Why Rams valued keeping edge rusher Leonard Floyd

GM Les Snead says Georgia product more than a pass rusher
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Leonard Floyd said his goal was to stay with the Los Angeles Rams the entire time going into free agency.

“I wanted to play with AD (DL Aaron Donald) and (CB) Jalen Ramsey,” Floyd said. “I wanted to run it back. We were the best defense in the league last year. So, I wanted to stick around with the same players and try to do it again.”

The Rams obliged by creating enough cap place to keep the pending unrestricted free agent in the fold, signing Floyd to a four-year, $64 million deal that includes $32 million in guaranteed money.

Yes, Floyd finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks last year, but that number does not put him up with the top sack guys in the league.

However, the Rams like that Floyd is a complete player that also affects the game as a rangy defender who can set the edge in the run game and make plays as a linebacker dropping back into coverage.

“We felt like in that position it evolved there last year, it’s more than just an edge rusher,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “Leonard’s a special athlete with instincts to play the run game, set edges, the AA (athletic ability) to run games along that front seven. You have to be athletic. You have to be able to have the instincts to run those games and run those plays and have that AA to close and finish those games and be more than just a disruptor.

“And then there’s the element of him being able to be tough in coverage and someone that quarterbacks have to shoot over, because he is tall and long when he does drop back. Sometimes the guys in our division we’re chasing down, that unique trait, that AA to redirect when all of the sudden the play becomes unscheduled and then have the speed after he does redirect to go chase them down.”

Rams head coach Sean McVay agreed.

“I’m really jacked up to have him back,” McVay said. “You watch his tape and I think he earned that respect across the league with what he did in Chicago, but especially this past year. People that you really value their opinions, I think there was consistency amongst those people that are really studying the film though, know what it looks like and the way they saw him. He was a major, major contributor to what we did defensively this past year.”

With Snead and McVay’s happiness in re-signing Floyd apparent, here are some examples on how the Georgia product showed off his diverse skill set last season for the Rams.

Sets the edge as a defender

The Rams had one of the best rush defenses in the NFL last year, and Floyd was a significant contributor. Floyd finished tied for sixth on the team with 55 combined tackles, but second behind Aaron Donald (14) with 11 tackles for loss.

At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Floyd’s strength to set the edge defensively and athleticism to then go make a play are unique for his position.

Watch in this video below as he sets the edge defensively against the San Francisco 49ers and then corrals one of the best athletes in the NFL at receiver in Deebo Samuel.

Floyd makes plays in space as a defender

Floyd finished with eight sacks combined against Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray last season, two of the more agile quarterbacks in the NFL.

Floyd explained his strategy that he developed in collaboration with linebackers coach Mike Shula in containing mobile quarterbacks like Wilson and Murray.

“You know how the fox hunts the rabbit and he waits on the rabbit -- that’s basically how you got to rush those guys,” Floyd said. “You’ve got to be the fox. You’ve got to wait on them and they’ll come to you. Running guys, they’ll run straight to you.”

That’s basically what Wilson did in the play below in L.A.’s second, regular-season game against the Seahawks, expertly defending the Seattle’s quarterback’s patent pump fake.

And Floyd brings down Wilson one of seven times on the year for a sack below.

Of course, it doesn’t work all the time, evidenced by Floyd getting pump-faked in the air on this Aaron Rodgers touchdown run in the playoffs.

Plays game in pass rush

Here, safety Nick Scott draws two defenders on a blitz and Leonard Floyd loops around for a sack against Russell Wilson.

Floyd also was effective in running pass-rush stunts with Donald during the season, helping to free up the dynamic pass rusher when he was double-teamed last year.

Finishes as a pass rusher

Here, Floyd does what he gets paid to do, sack the quarterback off the edge. Putting up better sack numbers and competing with the elite players at his position is a focus for Floyd this offseason.

Floyd finished with 19 quarterback hits last season. If he can turn half of those into sacks, Floyd would be among the top sack guys in the upcoming season.

“I want to hang around the top guys in the league,” Floyd said. “So, I want to just be around those guys. I don't want to ever fall too far behind again.”