Los Angeles Rams
The Rams are famous in recent history for their 2018 NFC-winning defense, but things can change in the blink of a season.
The Rams maintained a strong defense through 2020, with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey gracing the top of their respective positions. The same cannot be said of their teammates this season.
The top-ranked defense in 2020 has taken a steep plunge stat-wise in 2021. Through four games, the Rams currently rank 18th in points allowed, 27th in yards allowed, and 20th in DVOA.
One culprit for the dip could be chemistry, as some of the Rams’ top defensive backs joined the Cleveland Browns this season and caused a shift in the roster.
However, a change at defensive coordinator opens up opportunity for inside linebackers, wrote Bret Stuter for Ramblin’ Ram. Despite the changes, despite the fact that this team needs time to gel, the Rams remain weak against the short pass, Stuter explained.
“The LA Rams are vulnerable to a short-yardage offensive game plan without strong defensive play from the inside linebackers. The winless New York Jets executed that tactic almost flawlessly. The Green Bay Packers used a similar offensive strategy in their NFL Playoff win over the Rams. Even the LA Chargers came out of the gates pushing a short-yardage high percentage success to open the first preseason game of the season.”
Smith’s lacking production and play this season has been widely explored due to his premature Dallas departure, but Smith was once a commanding middle linebacker who led and inspired his defense. As recently as a week ago, NFL analyst Bucky Brooks advocated that Smith would be central to a Cowboys playoff berth.
“[Smith] is displaying more effort running to the ball on the field, and he has become a more disruptive force against the run and pass,” Brooks wrote. “The veteran’s improved performance has played a role in the defense’s ability to hold its own in some battles against top offenses (see Chargers and Buccaneers).”
Propped up in Raheem Morris’ defense, perhaps Smith would have helped another NFC team to the Super Bowl.