Fans have plenty of reasons for optimism over LA Rams DC Chris Shula in 2024

Los Angeles Rams Minicamp, Sean McVay
Los Angeles Rams Minicamp, Sean McVay / Jayne Kamin-Oncea/GettyImages
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What can you expect from Chris Shula

There are already many Xs and Os diagnostics that are surfacing over what the Rams' defense will look like under DC Chris Shula. That may be how this defense turns out, but I believe that is placing the cart before the horse. Like any new roster, the first step for the coaching staff to develop the right play-calling strategies must begin with a full understanding of the players on the Rams roster. The Rams are at the point in time when the coaching staff is merely acknowledging and assessing the strengths and personalities of players.

III: Reverence for the game

What you get from Chris Shula is a coach who has a great deal of respect and reverence for the game. This is not some glossed-over point, but is something that has been baked into his genetic code from birth. Chris Shula is the legacy of Coach Don Shula, one of the best coaches in the history of the NFL.

That sense of honoring his family is something that is not easily separated from his own personna. How can you talk about Coach Chris Shula without ultimately referencing his father Coach Dave Shula and his grandfather Coach Don Shula. What that means to the Rams defense in 2024 is that DC Chris Shula will put in the extra hour, will go the extra mile, will put in that extra bit of preparation, to put forth the best possible defense.

II: Employs the strengths of his positional coaches

One of the themes that has been set even from the initial press conference is the acknowledgement that Coach Chris Shula is not the type of dictatorial style. Instead, Shula frequently references a collaborative style of defensive coordinator. He knows that he is a leader, not a one-man crew. As such, he is open to suggestions and perspectives of positional coaches.

New DC Chris Shula has a varied background, having served in multiple positional coaching roles on this team in the past. That allows him to not only gauge the importance of each positional group in formulating the secret sauce of defensive success, but it gives him a bona-fide appreciation for his positional coaches as well. Rather than design the defense from his vision, he is well-armed to design a symphony of voices in the ultimate design of this defense. And as is the case in many situations, the more people involved in the design, the easier the buy-in when rolling it out.

I: Places people in position to succeed

The LA Rams defensive unit is one of the youngest, if not the youngest, defensive units in the NFL today. That can be viewed as a tremendous handicap to the team entering the 2024 NFL season. Even the veteran players on this defense are wearing The Horns for the first time. The most senior players on this defense are OLB Michael Hoecht and ILB Ernest Jones. Now, why does that matter?

Even while Michael Hoecht's production in 2023 was more than respectable, 81 tackles, 6.0 quarterback sacks, two pass break-ups, seven tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hits, and one forced fumble, there were plenty of calls for the team to ignore him and not re-sign him for 2024. The reason? He was often the outside linebacker stuck in coverage assignments, resulting in him being targeted 31 times, more than twice the number of passes thrown at any other outside linebacker. That was not a fault of Hoecht, but rather was a fault of the defensive scheme.

It is those minor details that I look forward to DC Chris Shula correcting in 2024. Just as DC Raheem Morris repaired the donut hole in this defense by persuading the team to invest in a talented inside linebacker, Ernest Jones, I see Shula self-assessing the vulnerabilities of the Morris defense and making the necessary adjustments to place players into positions to succeed this year.