In my first amateur adventures in film of the new season I decided to take a look at the LA Rams defence and how they would use their new pairing of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald.
The quick answer to this is flexibly and often not at tackles. I don’t want to read too much into this game as it was the first one of the season, Aaron Donald basically missed all of the pre-season, and who am I to question Wade Philips but I am a little concerned. Generally I think the best coaches mould their system to make best use of the players available but with these two high profile tackles things felt a little forced. In what looked to be their base 3-4 defence ,Suh was playing the nose tackle whilst Donald played end. There were also several times during the first half where in passing situations where they would line up with four linemen and have Suh playing as an end. This seemed to shift in the second half to having both Suh and Donald play tackle but with wide gap between them as they lined up over the offensive guards outside shoulders.
The sum of all this was that Donald flashed the quickness and power that has made him one of the most effective defensive players in the game, but I’m not sure they made Derek Carr uncomfortable enough up the middle. For a lot of this game Carr was able to get the ball out before the pass rush got there and he was often able to step up in the pocket. That said, Carr didn’t exactly play well and the Rams were able to generate three interceptions if only sacking Carr once.
I can’t help but wonder what more of a rotation where Sun and Donald both get to rush from the interior and both in passing downs might truly terrify offences. I would want to maximise the talent the Rams have at defensive line by getting both Donald and Suh closer to the quarterback and pushing the pocket more. I’d want to be more aggressive and not have them read and react but we shouldn’t read too much into the first game. This is one to watch as it develops through the season and I certainly wouldn’t bet against Wade Philips turning the volatile talent he has at his disposal into a fearsome unit. So let’s see how these two players learn to work best together, but right now I find it more of a watching brief than an inspiring start.