“Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships” has been echoed by every old-school sports fan ever. The Rams are proving that cliche to be true in the later part of their incredible regular season run. While facing the Saints on Sunday the Rams allowed just 20 points, an impressive number against a Drew Brees-led offense. With the young team hoping to make a playoff push, their defense will need to keep up their current level of play. In their last five games, the team has allowed just under 14 points per game, a number that would be great come January.
Every old-school defense needs some hard-hitters, and the Rams are no exception. Up front, the unit features their star player, Aaron Donald. Donald is arguably the best defensive player in all of football and is nearly impossible to block one-on-one. His mixture of finesse and power is rare, and Wade Phillips maximizes Donald’s potential in his scheme. Whether he is laying a big hit on a quarterback or a running back, Donald can do it all on defense.
Lamarcus Joyner is the Rams big hitter on the back end, laying the wood on any receiver daring to come over the middle. If fans truly want to know how hard Joyner hits, they can ask Will Fuller as Joyner cracked a few of his ribs in week 10. His versatility has also come up big for the Rams throughout the season. Joyner spent time at slot corner on Sunday when Nickell Robey-Coleman was out with an injury and the Rams were in dime packages.
Trumaine Johnson is playing excellent football for the Rams this season. According to former Ram LeRoy Irvin, Johnson is “hands down one of the best corners in the league”. It is hard to argue with Irvin’s premise, Johnson routinely locks down opposing teams’ number one receivers. When the Rams faced off with Houston Johnson forced DeAndre Hopkins into one of his worst games of the season. Hopkins posted a solid game in terms of yardage but was kept out of the end zone. Hopkins is one of the best receivers in the league and Johnson covered him quite well.
In the NFL it is crucial to stop the run, whether the defense is old-school or in the modern NFL. The Rams certainly struggled to do so early in the season, but have continued to find their way. Michael Brockers is one of the best run-stoppers on the Rams and an underrated defensive lineman around the league. Brockers and the Rams ability to defend improved significantly when Wade Phillips shifted Brockers from nose tackle to defensive end part way through the season.
Mark Barron is another key run defender for the Rams and is one of the leaders in run stop percentage at linebacker according to ProFootballFocus. Barron experienced one of the most difficult transitions on the team from 4-3 outside linebacker to 3-4 middle linebacker. A safety coming out of college, Barron underwent his second position change in his NFL career. He often found himself out of position early in the season, leaving runnings lanes open for opponents. Barron’s evolution through the season has been one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround of the Rams defense.
The Rams defense got off to a rough start this season, carried to wins by their high-profile offense. Now, the team is in the thick of their schedule and their defense is clicking on all cylinders. The defense seems to have gotten going right at the perfect time, as the Rams look to hold onto their playoff spot in a crowded NFC. After all, offense sells tickets and defense wins championships, right?
The Rams offense certainly sells tickets, bolstering arguably the most exciting unit in the league. That offense is lead by young mastermind head coach Sean McVay draws plenty of fans in on his own. The defense, on the other hand, is lead by 70-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Phillips is, without a doubt, the definition of old-school. The veteran coach has been in the NFL longer then McVay has been alive and takes a lot of pressure off of the young, first-time head coach.
– Andrew Kelly is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Rams. He covers the Los Angeles Rams and is also the Divisional Editor for the NFC West. Like and follow on Follow @Andrew_K47 Follow @FPC_Rams and Facebook.