The biggest stronghold on the Los Angeles Rams resides in the defensive trenches.
They may not be comparable to the legendary “Fearsome Foursome” since they run more exotic fronts instead of relying on a quartet of trench wreckers across the line. Nor do they have the “human traffic jam” pairing of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh anymore.
But no defensive line unit out west in the past four seasons has established the kind of trench consistency the Rams front line has created.
Want to know why this team had the league’s best defense last season? Take a look at where it all starts: Up front. Pass rushing and pummeling running games start with these guys.
And looking ahead, this line unit looks like they’ll apply more heat on quarterbacks and ball carriers than the California Heat Index in July.
They’re already listed as a top five group heading into the fall by Pro Football Focus. But the Rams have the highest ranked D-line unit west of the Rocky Mountains. More scarier, the 2021 Ram trench men have spent the offseason getting leaner, enhancing their pass rush technique or in the case of the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, getting shredded below the chest.
Here’s a closer look at the 2021 L.A. Rams’ defensive line:
Donald Likely to Break Franchise Record
Not only is Donald arguably the world’s most chiseled 6-foot-1, 280-pounder, but he’s on pace to become the Rams’ all-time sack leader.
Donald is currently sitting at 85.5 career sacks. He needs just three more to surpass Leonard Little’s record of 87.5 career sacks. In eight seasons, Donald has averaged 10.68 sacks each year. And he continues to show that explosive first step that makes him a nightmarish matchup for opposing guards and tackles no matter which gap he’s lined up in.
And just when an offensive lineman has him figured out, “A.D. 99” has counter moves in his arsenal.
But he’s not the only one refining his hands to counter OL’s.
Founder of ‘Dine N Bash’ is Ready to Bash with Leaner Veteran Lineman
The nose tackle Joseph-Day put up career numbers defending the run with 55 combined stops. He often would tangle up two blockers to free up Donald and the other Ram defenders to penetrate through. Here’s one example of his run disruptor side.
And another that shows “Bash” maintaining his leverage and gap responsibility before snuffing out this run in 2020.
But he’s vowing to be better against the pass, telling reporters on June 1 that he’s been fine-tuning his pass rushing skills. “Bash” isn’t the only one looking to change his play. So is a new-look A’Shawn Robinson.
Once 330-pounds, Robinson has turned to yoga, Pilates and a vegan diet to slim down from his frame. A slimmer Robinson means three quick defensive starters across the line. Plus, if he’s the one who gets doubled, he’s capable of finishing plays like this:
The Rest of the DL Room
Rookie Bobby Brown III could emerge as the fourth DL in the absence of Michael Brockers and Morgan Fox, both of whom left via free agency.
At 6-foot-4, 325-pounds, the former Texas A&M Aggie has the strength and pad level to withstand blocks. He’s also displayed the right attitude as a willing sponge among the Ram veterans, saying “Even if I was a 10 year veteran, I still would be a lifelong learner. So I don’t think I’ve completely made the transition (to the NFL) yet,” to rams.com on July 8.
Earnest Brown IV is another newcomer who could break into the DL rotation. The fifth rounder is anticipated to bring length and versatility to the unit, with Raheem Morris telling him on Brown’s draft day “We’re really fired up to have you. We got really big, really physical and we’re ready to dominate.” The former Northwestern Wildcat is likely to be plugged as a five-technique defensive end but could move inside.
Elsewhere, third-year pro Greg Gaines returns to the nose, where he improved his tackle numbers from a season ago. Marquise Copeland managed to get one tackle last season and figures to push for time at NT. Lastly, undrafted rookie George Silvanic will transition from the Air Force to the Rams.
Overall, 2020’s top defense is in good hands with what now looks like a leaner, quicker and hungrier trench group ready to set the tone once again. Offensive linemen beware: The Rams’ trench takeover will soon commence.