7 Rams whose reputations are on the line over the 2024 defense

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams defense
NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams defense / Ryan Kang/GettyImages
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6: DC Chris Shula

When the name of Shula is uttered in NFL circles, there are many things that come to mind. Coach Don Shula was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and the only head coach to lead a perfect 17-0 season. Only Don Shula and the immortal George Halas coached teams to 300+ victories. He is one of only a handful of NFL head coaches to win consecutive Super Bowls. But did you know that he was the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions from 1960-1962.

His grandson, Chris Shula, is following the family legacy and assuming the reins of the defensive coordinator role of the LA Rams. Shula, much like HC Sean McVay, has a legacy that has placed the NFL into his genetics and bloodstream. With a surname of Shula, the standards for coaching start at a very high place indeed.

Shula has served in various positional coaching roles for the Rams for the past eight seasons, and is one of the few original coaches to join Coach McVay with the Rams in 2017. Because he has so instrumental in developing and working with so many players on defense, he knows the intimate details of everyone returning from last season's roster. Until now, he has worked behind the curtain, supporting others in perfecting the defense.

Now, he is on the hook for the performance of this defense, and he must shoulder that responsibility without a single All-Pro player to depend on this season. That is not intimidating to Coach Shula, who knows the burden of NFL pressure already.

5: DB Darious Williams

The fact is that the NFL pundits and analysts have certain biases. We know that there is a tangible bias against anyone who was not anointed as a Round 1 prospect in terms of formal honors and recognition. LA Rams NT Kobie Turner (89th overall) was far more productive than that of Houston Texans' OLB Will Anderson (3rd overall), but Anderson took DROTY honors. LA Rams WR Puka Nacua (177th overall)set all time NFL rookie receiver records, but it was Texan's QB C.J. Stroud (2nd overall) who was given OROTY honors.

So when it comes to acknowledging the achievements of undrafted defensive back Darious Williams, there will always be those who discount his production. Worse yet, Williams stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 187 pounds, which is under what many consider to be an ideal NFL size at the position. Despite these disclaimers, DWIll continues to show up and produce each season.

In 2023, Williams had 53 tackles, four interceptions, and broke up 19 passes. He played 1035 defensive snaps and allowed just 55 of 100 targets to find their mark. He allowed just two touchdowns all season. And yet, some cite his signing by the team as a bad addition. Sure.

Williams is the type of player who loves football with a passion, and it's that passion that fuels him to accomplish things that he should not be capable of performing. He is familiar with the team, the coaches, and many of the players. In fact, it may be that familiarity with DC Chris Shula that makes him so vital for the 2024 defense.

But Williams has to prove himself to skeptics once more. He played in the same secondary as All-Pro DB Jalen Ramsey before. Can he flourish without Ramsey in the secondary this year? We are about to find out.