Coming into this past season there were very high expectations for the Rams defense. The reason they were so high is because the Rams went out and added three superstars in the off-season.
The first move happened on February 26th when the Rams traded a 4th round pick in the 2018 draft and a 2nd round pick in the 2019 draft for all pro cornerback Marcus Peters.
The second move came shortly after when on March 8th the Rams traded with the Broncos for another all pro corner, Aqib Talib. Both of these transactions went through on March 14th due to the official beginning of the 2018 NFL season.
The final move and arguably biggest one of them all came on April 6th when the Rams signed Ndamukong Suh to a one year 14-million-dollar deal. All three moves signified that the Rams were in a “win now” mentality and were willing to pay for stars. The moves gave a lot of hype to the Rams defense heading into the season with massive expectations.
In the 2018 season the Rams defense was just average. For the roster and the stars they had it was overall an underwhelming year. The Rams finished 20th in the NFL allowing 24 points per game and 19th in the NFL allowing 358.4 yards per game. The Rams were also 14th in pass defense allowing 236.3 yards per game and 23rd in run defense allowing 122.3 yards per game. The defense as a whole was far from exceptional and did not excel in one major category.
However, the Rams defense was serviceable and did make big plays when they needed to. The Rams finished 3rd in the NFL with 30 total takeaways and were top 5 in the NFL in both interceptions and fumbles recovered. They also scored 4 defensive touchdowns which was tied for the 3rd best in the NFL.
Overall, even though the defense was not as dominant as the roster shown, the Rams defense still put together a solid season that helped lead them to the super bowl.
As far as individual performances go, it’s impossible to talk about the Rams defense without mentioning Aaron Donald. Aaron Donald is the best defensive player in the entire NFL who had his best season this past year. Donald became only the third player in NFL history to win back to back defensive player of the year awards joining Lawrence Taylor and JJ Watt in that exclusive group. Donald finished the season with an NFL best 20.5 sacks and 25 tackles for loss as well as 4 forced fumbles and 41 QB hits. What makes these spectacular numbers even more jaw dropping is the fact that Donald was double teamed on over 70% of snaps. Not only did Donald prove to be the best defender in the NFL but he also showed that he is impossible to stop or even contain.
Besides Donald, another standout individual performance for the Rams was by linebacker Cory Littleton. In his first year as a starter Littleton did not disappoint. Littleton finished the season leading all Rams in tackles with 125, solo tackles with 90, and passes deflected with 13. He also finished second on the team in tackles for loss (9) and interceptions (3), as well as third in sacks with 4. Littleton showed this year that he is much more than a special teams player and became a very versatile and reliable option for the Rams defense. Whether it was stopping the run or stopping the pass, Littleton was able to do both and do it effectively.
Overall the Rams defense was good not great for the 2018 season. With all the big splashes in the off-season the bar was set high for the Rams and it is fair to say the defense came up a little short. Unlike the Rams offense, the Rams defense could look a lot different next season. The expiring contracts of Ndamukong Suh, Cory Littleton, LaMarcus Joyner, and Dante Fowler will make it tough for the Rams to bring back everyone they had last year.
With Littleton being the only restricted free agent of the bunch, there is a possibility that Suh, Joyner, and Fowler could view their options elsewhere. If that’s the case, then the Rams defense will look a lot different in the 2019 season.
Featured Image: Justin Rogers/ The Detroit News