The Los Angeles Rams’ defensive performance in Week 2 against the Atlanta Falcons was a more realistic look at how the defense will play going forward. Although the Falcons were able to creep back into the game late in the second half, the defense as a whole recorded three sacks, four lost tackles and two interceptions. Cobie Durant appeared in the game as a defensive playmaker, but who else impressed in the game?
To get a feel for the squad’s performance and direction, Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked all players in the Week 2 competition. Using the PFF scores and the game observation eye test, I will provide a weekly rating and grade of the defensive positions. Be sure to check out the attacking players’ PFF scores from week 2!
Weekly Note: Note for the respective week
Season Grade: Grade for position throughout the season
Trend: Direction of position group from last week to this week
* Indicates the player is in top 3 position in the NFL
Aaron Donald: 91.2* (+9.5), A’Shawn Robinson: 61.1 (+8.0), Gregory Gaines: 56.7 (+6.6), Marquis Copeland: 69.7 (-9.2), Bobby Brown III: SUS Mike Hocht: 62.3 (+2.3), Jonas Williams: 45.0 (-15.8)
The Rams’ run defense was solid against Atlanta. The Falcons only 90 yards on 27 carries (3.3 average). Her longest run was 11 yards. A’Shawn Robinson showed his strength in the middle. Donald was quiet on the box score, but Atlanta had to adjust and accommodate their usual game-wrecking play. Overall it was a solid performance to build on.
Week 2 class: B-, Season grade: B-, Trend: Slightly up
Bobby Wagner: 79.1 (+6.6), Ernest Jones: 80.2 (-11.0), Travin Howard: IR, Christian Rozeboom: DNP, Jake Bumblebee: DNP
It’s been a long time since the Rams were considered a strong linebacker team. LA could have two of the top three linebackers in the NFC West.
After an impressive first week, Ernest Jones played 48 of 61 snaps (79%), which is a clear indication that Sean McVay and Raheem Morris want to put him on the field as often as possible. He rushed defense with 12 tackles (five solo) and one tackle for a loss. I thought he did a great job on zone coverage covering some intersecting routes. He understands his space and his responsibility. Maybe he’ll do it again in week 3…
Bobby Wagner added another sack to his LA Rams log. Wags is a contender for double-digit sack totals in this defense, with the Rams prone to blitzing their linebackers. And with AD99 taking on doubles teams, Wagner will have clear shots down the middle like on Sunday.
Week 2 class: B+, Season grade: B+, Trend: Neutral
Leonard Floyd: 49.3 (+11.6), Justin Hollins: 44.6 (+13.0), Terrell Lewis: 78.9 (+10.4), Keir Thomas: 47.5 (-12.5), Daniel Hardy: IR
Justin Hollins provided some late-game heroics with his sack, forcing Marcus Mariota to fumble. Week 2 was an even split between Hollins and Lewis, with both playing 49% of defensive snaps. Lewis has opened the season strong and if he stays healthy his availability could soon convert to a starting position given his ability as a pass rusher over Justin Hollins.
Justin Hollins did a really good job filling in on Leonard Floyd. Not as effective as a pass rusher, but leads edge rushers in run-stop win rate.
A’Shawn Robinson also ranks fourth among DTs.
— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakDTR) September 20, 2022
After facing another mobile quarterback, the edge rushers did a good job of not allowing Mariota to get out of the pocket and gain meters with his legs. Next up: another mobile quarterback in Kyler Murray.
Week 2 class: C, Season grade: D+, Trend: Slightly up
Jalen Ramsey: 66.3 (+11.8), Troy Hill: 69.5 (-17.0), David Long Jr.: 58.5 (-9.0), Robert Rochelle: 41.8, Cobie Durant: 52.1, Derion Kendrick: IN ONE
“The comeback on the verge of becoming legendary.”
Jalen wasn’t perfect on Sunday but he continues to make the difference. His interception is missed by 95% of cornerbacks in the league. Its athleticism is not matched by many. Not to mention, Ramsey’s tackle for a cornerback is one of the best in the league. His open field tackle against Mariota was textbook.
Cobie Durant became the star of the game after Troy Hill retired with a groin injury. Durant himself was dealing with a thigh strain but managed to intercept and release Mariota. The interception was a gift, but the “Landhai” turned it into a 51-yard return; allowing the offense to add points before halftime.
David Long Jr. (75%) struggled again in this one. With Troy Hill injured, teams can now target Long more as he is likely to be called up for primary or number two duties. If he doesn’t improve over the next week or two, he could see a bench press similar to what happened after Week 4 of the 2021 season.
There were a few missed tackles (Hill and Long Jr) and at least two defensive pass interference calls.
Week 2 class: B-, Season grade: B-, Trend: very Slightly up
Nick Scott: 80.3 (-4.9), Taylor Rapp: 63.9 (-2.0), Jordan Fuller: 66.6 (+4.3), Terrell Burgess: DNP, Russ yeast: DNP, Quentin Lake: PUPPY
There’s still no explanation as to why Jordan Fuller was demoted in 2021 from starter/signal caller to number three safety in 2022. Still, Fuller already saw a jump in game time from week one to two, playing 59% against ATL. His impact on the field could bring him back his place as he totaled eight tackles (six solo). Rapp and Scott combined for six tackles (four solo). Granted, Fuller’s role is to play more in the middle of the field near the linebackers.
Overall the fuses were really solid. Unfortunately, Ramsey’s DPI negated a first-half interception by Nick Scott.
Week 2 class: B, Season grade: C+, Trend: Slightly up
Riley Dixon: 66.2 (-0.2), MattGay: 75.9 (+1.0)
Riley Dixon had a punt blocked, but when a defender runs unblocked in the middle, it’s hard to blame the punter.
Matt Gay had a field goal from 20 yards, which is more of an offensive shot because he didn’t score from the one-yard line.
Special teams punt and kickoff return blocking continue to lag behind schedule. Brandon Powell had zero careers.
Week 2 class: D, Season grade: D, Trend: Moderately down
Coordinators – Raheem Morris & Joe DeCamillis
Morris’ running defense caught opposing offenses. That might rather benefit Bobby Wagner’s game recognition and his ability to pierce blockers.
This is now two years in a row that DeCamillis’ special teams unit has been slowly out of the gate. If you recall, the Rams had a special team slip in Week 2 of 2021 against the Indianapolis Colts.
Week 2 class: B- (Morris)C (DeCamillis)
season grade: C (Morris), D (DeCamillis)
Trend: Slightly up (Morris), Moderately down (DeCamillis)