Predictably, the Los Angeles Rams have a pass rush problem. In the first half against the Buffalo Bills, the defense failed to get a single hit or even tackle for loss on Josh Allen. Instead, they allowed the quarterback to sit in the pocket and perform surgery on the secondary.
This is an issue that everyone should have seen coming. In 2018, the Rams didn’t have a single edge rusher accumulate five sacks. Ebukam led the group with three while Fowler, in eight fewer games started, tallied two.
Last season, Fowler became the first Rams defender not named Aaron Donald to record more than 10 sacks since Robert Quinn’s 2014 season. This doesn’t mean that the Rams should have brought Fowler back, even though they should’ve, but that they lost a premier pass rusher and what they did to replace him hasn’t worked out.
There was a narrative that on a defense that had Aaron Donald garnering so much attention, the Rams could plug any edge defender in Fowler’s spot and get that same level of production. It’s pretty clear that’s not the case.
Floyd is more of a sound run defender while Ebukam continues to show that he’s in over his head in a starting role.
Prior to the Bills game, the Rams ranked 30th in pass rush win-rate according to ESPN. That’s a bottom-three pass rush in the NFL. They currently rank 29th after a resounding effort by Donald in the second half.
It’s clear that the Rams have a pass-rush problem. Unlike in 2018, this is a team that doesn’t have a lot of assets to give up to make another trade for a player like Fowler. It’s unlikely that any player listed below makes a significant impact. However, three games in, the Rams need to try something else. With that said, who on this team is going to be able to provide a spark to the Rams pass rush:
The Rams took Lewis in the third-round of the NFL Draft in April. Lewis was an injury-prone edge rusher at Alabama with first-round talent. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Lewis started his rookie year on IR.
Lewis will have an opportunity to come back in Week 4 against the New York Giants, but even Sean McVay called that “optimistic”, meaning that probably won’t be the case. The Rams need a spark on the edge and Lewis could be the player that provides it. He’s similar to Floyd in that he’s more of a power rusher than a speed rusher. The Rams like the variety that Ebukam brings with his speed, but his issue is that he tries to bull rush tackles when that shouldn’t be his game.
The former Crimson Tide linebacker had six sacks in 2019 before suffering an injury and picked up 11.5 tackles for loss. Lewis is more like Floyd in that he’s a sound player, but his talent in unquestionable. In fact, in 2019 he led SEC defensive linemen in QB pressure rate and ranked fourth in the nation among edge defenders in QB pressure rate on third downs.
Lewis’ biggest question coming out of college was injuries and it’s certainly his biggest question right now in the NFL.
Prior to the season on final cut day, the Rams claimed Justin Hollins on waivers after he was cut by the Denver Broncos. The thought here was that Staley had worked with Hollins in Denver and been converting him to play on the inside.
However, with the Rams’ need on the edge, it may be worth trying to play him there as Micah Kiser and Kenny Young have been playing on the inside to start the season.
Hollins nearly doubled his total snaps on Sunday against the Bills from the previous week as he played 15 as opposed to eight against the Eagles. He didn’t record a sack, but in the fourth quarter, he made his presence felt. Hollins got pressure on Allen and forced a 15-yard facemask penalty that eventually set up 3rd-and-25.
He made his presence felt in coverage as well, an area where Ebukam has struggled, setting up a sack for Donald earlier in the second half.
— 𝐏𝐫𝐨 𝐅𝐨𝐨𝐭𝐛𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐉𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐚𝐥🏈 (@NFL_Journal) September 28, 2020
The former Broncos edge rusher had just one sack and two quarterback hits in 2019, but with more opportunities, he could make an impact on the Rams defense. Hollins will be a player to keep an eye on as he is someone that Staley has familiarity with.
Polite didn’t play a single down against the Buffalo Bills and only played one snap in each of the two games before. However, against the Cowboys, he was able to get into the backfield.
This option is based more on potential. Polite was a former potential first-round pick before he was taken in the third-round by the New York Jets. The Jets cut him during training camp before he was signed and then cut by the Seattle Seahawks.
Without a preseason, nobody knows what Polite is capable of doing. At the end of the day, however, right now he might be worth a shot. The Rams have back-to-back games against the New York Giants and Washington FT. If they find themselves up in those games by a large margin, it would be nice to give Polite some snaps.
Free Agents or Trades?
The free agent market is pretty thin. Jadeveon Clowney went to the Tennessee Titans which was a big name. Outside of that, nobody is really available or worth picking up at this point in the season. Terrell Suggs is a potential option, but he’s 37.
In terms of trades, the Rams don’t have a lot of assets to give up. In the Fowler situation, the Rams were able to buy low on a player that the Jacksonville Jaguars had given up on that was still on his rookie contract. It’s just very unlikely that a trade would even get done and the market is also very thin. Any spark right now is going to have to come in-house.