How The Rams Defense Can Be Better Than Last Year Under Raheem Morris

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How The Rams Defense Can Be Better Than Last Year Under Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris faces high expectations as the Los Angeles Rams new defensive coordinator. Last season the Rams earned the distinguished place atop the league in both yards and points allowed. Unfortunately for Mr. Morris, only one team in the last 20 years has gone back to back in first place in both those categories.

The 2013 and 2014 Seattle Seahawks defenses were able to successfully contradict the dreaded defensive regression principle. But unlike the Rams, the Seahawks did it with the same defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Coincidentally, Quinn was Morris’ last boss before joining the Rams.

Hopefully, some of that back-to-back mojo rubbed off on him, but it doesn’t bode well that Quinn was fired and replaced by Morris last season. So, that will still be filed as a coincidence until further notice.

The challenge of combating defensive regression doesn’t stop with the change at DC. The defense is going to be reshaped in free agency. There is a good chance that the Rams will lose Leonard Floyd, Troy Hill, and Samson Ebukam. Floyd, particularly, played a big role in getting pressure on quarterbacks; he was second in sacks on the team with 10.5.

They may also lose John Johnson. This would dramatically shift how the defense looks and how it can play in the coming season. Johnson was a huge part of Staley’s defense and he was also the defensive play-caller. What was impressive about this is he learned how to captain a very complex defense even though it was the first time that he was at the helm of any defense, and he excelled.

For the Rams defense to get better under Morris, he will have to find a way to retain or replace these key positions and do so on a shoestring budget.

Luckily for Morris, the core of this defense is very much intact. Having Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald will make this effort much easier and Morris is very aware of this. He has called them “potential gold-jacket guys” and he plans to “let these guys get going.” This is a great plan, but he also plans to tap into their versatility.

Whether it is with veteran superstars, undrafted free agents, or with rookies fresh from the draft, Morris’ reputation is building strong relationships with his guys. He is known for getting the most out of players. That isn’t to say that Staley didn’t. There were several Rams that voiced appreciation for Brandon Staley and his similar ability. But when discussing Morris, it would be hard to not recognize how positively his presence will be on the team.

Where this skill will have a larger influence than Staley, will be in a more normal offseason. Staley didn’t have the opportunity to fully affect the team because of the global pandemic. Morris will get to travel to pro-days, have a normal training camp schedule, and will likely have some sort of preseason games to install, tweak, assess, and refine his defense. With his ability to earn buy-in and empower players, the Rams defense will have a distinct advantage over last year.

A big factor in hiring Morris was his level of experience in the league. Morris was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator and interim head coach last season and was the head coach in Tampa Bay before that. He’s spent the better part of two decades coaching football in one form or another.

The two previous DCs that McVay has hired have been able to operate independently. With his vast experience, Morris will absolutely be able to run his side of things with little oversight or micromanaging.

Of course, this will be influenced by Morris’ existing relationship with Sean McVay. Staley came from a completely different football lineage than McVay.

Morris and McVay cut their teeth in the same place. They came up under John Gruden in Tampa Bay and coached together in Washington for three seasons. So they will benefit from speaking the same language and a built-in level of trust. This will manifest in shorthand and an innate understanding of how business is done. This will create efficiency and cohesion in the coaching staff. Everyone on the same page, everyone working in the same direction.

Obviously, the Rams weren’t negatively affected by Staley being from a different coaching tree, but they will definitely benefit from the current shared roots. This will benefit the players, but it will be even more important as the Rams onboard several new faces to the Rams coaching staff.

The biggest questions around the defense has to do with the scheme. Staley in large part was hired because he was going to run a new hot defense that was designed to stop a team like the Chiefs. And for the most part, it worked.

In order for the Rams defense to be better than last year, Morris will have to build on Staley’s two-high safeties and light-box shell. This is true for a few reasons. First, it minimized what one of the linebackers needed to do. The linebackers are a weak link on defense and won’t likely improve significantly in 2021.

Secondly, Sean McVay and the front office want to “keep the DNA” of Staley’s defense, for the obvious reason that it was successful. Not only will they keep it because it worked, but as Morris will be the third DC in three seasons, teaching and learning a new defense from square one isn’t feasible, even on a normal timeline. Staley kept Phillips’ base defense and tweaked the sub-packages and Morris will do the same.

The challenge that Morris faces, the one that will ultimately determine if this defense is better than last season’s, is how to improve Staley’s defense. The 49ers and the Packers exposed a flaw in their defense. Many commented that the sparse box and the safeties playing deep were daring teams to run.

Green Bay did just that and won. San Francisco took another tactic, but also shredded the defense. The 49ers stretched them horizontally with short passes and jet sweeps, exposing the lack of depth at linebacker.

The NFL is a copycat league and teams also like chopping the heads off the tall poppies. Offensive coordinators will certainly try to take the top defense down a notch by exploiting these holes. Not only will this be important in the regular season, but more importantly the Packers and the 49ers are potential playoff opponents for the Rams too.

And really, when it comes down to it, what being a better defense than last year will look like is winning in the playoffs. More than being a back-to-back number-one defense, Morris wants to help the Rams win a Super Bowl.

Morris said of the high expectations based on last season, “We are here to win a championship, and I wasn’t brought here to try to duplicate what they did last year. We were brought here to win and we’re brought here to win a championship and I want to get that done for Sean. I want to get that done for this community. I want to get that done for you guys.”

You can’t get much better than the top spot anyway. The goal is always to win. Everything else is just a consolation prize. The whole of Rams nation would trade this season’s top defense for another shot at a Lombardi and that is what Raheem Morris is focused on.

You can tell he’s focused on that and that alone. He doesn’t feel the pressure to be better than last season. Morris said as much at his introductory press conference, ”…to join a bunch of really good coaches and really good players, you’re really just fired up more than pressured. It’s an opportunity to be a part of greatness and it’s certainly something that I’m going to relish.”
 

So Ram

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I personally am going to LOVE Sean Mcvay having a BLack DC.Especially from DC with Mcvay back in the Day.

Practices will be fun & like old times.Just on a Bigger scale.
 
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I personally am going to LOVE Sean Mcvay having a BLack DC.Especially from DC with Mcvay back in the Day.

Practices will be fun & like old times.Just on a Bigger scale.
I honestly don't know whether to laugh or shake my head at that.... Which, to be fair, is how I feel after reading most of your posts. :biggrin:
 

FrantikRam

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Hard to see this happening. My guess is that they regress in yards allowed, stay close in points because the offense should be better, but likely regress by a point or two a game there too.

Losing JJ also feels different than TruJo, Joyner, Littleton and Fowler.

The smart thing IMO would be to structure the defense differently - make room for Watt, sign a cheap EDGE, draft ILB early. Then CB and EDGE we can draft late for depth.
 
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Mojo Ram

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The challenge that Morris faces, the one that will ultimately determine if this defense is better than last season’s, is how to improve Staley’s defense. The 49ers and the Packers exposed a flaw in their defense. Many commented that the sparse box and the safeties playing deep were daring teams to run.
This defense doesn't have to be better than last years defense and claiming the scheme was exposed in Green Bay is just a cover story to the real story...which was the best defensive player in football being completely ineffective with injury.
 

Merlin

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Morris is a Tampa 2 guy 43... They tend to need quality at ILB and DL due to the light box afforded by that scheme. So I would expect he wants upgrades at ILB at the least but question is whether that can be prioritized after sorting the secondary and maybe 5T if they move Brock for cap relief.

I'm sure Staley wanted ILBs too last offseason for example. So it might simply come down to whether a good ILB falls to us when they're picking.

But IMO improving ILB will improve our edge defense. Which needs to get better.
 
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fearsomefour

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The biggest difference.....and it was a huge one.....was the D not giving up multiple big plays per game.
More than one “expert” commented how well coached and disciplined the Rams D was last year. Especially the D backfield.
When I think Falcons D I don’t exactly think discipled.
Hopefully it carries forward.
 

thirteen28

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The biggest difference.....and it was a huge one.....was the D not giving up multiple big plays per game.
More than one “expert” commented how well coached and disciplined the Rams D was last year. Especially the D backfield.
When I think Falcons D I don’t exactly think discipled.
Hopefully it carries forward.
This.

For as good as Wade was at times, it seemed like every game our defense would get gashed with huge runs. Didn't see much of that at all last year.
 

FarNorth

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How The Rams Defense Can Be Better Than Last Year Under Raheem Morris

Raheem Morris faces high expectations as the Los Angeles Rams new defensive coordinator. Last season the Rams earned the distinguished place atop the league in both yards and points allowed. Unfortunately for Mr. Morris, only one team in the last 20 years has gone back to back in first place in both those categories.

The 2013 and 2014 Seattle Seahawks defenses were able to successfully contradict the dreaded defensive regression principle. But unlike the Rams, the Seahawks did it with the same defensive coordinator, Dan Quinn. Coincidentally, Quinn was Morris’ last boss before joining the Rams.

Hopefully, some of that back-to-back mojo rubbed off on him, but it doesn’t bode well that Quinn was fired and replaced by Morris last season. So, that will still be filed as a coincidence until further notice.

The challenge of combating defensive regression doesn’t stop with the change at DC. The defense is going to be reshaped in free agency. There is a good chance that the Rams will lose Leonard Floyd, Troy Hill, and Samson Ebukam. Floyd, particularly, played a big role in getting pressure on quarterbacks; he was second in sacks on the team with 10.5.

They may also lose John Johnson. This would dramatically shift how the defense looks and how it can play in the coming season. Johnson was a huge part of Staley’s defense and he was also the defensive play-caller. What was impressive about this is he learned how to captain a very complex defense even though it was the first time that he was at the helm of any defense, and he excelled.

For the Rams defense to get better under Morris, he will have to find a way to retain or replace these key positions and do so on a shoestring budget.

Luckily for Morris, the core of this defense is very much intact. Having Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald will make this effort much easier and Morris is very aware of this. He has called them “potential gold-jacket guys” and he plans to “let these guys get going.” This is a great plan, but he also plans to tap into their versatility.

Whether it is with veteran superstars, undrafted free agents, or with rookies fresh from the draft, Morris’ reputation is building strong relationships with his guys. He is known for getting the most out of players. That isn’t to say that Staley didn’t. There were several Rams that voiced appreciation for Brandon Staley and his similar ability. But when discussing Morris, it would be hard to not recognize how positively his presence will be on the team.

Where this skill will have a larger influence than Staley, will be in a more normal offseason. Staley didn’t have the opportunity to fully affect the team because of the global pandemic. Morris will get to travel to pro-days, have a normal training camp schedule, and will likely have some sort of preseason games to install, tweak, assess, and refine his defense. With his ability to earn buy-in and empower players, the Rams defense will have a distinct advantage over last year.

A big factor in hiring Morris was his level of experience in the league. Morris was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator and interim head coach last season and was the head coach in Tampa Bay before that. He’s spent the better part of two decades coaching football in one form or another.

The two previous DCs that McVay has hired have been able to operate independently. With his vast experience, Morris will absolutely be able to run his side of things with little oversight or micromanaging.

Of course, this will be influenced by Morris’ existing relationship with Sean McVay. Staley came from a completely different football lineage than McVay.

Morris and McVay cut their teeth in the same place. They came up under John Gruden in Tampa Bay and coached together in Washington for three seasons. So they will benefit from speaking the same language and a built-in level of trust. This will manifest in shorthand and an innate understanding of how business is done. This will create efficiency and cohesion in the coaching staff. Everyone on the same page, everyone working in the same direction.

Obviously, the Rams weren’t negatively affected by Staley being from a different coaching tree, but they will definitely benefit from the current shared roots. This will benefit the players, but it will be even more important as the Rams onboard several new faces to the Rams coaching staff.

The biggest questions around the defense has to do with the scheme. Staley in large part was hired because he was going to run a new hot defense that was designed to stop a team like the Chiefs. And for the most part, it worked.

In order for the Rams defense to be better than last year, Morris will have to build on Staley’s two-high safeties and light-box shell. This is true for a few reasons. First, it minimized what one of the linebackers needed to do. The linebackers are a weak link on defense and won’t likely improve significantly in 2021.

Secondly, Sean McVay and the front office want to “keep the DNA” of Staley’s defense, for the obvious reason that it was successful. Not only will they keep it because it worked, but as Morris will be the third DC in three seasons, teaching and learning a new defense from square one isn’t feasible, even on a normal timeline. Staley kept Phillips’ base defense and tweaked the sub-packages and Morris will do the same.

The challenge that Morris faces, the one that will ultimately determine if this defense is better than last season’s, is how to improve Staley’s defense. The 49ers and the Packers exposed a flaw in their defense. Many commented that the sparse box and the safeties playing deep were daring teams to run.

Green Bay did just that and won. San Francisco took another tactic, but also shredded the defense. The 49ers stretched them horizontally with short passes and jet sweeps, exposing the lack of depth at linebacker.

The NFL is a copycat league and teams also like chopping the heads off the tall poppies. Offensive coordinators will certainly try to take the top defense down a notch by exploiting these holes. Not only will this be important in the regular season, but more importantly the Packers and the 49ers are potential playoff opponents for the Rams too.

And really, when it comes down to it, what being a better defense than last year will look like is winning in the playoffs. More than being a back-to-back number-one defense, Morris wants to help the Rams win a Super Bowl.

Morris said of the high expectations based on last season, “We are here to win a championship, and I wasn’t brought here to try to duplicate what they did last year. We were brought here to win and we’re brought here to win a championship and I want to get that done for Sean. I want to get that done for this community. I want to get that done for you guys.”

You can’t get much better than the top spot anyway. The goal is always to win. Everything else is just a consolation prize. The whole of Rams nation would trade this season’s top defense for another shot at a Lombardi and that is what Raheem Morris is focused on.

You can tell he’s focused on that and that alone. He doesn’t feel the pressure to be better than last season. Morris said as much at his introductory press conference, ”…to join a bunch of really good coaches and really good players, you’re really just fired up more than pressured. It’s an opportunity to be a part of greatness and it’s certainly something that I’m going to relish.”
The defense will not be better next year. It won't be as good. The only question is how much less good it will be.

We're losing JJ and likely Floyd. We can't afford to keep JJ and we can't afford to replace Floyd with anyone as good. We may need to cut Brockers and may likely lose others to the salary cap. We are adding a new DC to run a scheme masterminded by his predecessor.

The defense can still be very good, but this past year is now a one off.
 

CGI_Ram

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Ronde Barber: Rams defense will be led by strong communicator, flexible schemer in Raheem Morris

By 2008, Ronde Barber's credentials as one of the NFL's top cornerbacks were well-established. So, too, was his friendship with Raheem Morris.

Separated in age by nearly 17 months, the two of them had worked together with the Buccaneers during Barber's fifth-through-ninth NFL seasons (2001-05), a span in which Barber amassed four Pro Bowl selections and was named a First Team All-Pro three times.

Toward the middle of the 2008 season, however, that friendship would be put to the test.

Morris was in his second year as Tampa Bay's defensive backs coach that year after returning in 2007 from his one-season stint as Kansas State's defensive coordinator. Even with Barber still playing at a high level, the Buccaneers drafted another cornerback in the first round in 2008 – Aqib Talib. Then, around Week 6 or 7, according to Barber, Morris was given the uncomfortable responsibility of telling Barber they wanted to start Talib over him.

"It was almost like, 'Are you (expletive) kidding me right now?' It was one of those moments," Barber told theRams.com in a phone interview Thursday, laughing. "The way he handled it, it was – I didn't feel like he was trying to tell me I wasn't a good player anymore, but it was like, 'Hey, this is what we've got to do.' Obviously it was a head coach and (defensive coordinator) Monte Kiffin-type of decision, but they put it on him to tell me, who had been an All-Pro a number times and led the league in interceptions a couple of years before. I still felt like I was playing at a high level, and here I am getting ready to get replaced, and the guy delivering the news is probably my best friend in the coaching business."

Even so, Barber said it was a "real" conversation that Morris handled in a mature way and without emotions overpowering the professional side of it. Of course, it only provided more motivation for Barber, who would remain a starter until his retirement following the 2012 campaign and was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year.

More importantly, though, the anecdote illustrates one of the traits Morris will bring to the Rams as their new defensive coordinator – a strong communicator who can connect with players no matter their role or status on the team.

Barber pointed to that moment, or trait, as a reason why Morris has gone on to earn opportunities like this one with the Rams, or previous ones in his career with the Falcons and before that, in Washington with Rams head coach Sean McVay and as the Bucs head coach from 2009-2011.

Those final three seasons in Tampa Bay were particularly formative. At the time, Morris was 32 years old, the youngest head coach in the NFL leading the league's youngest team, but he showed he had the energy to command a room.

"The way that he handled that room was pretty impressive," Barber said. "Now, did he have some missteps along the way? Of course. He really didn't know what the hell he was doing. But he was very convicted in the way that he went about his job, and that will play well for him for the rest of his coaching career. So I think the guys in the (Rams defensive) room are going to notice that right away, his confidence, his energy. Couple that with the ability to communicate and tell them exactly what they're seeing, without mincing words, is going to go a long way for him."

From a scheme standpoint, Barber said that Morris gained experience in a 4-3, stack linebacker defense in Tampa, then in various 3-4 defenses in the opportunities that followed after he left the Bucs. Barber expects Morris will continue to run the hybrid 3-4 scheme Los Angeles currently has, though Morris has proven he can be flexible.

"I remember our second year when he was a head coach, and he took over defensive coordinator duties," Barber said. "He really became like a chameleon. He was able to adjust to a lot of different looks that offenses were giving us. He can have a big playbook, but he also knows how to keep things simple. ... It should be interesting, man. He can't be any more excited to work with 99 (Aaron Donald) and Jalen Ramsey. I mean, you can do almost anything with some of the talent that he has. So I'm looking forward to seeing what it evolves into."
 

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Having the #1 defense is nice, but not necessary to win a championship. I dont see us being as dominate in that category, but I dont see us any lower than we have been with McVay. Our O is what needs to improve to help us win games.
 
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SteezyEndo

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As long as we're a Top 10 defense with a significantly improved offense under Stafford, I see a better shot with a Super Bowl berth.
Yeah Top 10 Defense with a Top 5 Offense is good enough to get us by. As long as we can win all of our divisional games.
 

Mackeyser

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Don’t be surprised to see a raised offseason priority on ILB by Rams braintrust.

Could be trade, FA, or draft. I dunno, but I do expect something there. Almost seems too obvious, huh?
Why do I have a feeling that we restructure a ton and go after Lavonte David? Tampa Bay has champagne problems in that they have too many good players to sign. They drafted a player they really like behind David and we REALLY need a stud at ILB.

I dunno. I've just felt for quite awhile that while I might like for us to make moves on the OL, I think we'll focus on the draft and maybe sign Mack... but we'll focus more on shoring up the D.