The Rams have signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14 million contract. Wow. Just wow.
Since hearing the rumblings that Suh might be heading to Los Angeles to play alongside Aaron Donald, I have been muttering to myself, “Suh and Donald…Donald and Suh” over and over. I’ve said it on my Locked On NFL Podcast in exactly that manner of utter disbelief. It now it is a reality. This is a huge problem for the rest of the NFL and even more specifically, the poor offensive lines in the NFC West.
A little over a year ago, Jeff Fisher was let go after a 4-12 season and was replaced by Sean McVay, who went on to lead Los Angeles to 11 regular season wins. Starting with that hiring of McVay, just about everything done last season was orchestrated to make Jared Goff’s life and ascension in the NFL as easy as possible. You do remember how dreadful Goff was in his rookie season, right?
McVay is a very astute offensive mind and was clearly the perfect guy to bring Goff along properly. But the upgrade in personnel around Goff didn’t hurt either. Up front, the Rams added John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth. Not only did both play well, but they also brought a much-needed professional veteran presence to the locker room and on the field. Goff’s receivers got a huge upgrade as well in free agency, via trade with Buffalo and in the draft. Los Angeles added Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Gerald Everett and Josh Reynolds, who is poised to step up for the now-departed Watkins. Todd Gurley had a pretty decent season too if you recall.
The Rams scored more points than any team in the NFL in 2017. Let’s just say that last offseason’s approach to reconstructing the offense worked quite well. Much of that was made possible because McVay handed the entire defense to one of the best coordinators in any of our lifetimes, Wade Phillips.
Philips inherited some good players without question, including the best defensive player on the planet in Donald. But the reality was that there were a lot of square pegs for Phillips’ defense’s round holes. Philips made it work well enough.
But like we saw last year at this time, the Rams have spent a massive amount of capital on the defensive side of the ball this time while shipping out guys like Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree who didn’t quite fit what Phillips was after. I will go much deeper into the moves made thus far in my “State of the Rams Address” down the road, but lets just say that Phillips should be pretty happy with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib as his outside cornerbacks (even though Trumaine Johnson was signed by the Jets). Philips can now run a very man-heavy scheme with one of the best and deepest secondaries in the league.
With Quinn gone, it looked like the pass-rush might suffer and that going into the draft, Los Angeles should prioritize finding an edge pass-rusher. They very well still might do that, but now with lining Suh up next to Donald, the Rams inequitably feature the NFL’s most dominant pair of interior pass-rushers.
Michael Brockers, who has steadily improved into a very quality interior player, returns as well. Brockers isn’t the pass-rusher of Donald or Suh-very few are. Actually none are on Donald’s level from the inside. But defending these three in any down and distance situation seems almost unfair right now in Los Angeles’ favor. If you recall during his time in Detroit, Suh would sometimes align as a true defensive end. We could absolutely see this with Brockers and Donald on the interior on early downs. That comprises an awfully difficult group to run against and not only that, should really keep the second level of the Rams defense free to clean up the scraps. It seems to be too often overlooked, but Los Angeles’ run defense was the team’s overall biggest weakness in 2017.
Even if they don’t add much in the way of edge pressure via the draft, Phillips still shouldn’t have to blitz often with Suh and Donald on the field … but he still could quite a bit because he trusts his secondary so thoroughly. Phillips can do anything he wants.
You see the dilemma the Rams’ opponents will be facing? I certainly do.