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NFL Draft

Will Rams Defense Be Dramatically Different Under Raheem Morris?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 5, 2021
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Raheem Morris didn’t wait long to assert himself.

“You got to keep one foot on the ground at all times,” Morris shouted to linebacker Kenny Young.

Morris’ energy, enthusiasm, and years of professional wisdom have been a breath of fresh air in Los Angeles filling the void left by the departure of 2020 defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. What quickly became apparent during Morris’ stints with the Tampa Buccaneers, Washington Football Team, and Atlanta Falcons has been established again in shorter order with the Rams.

Structurally, there have been adjustments, as both Troy Hill and John Johnson have moved on, but the core of elite defenders has remained. Back are Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey, both of whom will be tasked with improving their play that much more to fill the shoes of the talent now vacant within the Rams’ top-ranked secondary from seasons prior.

"Raheem [Morris] is an amazing coach,” third-year safety Taylor Rapp said. “He knows how to get to his guys. He's very high-energy. You can feel his energy from across the field...probably across this whole state."

Now in place following Staley, who trailed Wade Phillips and his unique defensive structure, Morris is set to add his own flare of dramatics into a Los Angeles defense predicated on its ability to dominate out of Cover 4 and Cover 6 structures.

While the Rams were schematically more unique than other teams in football last season, that in and of itself doesn’t necessarily usher in success. It’s the intricate ways Staley, and now Morris, look to deploy their dynamic defensive flair that ultimately places the Rams’ best talents in the best spots to make game-changing plays.

Over the last couple of seasons, Ramsey’s development into one of the league’s top man-to-man corners hasn’t been a secret, rather his exuberant personality and elite skill set have combined to provide two All-Pro selections and four consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. For Los Angeles, Ramsey wasn’t just used as a stalwart corner focused on shutting down one side of the field. One week he would line up and follow Seattle Seahawks wideout D.K. Metcalf in man, and the next he would work primarily over the slot in zone coverage. It’s a diversified skill set that has allowed him to rapidly accelerate his rise to stardom, where many wouldn’t argue against Ramsey being the de facto top cover-corner in all of football.

During Morris’ time in Atlanta, the Falcons represented one of the more “bland” defenses in football. While it’s difficult to be different when you simply don’t have the pieces necessary to do the job, the chart above specifically correlates monotonous defense to an overall lack of defensive success. In Los Angeles, like his time in Tampa Bay, Morris’ aggressive, physical style of ball could once again result in the Rams being the league’s top defense.

“He knows how to get to certain players,” Rapp said. "Certain players respond to different types of coaching differently, and I think he's really doing a good job in figuring out how to get to each player, [and] how to coach each player."

Whether it’s a fresh batch of combo coverages, blitzes, or stunts up front to get bodies off of Donald, Morris is sure to provide his own unique wrinkles to a defense many expect to take a drop with the aforementioned roster changes. Their 2020 unit was dominant, leading the league in nearly every major category. They finished first in points allowed (18.5), DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), passing yards allowed, yards per attempt, time of possession per drive… you get the point here. It was hard to get much of anything going against Staley’s unit.

Moving into 2021, the losses of Hill, Johnson, Samson Ebukam, and Michael Brockers will surely be felt, as new faces in Ernest Jones and Robert Rochell join Rapp, who will now be tasked with filling the snaps lost from their veteran counterparts.

However, if you’re expecting the Rams to skip a beat with Morris at the helm, I would err on the side of caution. With a fiery leader now immersed with two of the league’s most dominant defenders, the Rams look primed to return to dominant form this fall.

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