Doubling Chase. How the Rams used targeted coverage to shade the Bengals' top WR.
I take a look at the Rams' main coverages and illustrated how Raheem Morris attempts to defend an offense's best WR.
Though the Rams’ defense is not at the level it wants to be, it is a marked improvement from last year. Watching the first four weeks of the season (I’m writing this before their game with the Eagles), you can tell the coaches are beginning to trust the young players, and there are more variations within the scheme. The Rams’ secondary, in particular, still needs work, but there are indications of improvement that provide a glimmer of hope.
No matter what, elite receivers will find a way to get open, even when running a version of the Fangio system. Look at Justin Jefferson against the Eagles (above). Philly runs a similar scheme as the Rams, and limiting Jefferson to zero TDs was an important aspect of their philosophy against the Vikings. So, when the Rams went up against Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ three-headed monster in their WR room, they had a choice to make. Who do we double?
You will have soft spots in the zones when you play mitigating defense like the Rams do. Last season, the Rams’ secondary was so soft that they gave up enormous amounts of YAC. The 49ers, in their two games against the Rams last year, acquired over 60% of their passing game yardage post-catch. It was so bad that I wrote an article on it (below).
The Rams’ defense seemed to lack complexity and was stagnant last year. Although they finished 18th in DVOA in 2022, some fans and analysts believed they could have done better. This season, the Rams have a record of 2-2 and could easily have a better record.
Last year, LA was one of the top teams in Pass Blitz Rate (#7/ESPN), relying heavily on their 5-man front. However, there has been a significant change this year as DC Raheem Morris now feels more confident in calling a wide range of pressures. The pass rush is not hitting like last year, but their opponent’s offenses are not getting the free access they were a season ago. Overall, the defense is still a far cry from what it was a couple of years ago, but there is marked improvement, even if just visually.
Last year, the Rams played the least amount of Cover 1 at 8.1% in the NFL. Through four games this year, that number has risen to 13%. Coverage isn’t the only thing different in LA. Morris is still running simulated pressures at the same rate, but their patterns are different and less predictable. Last year, it was Whip (above) and hit repeat.
Throughout the year, Morris has expanded beyond running the static pressure paths like Whip and has instead prioritized creating a more diverse scheme. Morris has introduced new pressures and varied paths, resulting in noticeable changes for those familiar with the team. As a result, the team now boasts a greater diversity in pressure paths and utilizes press coverage along with other aspects of their scheme.
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