The Super Bowl 56 champions are entering 2022 as a top threat in the NFC. To maintain such a stature, a menacing defense is typically needed. Thankfully for the Rams, they have just that. At least on paper. The Rams defense has undergone some renovation this offseason. Von Miller signed a huge deal with Buffalo. The Rams’ former CB2 was one of the Jaguars’ additions in their mega haul. Sebastian Joseph-Day went across town to plug up the middle for the Chargers. And a few depth players that played on the Super Bowl winning team signed deals elsewhere.
As far as additions go, they’re slim. The Rams drafted multiple defensive players in the draft this offseason, gaining some much-needed depth in the secondary. The Rams defense did however gain another rather large name. Former Rams rival, Bobby Wagner, was cut by the Seahawks after having an All-Pro stint with the team. This move may not pan out the way the Seahawks thought it would, as Wagner signed with his hometown Rams in March.
It has been an eventful offseason, and week one is rapidly approaching. So, let’s take a look at the 2022 Rams defense, and who you should expect on opening night.
“Pass Rushers” (DL/OLB)
Projected Starters: Robinson / Donald / Gaines / Floyd
The Rams defense has been headlined by one man for almost a decade, Aaron Donald. There were questions about whether Donald would retire during this past offseason. These rumors were put to rest when Donald restructured his contract, making him the highest-paid non-QB in the league. Now that Aaron has his money, he is guaranteed to play this season at the least. This makes the Rams defense a threat automatically. Alongside Donald is Greg Gaines. Gaines has proven he has what it takes to plug up the middle for Los Angeles. His stretch at the end of the season was impressive, and his play makes Joesph Day’s departure an easier pill to swallow. Ashawn Robinson impressed viewers as well during the last stretch of the 2021 season. He is the best run stopper on the Rams defense not named Aaron Donald.
The Rams’ edge rushers will be looking to make a statement this season. Leonard Floyd has surely heard about how the Rams’ defense isn’t what it was last year without Von. Floyd has the athleticism to be very effective coming off of the edge. It would not surprise me if Floyd surpassed his current season high of 10.5 sacks. Justin Hollins and Terell Lewis are expected to rotate at the opposite side of Floyd. Justin Hollins has been relatively impressive in his short time played. He does well off of the ball, but he also has the speed to get around the corner and hit the quarterback. Terrell Lewis is similar to Leonard Floyd. He has the athleticism to generate pressure. His skillset just isn’t there yet.
Daniel Hardy is a rookie but look for him to have some playing time as well. His numbers last year at Montana State were pretty insane. He is an athletic freak who butchered tackles last season. Other defensive linemen for the Rams are Bobby Brown III, Michael Hoecht, Marquise Copeland, Jonah Williams, and Earnest Brown IV. Other outside linebackers for the Rams are Chris Garrett, Benton Whitley, Brayden Thomas, and Keir Thomas.
Projected Starters: Jones / Wagner
Bobby Wagner is the newest addition to the star-studded Rams defense. Wagner will not have to make every play for the Rams, they aren’t expecting him to be that player anymore. This will allow him to play freely. Alongside Wagner is Earnest Jones. Jones is heading into his second year in the NFL, and he left a mark during his rookie season. While they weren’t DROY numbers, Jones played quite well as a rookie surrounded by stars. He played his role well, and he is now able to learn under one of the best linebackers in the 2010’s.
Travin Howard has experience with the Rams and has played well as a depth linebacker. Christian Rozeboom, Anthony Hines III, Jake Gervase, and Jake Hummel round out the rest of the Rams’ inside linebackers.
Projected Starters: Ramsey / Hill (Nickel) / Long Jr.
Jalen Ramsey is entering a role that Steve Smith Sr. would have never predicted. Ramsey is now a locker room leader. He played the majority of last season with a year in his shoulders. This type of news usually surfaces as the player is facing an injury in real-time, but this news didn’t hit the media until this offseason. Assuming he enters 2022 fully healthy, expect Ramsey to come back even hungrier. Having a taste of the Lombardi keeps players wanting more for years. Ask Tom Brady. He sees everything on social media and knows there are still those who have questions about him. A defensive player of the year award would surely answer those questions.
The Rams reunited with Troy Hill after trading for him during the 2022 draft. This move was needed after the Rams lost their CB2, Darious Williams. Hill knows the system, as it has been tweaked but not changed. He will likely take on the CB2 role until one of the younger corners take the role over.
David Long Jr., Robert Rochelle, Decobie Durant, and Derion Kendrick are the Rams’ unproven yet intriguing corners. Long and Rochelle have experience under their belts and have played relatively well while on the field. They haven’t taken the next step to being a clear-cut starter. Durant and Kendrick are rookies and have their question marks that need to be answered. Durant is smaller than the average defensive back, and Kendrick has some speed issues. Other Rams corners are Grant Haley, Tyler Hall, Duron Lowe, TJ Carter, and Caesar Dancy-Williams. They will likely fight for special teamer spots. Donte Deayon is a name to keep an eye on. He has yet to be resigned coming back would be beneficial. He brings a spark to the team.
Projected Starters: Scott / Fuller
This position group has received a few new faces. The Rams drafted two safeties in 2022, along with the two corners mentioned prior. This, to me, is a statement. The Rams are likely letting Taylor Rapp walk after his contract is up, and Terrell Burgess is on the hot seat. Rapp has struggled as a coverage safety and is much more successful in the box. The third-round draft pick Burgess has been outshined by his draftmate, sixth-round pick Jordan Fuller. Both Fuller and Burgess are 2020 draftees. Fuller is the future at the safety position for the Rams. He is currently rehabbing an ankle injury, but he is making strides on his recovery. Nick Scott is a sparkplug for the Rams defense, and he will take on a decently sized role in 2022. Scott is 5’11 but plays viciously. He has power in his pads and has a knack for the ball.
The rookies looking to make a splash are Russ Yeast and Quinten Lake. Both are legacy players. The Rams going out and adding two legacy rookies in their secondary says to me that they want smart safeties. There is still a hole at the free safety spot to fill in the long term. My guess is, that one of these rooks take the opposite spot of Fuller in the next two years. Jairon McVea and Dan Isom round out the Rams’ safety room.
Expectations For 2022
The expectations should be high for this defense. They are reigning champs and have multiple stars to manipulate offenses. The Rams are facing the most difficult schedule of all of the 32 NFL teams this season. This season won’t go perfectly for any team. There will surely be bumps on the way. But the Rams have enough talent to repeat. Staying away from the injury bug plays a big part in a Super Bowl stretch. If the Rams defense can stay healthy and build off of last year, there is no reason this Rams team can’t make a playoff run.
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