Von Miller can turn the Rams defense into a nightmare

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Rams general manager Les Snead sends several selections to acquire a defensive star talent at the NFL trade deadline.

It’s a headline from a few years ago where Snead sent several first-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars to acquire disgruntled star cornerback Jalen Ramsey – but it’s also a headline from yesterday when Snead sent picks in the second and third round in the upcoming draft Broncos edge rusher Von Miller. Of course, when Snead snatched Ramsey, he got a 25-year-old corner in his athletic best age – the best player in his position. In Von, he gets a 32-year-old pass-rusher who was once the best player in his position and is no longer.

But it’s easy to say that Von is not as good as he once was – and that’s certainly true! But “not as good as he once was” can still be real, really well when it plays is Von Miller. Von is not a shadow of what he once was. He is a vanished good player who, even after an Achilles injury in 2020, looks like a double-digit sack producer. That’s what the Rams have paid for, and they will get it.

Von was the poster boy for bent outside rushers for most of his best age, and he still has the incredible bend along the outside. Few players in the league can flatten their rush track and explode to quarterback as Miller can, as we can see in those rushes against Las Vegas OT Brandon Parker.

This is a clear passing situation that allows Miller to tee from a wide outside line and win the race to the corner. With no tight end in place to chip Miller, it ran an easy victory – but it is Miller’s ability to turn all his forward momentum on a tight corner and into the quarterback that has long made him such a dangerous pass- rusher.

But everyone knows the book about Von, which is why he gets lots of tight end chips and tackles flying to the outside and trying to beat him in the race to the corner. Von has been such a good rusher for so long because he has counters and changes based on the threat of the explosive rush outside. The older he gets, the more he trusts these counters, using block recognition and varied technique to win.

Speed ​​between speed and power is the primary feature here. Miller has always had a huge powerrush to pair with his explosiveness and bending, and when tackles sit back on his heels and worry about his speed, he can easily beat them back in the quarterback. He did it several times against Jacksonville and their high-quality right tackle, Jawaan Taylor. When Taylor took deep sets and feared the outside haste, Miller regularly put him in Trevor Lawrence’s lap.

If a tackle even exceeds more distant for fear of the outside rush, Miller does not even have to rush with force – he can just use his evil abilities to change direction to knife into the tackle and shoot after the quarterback early in the downturn. When quarterbacks quickly snap into their pockets to protect themselves from Miller’s presence on the outside, they often play directly into Miller’s hands as he waits for them on the inside.

This is why Miller has maintained his high level of pressure and disruption even though he has passed his physical peak. Miller’s 22 total pressure against true passing sets is a draw on seventh-most among league edge rushers, per. Pro Football Focus; his winning rate is 29.9 percent, which is the 11th best grade in the league. Do not distort it – he still has evil physical traits. But it is his athletic abilities along with the technical skill that have made him such a dynamic passing rusher for so long. As such, we can confidently say that he is the best edge-rusher who has ever played alongside Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. That’s a scary thought.

It’s scary because of what Anders has done for pass-rushers throughout his career. After LA traded outside rusher Robert Quinn in 2018, the Rams have largely gone into the bargain bucket at the position. The acquired Dante Fowler Jr. via trade, and he got 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for losses in 2019, and in the 19 games he has played in Atlanta since, he has five sacks in total and six total tackles for losses. Clay Matthews also joined the Rams in 2019 and at the age of 33, he delivered eight kicks in 13 games, his most effective season since 2014.

In 2020, the Rams rode in Leonard Floyd, a former first-round pick who struggled to live up to expectations in a Vic Fangio-trained defense in Chicago. The Rams’ new defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley, was Floyd’s position coach under Fangio in Chicago for two seasons. Staley was able to finally unlock Floyd in Los Angeles with a little help from Donald: Floyd hit double-digit sacks (10.5) and tackles for losses (11) in 2020, both for the first time in his career, and the Rams took part . a four-year extension of $ 64 million accordingly.

The Von deal is not a reflection of Floyd’s performance in 2021. Floyd has 6.5 sacks in eight games, and is well on his way to posting career numbers again. Von is rather a power multiplier for both Floyd and Donald – players for whom the Rams already have multi-year financial obligations. Von will be an unlimited free agent after this season and can therefore only play this one season with the Rams, but he will benefit greatly from the Anders boost, just as so many players have before him.

There are only a few obstacles to reaching unprecedented levels of defensive line madness for Los Angeles. The first is to find out exactly how to play Von and Floyd on base downs. Von has taken 292 of his 323 snaps this season (90 percent) from the left side of the defense (against the attacking right tackle). Floyd has taken 375 of his 407 snaps on the same side of the line (92 percent). Something has to give there.

Given Von’s proven success and veteran status, unlike Floyd’s recent resurgence, I could imagine the Rams kicking Von over on the opposite side. Von missed the entire 2020, but in the three preceding seasons, he played at least 110 snaps on the right side of the defense. Changing pages can be a difficult issue and may require a few weeks of onboarding, but Von should be more than ready for the job. Von on the right will take second-year man Terrell Lewis and third-year man Ogbonnia Okoronkwo off the field, and although Lewis is a flashy player, the Rams should be fine with that exchange. None of them hold a candle to Von as a pass-rusher, and he also gets them beaten as a running back

The next riddle to find out is what exactly to do about transient downturns, and this is where this trade becomes really exciting. Staley was with the Bears when they used Floyd as a “spinner”: a player athletic enough to stand up as a linebacker and play at the second level or push up on the scrimmage line as a potential blitzer. Lightning-heavy teams love to use spinners – Melvin Ingram III and TJ Watt in Pittsburgh are good examples – to screw with protection rules and count from opposite offensive lines. Protections are built on the premise that your most dangerous pass-rushers are the two guys coming from the edges, so moving your best rushers around takes advantage of this assumption. Here’s a great clip of Floyd from Brandon Thorn’s article on the Fangio defense from Athletics a few seasons ago. Floyd is lined up as a stand-up rusher over the guard on the same side of the ball as Khalil Mack. Mack and Floyd run a twist and Floyd gets a free shot at quarterback.

With Floyd and Donald in hand last season, the Staley and Rams could get mighty funky with their fronts. They would isolate Donald as a defensive end and put all their other rushers on the other side of the ball; then they would do the same, but with Floyd as the isolated rusher. They would ask Floyd to use his explosiveness to crash inside the stunts, freeing Anders to loop around the outside and take his free shot on the quarterback. On this Leonard Floyd sack from Steven Ruiz’s article on the 2020 Rams under Staley, running back David Montgomery is not available to offer chip help for the right tackle, as he (and the rest of the Bears line) are worried about a looping Otherwise. Floyd wins his rep, and with Anders securing the quarterback’s escape route, he gets an easy firing.

On these clear passes, flash packages have been money for the 2021 Rams. When sending five-plus rushers this season, the Rams have 13 sacks in total, 58 hits and five forced fumbles – only the Bucs and Cardinals, two teams blowing at much higher speeds than the Rams, produce at the same volume. They’ve got a sack of 17.8 percent of those rushes (best in the league) and a pressure of 69 percent (third best). On these flash packs, we often see the Rams turn their line in front of the flashes with the intent of manipulating the protection rules into predictable checks. These controls create one-on-one that Rams can predict and utilize.

Take this third-and-10 rep against the Texans. Rams hands Floyd (No. 54) up way outside the right tackle, then put five potential rushers on the line of scrimmage over the ball and to the opposite side of the field. The Texans understandably slip their protection away from Floyd and against Anders and the heavy number of Rams, giving Floyd one-on-one for the sack.

That one-on-one was expected; almost guaranteed. The Texans hold their backs in to pass protect, and the tight end helps chip the opposite edge rusher. But with safety, Taylor Rapp (No. 24) flashing to occupy the running back, Floyd has an unhindered outer edge to attack. He performs one of his favorite rushes – the cross-chop to get around the right tackle by Charlie Heck – and takes on quarterback Davis Mills. Mills has little room to step up, given the inner twist, Rams ran with Donald (99) and Greg Gaines (91) to muddy his pocket. The opposite edge-rusher even takes a wide, patient path to hold Mills back if he tries to escape to that side. The lineup and activity offered Floyd one-on-one, and he won it.

Von is a power multiplier in these contexts. He’s a devastating individual rusher, so the presence of Donald should help him see more one-on-ones that he’ll win even more often than Floyd. But Von is such a dangerous rusher that chip help from tight ends and running backs dropping in routes is likely to go to him, which should give easier wins to Floyd on the other side. At passing descents, the Rams can now twist and stunt not just with Donald and Floyd, but with Donald and Von from standard fronts; in funky fronts, they can place Floyd as a stand-up interior rush with Von on the same side of the formation, while leaving Anders isolated on the opposite side. Like Floyd, Von is a devastating crash on stunts because of his speed and physicality – and when he stabs into the inner holes, he has bent to flatten his rush and still get to the quarterback.

There is no schematic solution to all this. It is virtually impossible to provide chip help to both sides throughout the game also dedicates more men to Anders on the inside. Eventually, someone on the offensive line has to survive a one-on-one match, and against Donald and Miller it is a losing proposition for most offensive linemen. Either you have the offensive line to block the Rams’ front, or you do not, and even if you do, the Rams can send all these bodies in all directions along with a flash or two and test your communication and also recognition. This is a nightmare and it lasts for all four quarters.

The Rams’ defense is evolving into a new beast under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. All season, they have messed up what works and what does not, as they are still recovering from the departure of Staley and many of his key players out of season. Now, their recovery in the late season will be kickstarted by the acquisition of yet another star talent, though another weapons to add to their already scary arsenal. With Von in hand, they are a defense of headaches that cannot be beaten on the chessboard or revealed for its weakness; their stars are simply too many and too ready to be ignored or obliterated. The attack is charged and so is the defense. The Rams are ready for their Super Bowl race.

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