a pure pass-rush specialist who offers little in run defense, but that might be just what this defense needs, as Leonard Floyd is one of the best run-defending edge players in the NFL.Ngakoue has produced at least eight sacks in every season of his seven-year NFL career, and while he earned a career-low 56.9 pass-rush grade with a 10.8% pressure percentage in 2022 — 52nd out of 98 edge defenders with at least 200 pass-rush snaps — he could see favorable matchups playing alongside Aaron Donald.” – By Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus"

There’s a lot to recommend for the Rams to add an edge-rusher with Ngakoue’s pedigree. The most notable reason would be to finally replace former outside linebacker, Von Miller.

Snead’s failure to reload the pass-rush department after Miller joined the Buffalo Bills last offseason, is one of the main reasons the Rams cratered to 5-12. Without Miller, the defense lacked a game-wrecker off the edge to complement the havoc LA Rams’ All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald still causes inside.

The LA Rams defense needs more pass-rush oomph

Not being able to consistently harass quarterbacks undermined the schemes of LA Rams’ defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. He likes to call a myriad of zone-coverage concepts.

Any zone-based system relies on being able to bring the heat. A consistent pass rush forces opposing quarterbacks to rush throw into tight windows.

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Morris didn’t have the horses to make his approach work, but he still only called blitz 26.8 percent of the time. It was the 11th-highest rate in the league, per Pro Football Reference, but a marked decrease on the 33.8 percent blitz rate used by the Rams in 2021.

That was the season the franchise won Super Bowl LVI and Miller and Floyd combined for 14.5 sacks. Miller took his game up a notch during the postseason run by recording four sacks in as many games.

The Rams need another edge-rusher who can bring the same level of oomph as Miller. Ngakoue fits the bill as the type of proven veteran Snead has frequently signed in recent years.

While he has the experience, 27-year-old Ngakoue is still on the right side of 30 after stops with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, and Las Vegas Raiders. He’d form a terrifying double act with Donald, who appears to be staying put, despite recent confusion caused by changes to his social media bio.

A Donald and Ngakoue one-two punch would be a game-changer for the Rams’ defense based on how the latter played alongside Colts’ defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. They combined to sack Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Week 3, a play highlighted by Cody Manning of The Colts Wire:

Morris needs more playmaking potential up front to make the Rams’ defense a force again after this season’s unit ranked 21st in points and 19th in yards allowed. To do that, a veteran like Yannick Ngakoue would be the ideal free agent. Unfortunately, when it makes this much sense, the Rams seem to devise other options.

But we can hope, and wait, and see, right?

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