Other than yelling profanities at the television set and gobbling down Tostitos, the playoffs are a good time to evaluate both a team’s strengths and weaknesses. It was apparent during the Los Angeles Rams’ 32-18 loss to the Green Bay Packers in the postseason that the Rams need to shore up the inside linebacker position. Utilizing a bevy of plays designed to go up the middle, Aaron Jones rushed for almost 100 yards on 14 carries. By the game’s end, the Rams had given up a total of 188 rushing yards.
Obviously, in their win-now mode entering the 2021-22 season, the Rams want to prevent that sort of slaughtering from happening in the future. The begins with adding to the defense and figuring out the inside linebacker spot.
Needs on Rams Defense
The Rams have other holes on the defense as well. The team will at some point need to add another edge rusher opposite Leonard Floyd. Also, with the loss of Troy Hill to the Browns , the Rams will need to add another corner if 2019 third-round pick David Long Jr. is not the answer to start opposite Jalen Ramsey. But even though they have lost some core talent this offseason, we are still speaking about the returning top-ranked defense in the league.
Furthermore, it’s not like the Rams are really lacking for talent at the inside linebacker position. Micah Kiser showed a lot of promise last year during his first season as a starter. The Virginia alum notched 77 combined tackles, three interceptions, 10 pass breakups and a forced fumble. The main issue with Kiser was that he was unable to stay on the field, missing seven games because of groin and knee injuries.
Backups Troy Reeder and Kenny Young were solid as well. Reeder finished the season with 81 combined tackles and three sacks while filling in for Kiser. Young was able to amass 52 combined tackles and a sack. Young even intercepted a pass against Cam Newton and the Patriots, which he returned 79 yards for a score. But with the vaunted 3-4 defense that the Rams run, the team could really use a healthy, disruptive presence in the middle of the field to strengthen one of the starting spots.
Rams Draft Targets at Linebacker
Most of the top inside linebacker talent that was seemingly available in NFL Free Agency , like Matt Milano, Lavonte David and Jayon Brown, have already elected to resign with their respective teams or go elsewhere. Rather than take a flier on one of the few remaining free agents, the Rams should look to draft a solid presence with the 57th pick in the second round.
Nick Bolton out of Missouri would be an excellent addition to the Rams’ defensive scheme. Not only is he impressive in coverage, but he has a knack for leaving his imprint on ball-carriers when it comes to hard-hitting tackling ability. Unfortunately, Bolton will probably be taken before the Rams will have the chance to select him.
But there are many other talented off-ball backers in this year’s draft that the Rams should take a look at. One of them is Jabril Cox out of LSU. Cox was an excellent run defender in college and has shown the ability to be a playmaker in coverage as well. Many have even compared him to former Ram standout Cory Littleton. Another player the Rams should keep their eye on is Chazz Surratt out of North Carolina. At 227lbs, the former Tar Heel not only has the size, but the speed and athleticism to be a Day 1 contributor in the NFL.
Although the Rams have pressing needs on offense as well (mainly the offensive line), the already intimidating Rams defense could take a further leap forward by addressing the inside linebacker position early in the draft, even with their limited amount of picks this year.