3 steps to rebuild Rams depleted DL despite a weak rookie class

Kobie Turner, Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams
Kobie Turner, Aaron Donald, Los Angeles Rams / Michael Owens/GettyImages
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3 easy steps to prepare the Rams DL for 2024, before the draft

Solving complex problems cannot happen instantly. And with a problem as complex as the Rams depleted defensive line, any feasible solution cannot realistically rely on scenarios that may never happen. I mean, why cite 'persuading former Eagles DT Fletcher Cox out of retirement,' when that is never going to happen. The Rams have exhausted much of their disposable cap space already, and the team clearly has not signed any veterans to reinforce the defensive line.

A weak draft class at defensive line, and not spending on veterans. How can the Rams front office solve the DL dilemma? Here we go:

Step III

While he is no longer with the team, defensive tackle Marquise Copeland makes complete sense to re-sign him to the team. He was with the team from 2020 through 2023, ending last season on the team's practice squad. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing 287 pounds, Copeland is a depth player whose best season in 2022 generated 31 tackles, 1.0 quarterback sacks, two tackles for a loss, two quarterback hits, and three quarterback pressures.

Copeland was on the roster when Donald was injured for the second half of 2022, which makes him a viable option to help the team in 2024 until younger players can step up and fill in. He knows how to get there, can sign for an NFL veteran minimum, and he knows the team and the scheme. Not a huge step, true. But he adds vital depth to the DL. What's next?

Step II

While I seem to be the only person who has raised the possibility, I would not rule out the possibility of OLB Michael Hoecht returning to play defensive end for the team in 2024. He was a down defensive lineman for 2.5 seasons on the Rams roster before crosstraining to outside linebacker mid-season in 2022. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 310 pounds, is incredibly powerful and fast, is very productive, and his fit at the defensive end for the team in 2024 makes too much sense.

Hoecht played 962 defensive snaps at outside linebacker for the team in 2023, recording 81 tackles, 6.0 quarterback sacks, seven tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits, one forced fumble, broke up two passes, and pressured the quarterback 16 times. If the team restores Hoecht to the defensive line, the team can tap the strength of the 2024 rookie class at edge, and upgrade at defensive end simultaneously.

The drawback for Hoecht in 2023 seemed to fixate on several errors in pass coverage. As a defensive end, that possibility is eliminated. If he can put up similar numbers as a defensive end in 2024, he is a huge upgrade for this defense.

Step I

Like it or not, the similarities of 6-foot-2 288-pound rookie Kobie Turner and 6-foot-1 280-pound Aaron Donald cannot be ignored. In his rookie season, Donald put up 9.0 quarterback sacks, 48 tackles, and 13 quarterback hits on 707 defensive snaps. Turner put up 9.0 quarterback sacks, 57 tackles, and 16 quarterback hits on 697 defensive snaps.

They are more similar than you may realize. That is something that the Rams coaching staff can leverage to their advantage.

Just like Donald, the Rams can make Turner more effective by moving him around on the defensive line. He has the strength, speed, and agility to line up anywhere on the Rams defensive front. He has already proven the ability to defeat double-teams consistently. Now, he can play anywhere on the defensive front and attack the quarterback from the weakest link on the opponent's offensive line.

Turner, just like Donald before him, cannot just line up at the same spot and be expected to defeat whatever opposing offenses throw at him. Moving Turner around allows the team to expand Bobby Brown's workload in his contract year, which is always a great idea. Best of all, the Rams can draft the best player available, and still have a formidable seven-man defensive front in three easy steps.

Will the team follow the script? Well, we've made some accurate predictions in the past. Stay tuned.