Brandon Staley was one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL during the 2020 season. A branch off the Vic Fangio coaching tree, Staley ascended into defensive stardom similar to his 2020 head coach Sean McVay, who did so on the offensive side of the ball. Staley earned him a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Raheem Morris joined McVay's staff after Staley's departure to be the defensive coordinator. Morris has stepped into Staley's shoes and has performed adequately, albeit the defense doesn't seem as stiff as it was under Staley.
The Rams have given up 23 points per game which rank 17th in the NFL through five games. They rank 23rd in yards allowed at 388-yards.
Arizona scored 37 points in Los Angeles, an eye-opening margin for a defense that only allowed 19.3 points per game last year. It's not the same defensive unit, but the personnel is still top-heavy, with defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey roaming the secondary.
Let's get into the position groups.
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Aaron Donald is the best interior pass rusher the NFL has seen in decades. He combines excellent leverage, strength at the point of attack, unique explosiveness, bend, and incredibly powerful pass-rushing moves.
His ability to explode out of his stance often catches offensive linemen off guard, and he's an absolute problem for every protection package. He already has 28 pressures on the season and three sacks.
Greg Gaines plays nose tackle for the Rams. Like Donald, Gaines is built low to the ground and uses great leverage to disrupt the pocket when rushing. Gaines is more of a run defender than a pass rusher, but he does a solid job applying pressure when asked to do so. The 25-year-old has nine pressures this season.
Sebastian Joseph-Day plays a lot of snaps and can create pressure from the interior, which isn't as difficult when your teammate is Aaron Donald. Joseph-Day has 13 pressures and two sacks this year.
A'Shawn Robinson, Jonah Williams, and Michael Hoecht are rotational defensive linemen. Robinson plays the other "end" position opposite Donald when the team aligns in their 3-4 set in obvious running situations. This is Robinson's second year with Los Angeles, and he's a stout run defender with little pass-rushing upside.
Williams is a long defensive end that stands at 6'5" and weighs 270pounds. He doesn't play many snaps and is the Rams' version of Giants defensive end Raymond Johnson III.
Hoecht is a thicker defensive lineman in a rotational role but hasn't had much of an impact this season.
There were rumors that Leonard Floyd was the apple to Dave Gettleman's eye this offseason, but Floyd returned to the Rams. That would make two Giants general managers who failed to acquire Floyd. (Jerry Reese was rumored to have desired Floyd in the draft, but the Bears jumped ahead of the Giants to get him.)
Floyd has extraordinary length, burst, and is a nuisance when playing with Aaron Donald on the edge. He has 21 pressures this season and has sacked the quarterback three times.
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Ogbonnia Okoronkwo was the starter last year, but second-year player out of Alabama Terrell Lewis usurped the former Oklahoma pass rusher. Okoronkwo was never great against the run, and he's more of a pass-rushing specialist who can win around the edge with speed and use of hands. He also missed the first three games of the season with an injury.
Lewis is an athletic phenom who was injured far too often in college. When healthy, he's a dangerous player that can set the edge and rush the passer. He has unique measurables, standing at 6'5" and weighing 252 pounds. Lewis has pressured the quarterbacks 11 times this season with two sacks.
Kenny Young has developed into a solid starting linebacker after being selected in the fourth round out of UCLA in 2018. His athletic ability is his primary trait, and he can cover offensive weapons down the field. He typically aligns as the weakside linebacker.
Troy Reeder is a sure tackling UDFA found out of Delaware in 2019. The Rams trust him to man the middle of the defense because of his ability to diagnose offensive plays and maintain discipline through the chaos. He isn't relied on too much in obvious passing situations.
Jalen Ramsey is a top-two cornerback in the NFL right now. His instincts, physicality, and disruptiveness are incredible. Ramsey usually stays on the right side of the formation--at least that's been the case this season. The Giants would be wise to avoid Ramsey unless the play design or route presents an opportunity because the cornerback is excellent at baiting quarterbacks.
Rookie fourth-round pick Robert Rochell, out of Central Arkansas, played over 50 snaps last week. He's very raw but very athletic with excellent length. He attended the Reese's Senior Bowl and was injured in practice but was cooked by Kadarius Toney during one session. That could be a mismatch in the Giants' favor.
David Long Jr and Darious Williams are the other two cornerbacks. Williams typically plays more snaps than Rochell, but Williams was injured last week and was placed on IR. Both players are solid backend pieces. (Long typically is the nickel in sub-packages.)
Morris isn't afraid to drop his safeties into the box to play a speedy type of defensive package, much like Staley did with Taylor Rapp and John Johnson III.
The latter is now in Cleveland, but Rapp is still utilized creatively by his new defensive coordinator. Rapp is long and hasn't been excellent in coverage this season. He has surrendered a 75 percent catch rate and has a missed tackle in every game.
Jordan Fuller, a 2020 sixth-round pick out of Ohio State, is the safety to watch in this matchup. Fuller has an impressive range and acts as a ball hawk in select packages. The 6'2", 204-pounder typically plays the half-field in that coverage.
The third safety is Nick Scott, a player that sees around 20 snaps a game. He is their sub-package big dime player who will come onto the field in three safety packages for Morris.
Toney could exploit players like Scott or any of these safeties if he's ever one-on-one as the No. 3 receiver. The Rams may have to get creative due to the absence of Williams, their slot cornerback.
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