Los Angeles Rams: Leonard Floyd Proving His Worth To Rams Defense

by Blaine Grisak
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While the Los Angeles Rams lost free agents such as John Johnson III and Troy Hill during the offseason, the one they brought back in making his mark on the defense. Over the summer, the Rams made it a point to bring back edge rusher Leonard Floyd and the former top-10 pick is making Les Snead good on his investment.

Last season, the Rams signed Floyd to a one-year deal worth $10M. Much like the Dante Fowler Jr. situation in Jacksonville, Floyd was a former top-10 pick who had failed to live up to that status. In four years with the Bears after being drafted ninth overall in 2016, Floyd recorded more than five sacks in a season just once. This was with Khalil Mack rushing on the other side.

After losing Dante Fowler, the Rams needed a premier pass rusher on the edge. They needed to relinquish some pressure and attention off of Aaron Donald. Instead of paying Fowler to an average per year contract of $16M, the Rams opted to go with Floyd for a cheaper price and someone who had experience with Brandon Staley.

While Aaron Donald certainly creates opportunities for other pass rushers on the defense, those players still need to take advantage of those opportunities. This is a reason why the Los Angeles Rams traded for Fowler in the first place in 2018. Players like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Samson Ebukam simply were not getting the job done and winning their one-on-ones.

Floyd may have been a disappointment with the Bears. However, a change of scenery is exactly what the former ninth overall pick needed. In his first season with the Rams, Floyd finished with a career-high 10.5 sacks. This number was just 0.5 sacks shy of his previous three years combined. As the Rams have done with outcasts like Austin Corbett and Jalen Ramsey, they got the best football out of Leonard Floyd.

The fit between Floyd and the Rams was a perfect match. It was such a good fit that even while Staley left to go to the Chargers and the Rams opted not to pay Fowler the season before, the two sides agreed to a four-year deal with $64M. That seems like a lot of money for a team strapped against the cap. So much so that Floyd was named the most overrated player on the Rams. In an article from Pro Football Network over the summer, they wrote:

Like Dante Fowler, Leonard Floyd has profited off complementing Aaron Donald. Floyd generated a 15% pressure rate in 2016 and 2017 with the Bears. However, he has failed to reach those heights since. The main reason is Floyd saw less than 300 pass-rush snaps those seasons. With an increase in usage, his production has gone down. Yes, he recorded 10.5 sacks in 2020, but that’s with Donald taking on two if not three blockers, leaving Floyd in one-on-one situations.

While that may seem like a lot, the Los Angeles Rams are really getting a bargain. The Rams are paying Floyd an average of $16M per year. According to Over The Cap, that’s still just the 15th most among edge rushers. To compare that against his production, Floyd ranks ninth in sacks with 6.5.

Floyd’s 6.5 sacks this season have the Rams edge rusher on pace for yet another career season. Additionally, those 6.5 sacks lead the Rams defense. What’s so remarkable about that? Well,  the last player not named Aaron Donald to lead the Rams in sacks was Robert Quinn in 2014.

Those 6.5 sacks aren’t just over three games either. Floyd has gotten to the quarterback in all but two games this year.

Aaron Donald still leads the Los Angeles Rams in quarterback pressures with 38 according to Pro Football Focus, but Floyd is right behind him at 32. When you have two players that can generate pressure at that rate, it makes it difficult for opposing offenses. Most of the time, offenses are going to focus on Donald and Floyd is taking advantage of his opportunities.

While Floyd’s effect rushing the passer can’t be understated, it’s also what he does in the run game. Floyd has the highest run-defense grade on Pro Football Focus among Rams edge rushers.

With the Rams, Floyd has developed into a better overall and balanced player. In just over a year, he’s developed into a leader on the team and a significant piece on the defense. Now, paired with Von Miller, Floyd should have even more of an impact.

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