The LA Rams defense can really stand out in 2022
By: Jake Rajala
The Los Angeles Rams may have had fireworks on offense under Sean McVay, but they also really leaned on their defense to upend the likes of Tom Brady and Joe Burrow in the recent post-season gauntlet. Well, the Rams will miss the future Hall of Famer Von Miller (2 sacks in Super Bowl LVI), who left for Buffalo in free agency. Nonetheless, I still love the Rams direction on defense (and on offense) this off-season and I’m going to untwine three reasons why their defense will really improve in 2022.
Improved rushing attack
It’s exciting when the Matthew Stafford-Cooper Kupp connection can be utterly explosive in the passing game, but it’s also crucial to have a strong, balanced offensive attack. The Rams ranked 25th in rushing yards last season and they are happy to witness a healthy Cam Akers moving forward. Cynthia Frelund of NFL Network listed Akers as one of the NFL’s most underappreciated players.
The explosive RB will not only seek to reach the end zone frequently, but he will also slowly break down opposing defenses and help the Rams time of possession. The Rams ranked 20th in TOP last season, while the Buffalo Bills ranked fifth in TOP (and coincidentally yielded the best defense in YPG allowed). A well-rested AD will thank Akers and the Rams offense.
Let’s be honest – the Rams have a new legend at LB in Bobby Wagner. He has made the Pro Bowl in each season between 2014 and 2021. Furthermore, he made five straight All-Pro teams between 2015 and 2020. He also has only missed two games in his past six seasons. He will seek to propel a Rams-run defense that actually ranked sixth in rushing yards allowed last season — so, there is no reason that the Rams defense doesn’t edge out defensive units like the Ravens and Saints for the best-run defense with the Donald-Wagner tandem leading the charge. Wagner signed a five-year contract worth $50 million with a Rams team that he previously despised.
The Rams will clearly have Leonard Floyd (20 sacks in the past two seasons combined), but they will certainly ask Justin Hollins to elevate his performance (as he will ideally be the new OLB starter). Hollins learned a lot under Von Miller and he feels very energized about the increase in opportunities in 2022. Cole Thompson from the Rams Digest outlines that the 6’5 pass rusher could breakout next season. Thompson talks about how he made flashes in his third season, that Hollins has developed a stronger football IQ, and that 2022 will be his contract season. The other OLB I expect to turn heads on occasion (at least) is Chris Garrett, who was a D2 legend at Concordia St. Paul, and he could be an x-factor in his sophomore season.