Los Angeles Rams
Defense May Let Matthew Stafford Down
Los Angeles entered 2020 with a lot of questions on both sides of the ball. Although the core pieces of Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey, Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods were still around, there was a ton of uncertainty on the roster. The Rams ate massive dead money hits to get rid of Todd Gurley and Brandin Cooks, and they were relying on a large number of unproven or underwhelming defensive players to fill in holes left by free-agency departures. They also had to find a new defensive coordinator after firing the legendary Wade Phillips.
The Rams' replacement for Phillips was Brandon Staley, a relatively unknown Vic Fangio disciple, and while there was a great deal of uncertainty surrounding it initially, the hire was an absolute home run. Staley's understanding of how to defend modern offenses helped the Rams' defensive talent beyond Donald and Ramsey play at a high level. Many defenses are built to defend the run first, but Staley has employed the opposite approach, focusing on stopping the pass with increased numbers on the back end while fielding linebackers and secondary players that can fly up to the box once they determine that the offense is running the ball.
It sure helps having two superstars to build around when you want to take that approach. Staley typically started each week's defensive plan with which assignment to give Ramsey and then filled in the rest of the secondary's roles from there. And if you want to devote bodies to coverage, it helps to have a generationally talented defensive tackle like Donald holding the fort up front. Both Ramsey and Donald are under contract through 2024, which means this dynamic duo will form the backbone of the Los Angeles defense for years to come.
The strong individual defensive performances didn't stop there. Cornerback Darious Williams broke out in his first year as a starter, and the combination of Williams, fellow cornerback Troy Hill, and safety John Johnson provided key complements to Ramsey throughout the defensive backfield. After all, if a defense only has...