The Los Angeles Rams have heard it time and time again: their defense needs work. Although they were in the bottom half of the league for opponent scoring, their second-ranked offense overpowered opponents during the 2018 season.
Getting to the Super Bowl clearly shows that the Rams are doing something right. However, there is always room for improvement. This off-season the Rams have sought to improve on the defensive end of the ball. Between signing former All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews to using five of their eight picks in the 2019 NFL Draft on defensive players, there has been a clear effort to bolster their defense.
Before the season has even started expectations are high for the young Rams defense. NFL.com Analyst Chad Reuter made his predictions for the 2019 All-Rookie team, including two Rams rookies. One such player was defensive tackle Greg Gaines:
“Defensive tackle: Greg Gaines, Los Angeles Rams (Round 4, No. 134). Assuming free agent Ndamukong Suh does not return to the Rams, Gaines is in a perfect positon to make an impact for the reigning NFC champions as a rookie. His motor and strength at the point of attack is well-known, but he can also be a factor in pushing the pocket.”
Suh played one season with the Rams and although talented, Suh he had his share of controversy on the field. He signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, clearing the way for Gaines to make a big impact this season.
Gaines has the opportunity to bring much of the same defensive energy as Suh did in 2018. Last year, in his senior year at the University of Washington, Gaines had a total 56 tackles as well as 4.5 sacks.
The next Rams player on Reuter’s list was cornerback David Long. Reuter believes that Long will have significant time on the field during his rookie year:
“Cornerback: David Long, Los Angeles Rams (Round 3, No. 79). Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib are the scheduled starters, but Talib only played in eight games last year (due to injury) and hasn’t ever played a full 16-game season. It won’t be a surprise if Rams coaches get Long on the field early. He’ll be tested, too, which gives him a shot at racking up interceptions and/or pass breakups, statistics that help young players receive postseason accolades.”
Long played his college ball at the University of Michigan, starting his sophomore and junior seasons. Through his career there, he put up 37 total tackles and three interceptions.
As mentioned, Talib has had his share of injuries throughout his career. Entering his 12th season, Talib’s health will likely remain a big unknown for the Rams.
If he or Peters get injured, then Long could potentially make a big impact for Los Angeles this season just like Gaines.