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Raheem Morris Describes the Current State of the Rams Defense, How They Look to Proceed Moving Forward

Raheem Morris details the recent defensive efforts and in what ways they look to get back on track.

The Los Angeles Rams defense has seen regression this season following last year's stout performance in which it finished the year as the top unit in the NFL.

While comparing the 2020 defense to this year's squad does require adequate context based upon the group not consisting of the same personnel, they have unequivocally trended in the wrong direction. 

They lost two defensive starters in free agency last offseason, then traded starting inside linebacker Kenny Young in-season as a result of cap restraints, making it three key players they now sit without. It's also worth noting that defensive coordinator Brandon Staley left to become the Los Angeles Chargers head coach, prompting a change in coordinators, hiring Raheem Morris for the role.

Counteracting the team's departures, they did, however, bring abroad pass rusher Von Miller into the fold. But factoring in each layer of the defense – the thought of remaining the top unit with all those changing pieces was a rather tall order to ask that seemed nearly unattainable. 

In other words, the Rams defense just needs to be satisfactory at the very least. They played fundamentally sound for portions of the first two months of the season – but similar to the offense – things have gone south in the last three contests. 

Opposing teams that have defeated the Rams in recent weeks have attacked them in a similar fashion – using the approach of establishing the run while implementing throws across the middle and taking calculated deep shots – specifically away from Jalen Ramsey.

The offense hasn't helped them though, either. Matthew Stafford has thrown five interceptions in the last three games, forcing the team to play from behind early in the first quarter until the end of regulation. 

On Thursday, defensive coordinator Raheem Morris spoke about the team as a whole, touching on the defensive play over the three-game losing streak and recent turnover spree from the offense and how it trickles down to impact the game in more ways than one.

"That's the first step. Not giving them the ball," Morris said. "And that puts people behind the eight ball so they have to take more chances and that allows you to rush the passer better, that allows the ball to come out quicker."

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Morris spoke at great length Thursday, stating that when you're constantly playing from behind, not only are you in catch-up mode, but the opportunities become vastly limited.

"You usually get turnovers when you got leads, you usually get turnovers when you're playing even ball across the board, you usually get turnovers when all things are equal and you just make a better play," Morris said. "We gotta go out and find a way to get the ball that way. We gotta find a way to get the ball from runners when they're fighting for extra yards. Turnovers come in bunches and when those things come, you're rolling. And when they don't, you go through these type of lolls or these type of issues we're having falling from behind and giving the ball up. You gotta win that turnover battle. That's a team thing. I think Sean said to you guys many times, complementary ball we talk about. All those things come into play."

Throughout the course of the season, Morris has reiterated that his defense needs to go out, set the tone and dictate terms. That has not occurred throughout the month of November where they went 0-3. Instead, the opposition has been in favor of dictating terms and the scoreboard has been an accurate representation as a result of it.

"You gotta go out and be able to dictate terms and when you dictate terms you get games you can rush the passer," Morris said. "You get more opportunities, you get more opportunities for the ball, more opportunities to rush."

The Rams' star defensive line has the making of the best pass rush in football. But when they play from behind and opposing teams turn to the running game, gaining yards on the ground and eating clock, it limits what Aaron Donald, Leanord Floyd and Von Miller do best – get after the quarterback.

It's a collective effort that the defense builds off of the offense and vise versa. The Rams will look to get back to their early-season ways in which they played with many leads, which in turn will elevate both units to their fullest.

Kickoff for the Week 13 matchup between the Rams and Jaguars is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 5 at 1:05 p.m. PT inside SoFi Stadium.


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Nick Cothrel is the publisher of Ram Digest. Follow Nick and Ram Digest on Twitter @NickCothrel & @RamDigestSI for more Rams coverage.