The Los Angeles Rams 2022 season is a lost cause with the team holding a 5-10 record and already eliminated from the NFC playoff hunt. But hidden in this year’s dismissal season are the inspiring individual performances of veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner and rookie cornerback Cobie Durant. This week against the Denver Broncos, Cobie Durant showed the Rams that he has ability to produce at a high level in the National Football League. Have the Rams found themselves another elite cornerback next to Jalen Ramsey? They just might…
In order to gain a sense of the performance of the roster and its direction, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded out all the players from the Week 16 contest. Using the PFF grades and the eye test of watching the game, I will provide a weekly evaluation and grade of the defensive positions.
Los Angeles Rams | NFL rosters by position | PFF
Weekly Grade: Grade for that respective week
Season Grade: Grade for the position over the course of the season
Trend: Direction of the position group from last week to this week
* Denotes player is Top 3 at position in NFL
Aaron Donald: 90.5* (IN extension), Greg Gaines: 60.7 (+1.6), Marquise Copeland: 65.8 (IN extension), Bobby BrownIII: 69.3 (-3.9), Jonah Williams: 52.4 (-4.0), TJ Carter: 70.6 (DNP extension), Larrell Murchison: 58.5 (+8.6), Earnest Brown IV: 50.2 (-0.3) A’Shawn Robinson: 64.4 (IR)
Aaron Donald has missed three games since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 13 at the Kansas City Chiefs. The Rams have a 2-1 record without the three-time defensive player of the year. I do not share that to diminish the impact of Aaron Donald. It is impact is unparalleled. But the growth and maturation of the depth players in the absence of Aaron Donald, A’Shawn Robinson, and Marquise Copeland has been phenomenal.
In Murchison’s second game with the Rams, he collected four tackles and 2.5 sacks in just 16 defensive snaps.
Larrell Murchison is questionable to return with a neck injury after racking up 2 1/2 sacks, 3 QB hits, 2 TFLs and 5 total tackles in his Rams debut.
He shouldn’t come back in. He got to keep the Rams’ defensive centerpiece healthy for next week at all cost.
— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) December 26, 2022
LA will not feel hard pressed to re-sign A’Shawn Robinson or Greg Gaines when they can duplicate their production with cheaper alternatives with Bobby Brown III, Larrell Murchison, and Jonah Williams.
Week 16 Grades: B+, Season Grade: B-, Trends: Slight Upward
Bobby Wagner: 91.3* (+0.8), Ernest Jones: 64.5 (-0.7), Travin Howard: IN extension, Christian Rozeboom: 79.8 (+18.6), Jake Hummel: IR, Jake Gervase: 60.0 (DNP extension)
Bobby Wagner has played 11 NFL seasons and this year is definitely one of his top-3. Wagner has set a career-high in sacks (6.0) to go along with two interceptions, nine tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits, and 126 tackles (69 solo). He has been the top ranked inside linebacker for almost every single week. The Rams risk-reward this offseason has been all reward and if he can continue to play a high-level next year, the Rams defense should go back to being a top-10 scoring defense in the NFL in 2023.
Week 16 Grades: TO, Season Grade: TO, Trends: Slight Upward
Leonard Floyd: 69.5 (+3.1), Mike Hoecht: 65.4 (+1.8), Daniel Hardy: 48.8 (+6.8), Keir Thomas: 64.2 (-8.7), Brayden Thomas: 60.4
I wrote a few weeks back that Michael Hoecht could be Les Sneads latest hidden gem. His floor is Morgan Fox and his ceiling is Cory Littleton. Hoecht’s emergence makes the pressing need of adding an edge rusher this offseason a little less glaring. Even though he gives the Rams snaps, they will still need to consider how to upgrade the position in congruence with managing Leonard Floyd’s contract.
Notable PFF grades from @RamsNFL Christmas Day win:
Cobie Durant 94.7*
Bobby Wagner 91.9^
Tyler Higbee 90.3^
Leonard Floyd 88.4^
Brycen Hopkins 85.8*
Cam Akers 81.0
Rob Havestein 80.8
— JB Long (@JB_Long) December 26, 2022
Floyd does have 8.0 sacks in the last nine games, so he still has an outside chance of staying on the roster in 2023. At the very least, the Rams could have the opportunity to trade Floyd, something that did not seem realistic in the first half of the season.
Keir Thomas (25% snap share) has played well in limited action. He has two tackles for loss in the last three games.
Week 16 Grades: TO, Season Grade: C-, Trends: Slight-to-Moderate Upward
Jalen Ramsey: 82.5* (+0.6), Troy Hill: 64.6 (-6.0), David Long Jr.: 53.1 (DNP extension), Robert Rochell: 49.5 (-8.6), Derion Kendrick: 43.7 (-2.1), Cobie Durant: 86.7 (+22.9), Grant Haley: 70.8 (IR)
The only thing holding Ramsey back from having had a season up to his expectations is the number of touchdowns he has allowed (7). Outside of that, Ramsey has allowed 96 fewer receiving yards than 2021. He has allowed 11 fewer completions and only has three missed tackles. But this is one of the best cornerbacks in the game, and he would be the first to admit that he is capable of more.
On a brighter note, the Rams fourth round draft pick Cobie Durant is the type of investment in the draft that the Rams needed to hit on. Durant will take his lumps during his NFL career, but he has the physical ability to become a premier cornerback talent moving forward. The name of the game is versatility. Look no further than Jalen Ramsey and his ability to adapt and play outside and the star position. Durant has played 113 snaps as a slot corner and 49 as an outside corner. He is able to guard twitchy slot receivers and is able to travel outside and go toe-to-toe with more physical wideouts.
Heading into 2023, Ramsey and Durant should form one of the NFL’s best cornerback tandems. There may not be a more athletic pair in the NFL and athleticism is something the Rams defense has lacked in 2022. He ran a 4.38 at the NFL match after all…
Official 40 times for the top CBs:
Kalon Barnes 4.23
Tariq Woolen 4.26
Zyon McCollum 4.33
Alontae Taylor 4.36
Cobie Durant 4.38
Tariq Castro Fields 4.38
Cam Taylor-Britt 4.38
Damarri Mathis 4.39
Jalyn Armour-Davis 4.39
Kaiir Elam 4.39#Combine
— BTSC Steelers (@btsteelcurtain) March 6, 2022
Week 16 Grades: TO, Season Grade: C+, Trends: Slight Upward
Nick Scott: 55.3 (-3.2), Taylor Rapp: 73.5 (+0.0), Russ Yeast: 51.9 (-0.9), Quentin Lake: 66.0 (+4.2), TJ Carter: 60.0, Jordan Fuller: 60.5 (IR)
The coaching staff is beginning to shift the playing time of the roster and that is seen in snap counts of the safeties. Nick Scott and Taylor Rapp played 88% of the defensive snaps. Russ Yeast has seen a lot of snaps (51%) as the third safety and his physicality as a box safety inspires confidence that he can take over for Taylor Rapp next year. Quentin Lake (12%) has begun seeing the field and will likely compete with Jordan Fuller to be the other starting safety.
Week 16 Grades: B-, Season Grade: C-, Trends: neutral
Riley Dixon: 79.7* (DNP extension), Matt Gay: 89.3 (+4.5)
Riley Dixon got the day off on Christmas because of the Rams efficiency on offense. Sean McVay did not have to call on the Rams punt team in the afternoon.
Matt Gay was a perfect 6/6 on extra points and 3/3 on field goals. He connected on two more field goals beyond 50 yards (53 and 55). He is now 7/8 on field goals between 50-59 yards.
Week 16 Grades: A+, Season Grade: TO, Trends: Slight Upward
Coordinators – Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
The defense played its best game of the season in Week 16 forcing six sacks, four interceptions, and scoring one touchdown. Raheem Morris’s unit is only ranked 17th in points allowed but an adding edge rusher help this offseason should boost the team on paper.
The Rams special teams has exceeded expectations in Joe DeCamillis’s second year as special teams coach. Hopefully he will look to advocate for the re-signing of Matt Gay on a long-term deal.
Week 16 Grades: A+ (Morris)A+ (DeCamillis)
Season Grade: C+ (Morris), TO (DeCamillis)
Trends: Moderate Upward (Morris), Slight Upward (DeCamillis)