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Scheme, blitzing and personnel: How the Rams’ defense might change next season

Scheme, blitzing and personnel: How the Rams’ defense might change next season
By Rich Hammond Jan 16, 2020 6

The Rams did not scapegoat Wade Phillips. Instead, they initiated an overhaul of their coaching staff, one that will bring in three new coordinators and perhaps two or three new position coaches.

Now the issue is what will change. And how significantly?

The biggest shift will be on defense. Set to arrive is coordinator Brandon Staley, age 37, who is making a big jump. Staley has three years of experience as an NFL position coach (outside linebackers for the Broncos in 2019 and for the Bears in 2017-18), but other than one season at the FCS level with James Madison in 2014, he has never coordinated a defense above the Division III level.

That doesn’t mean Staley is a blank slate. He’s known to be a disciple of longtime NFL coordinator/coach Vic Fangio, even before he worked under Fangio in Chicago and Denver. Until Staley speaks — his hiring has not yet been announced by the Rams — it’s not certain what type of defense he will run, but it’s fair to assume that his tenets will align with Fangio’s base 3-4 front, accompanied by many different looks.

That’s certainly what one of Staley’s closest coaching associates, Tom Arth, pointed toward during an interview with The Athletic this week. Staley has studied and implemented Fangio’s ideas for years, back to when Staley was coaching at Division III John Carroll University and Fangio was with the San Francisco *****.

To predict the future, let’s examine the past and look at what Fangio typically likes to run, how it might differ from Phillips’ scheme and how Staley might have to adjust based on existing Rams personnel.

The scheme
Surface-level changes might seem minimal, because Phillips also ran a base 3-4, but in both cases that’s very deceiving. According to data from SportRadar, the Rams ran their base look (with four defensive backs) on only 35 percent of their defensive plays in 2019 (and 37.2 percent in 2018), which illustrates how often they used nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman or a third safety, or both.

That’s even more pronounced with Fangio. In 2018, Fangio’s last year as defensive coordinator in Chicago, the Bears used four defensive backs on only 17.3 percent of their plays. That rose to 27.1 percent in Denver last season, when Fangio was the head coach but remained the defensive architect.

To call Fangio’s scheme a 3-4 is technically correct but inaccurate in a practical sense. With Denver last season, it seemed to be more of a 2-4-5. In Chicago in 2018, it looked more like a 3-3-5. (These designations are not iron-clad because players can be identified/used in different ways than their natural positions, but they remain instructive in a general sense.) It’s not uncommon for Fangio to use six defensive backs (as...

McVay's now the mentor

Rams fans: "Not sure who our new Coordinators will be, but it goes without saying, they'll have more experience at the position than our wunderkind Head Coach."

McVay: "Hold my chardonnay."

Somehow, I say SOMEHOW, our 33-year-old HC with 3 years of experience is now the elder statesmen for the Rams top level coaches. Our new OC (34) has 1 year experience, and the new DC (37) has 0 years of experience. Maybe there's some special secret handshake that only young football geniuses know, and that's how McVay chose them. I don't know. But what I don't see is any sort of successful track record that would garner confidence in the choices. Now, don't get me wrong McVay has provided more Rams wins than any other 3-year span in the past nearly half century, outside of the GSOT. And with that obviously comes some earned goodwill. But even so, I still have to wonder about these selections.

I have a question. And let me preface it by saying, I've got no evidence of this, nothing substantial, just thinking out loud. So here's my question......What if the word is out on McVay that "You can't tell this kid nothing.". What if McVay was less than agreeable to the sage advice of his elders? What if Phillps and Fassel were more than happy to part ways with the kid? What if the Fassels and the Phillips of the NFL coaching world don't want to work with McVay?

Well, if so, then McVay's choices would be limited to young inexperienced coaches to fill the void. And here we are.

I hope that's not the case. I hope that McVay just recognizes young genius when he sees it. But it makes me wonder.

2020, a history of Genius or the proof a debaukle planning

Ok as predicted the Rams 2019 OL was a concern and so to the Line Backing Core. With flashes of brilliance to down right embarrassment, the Rams ended 2019 on a winning note--or as I like to think of it, one step forward two steps backward not seeing the post season and having lost to some real dumpster fire teams while crushing a few contender along the way

Its the future that has already been set into motion with every little leeway going into 2020. Where are the draft picks? Spent or otherwise invested in the present-- McVay's doing or Snead? Well its Snead's doing with some McVay input. So where do the Rams address needs... fortunately there really isn't that much that catches the eye coming out of the college ranks for OL even had the Rams the high picks to get them; FA is up in the air because its hard to say if anyone worth spending serious $$$ on will be available and as always its a bidding war among the teams for that tiny slice

Feels like I am standing outside in the cold not knowing which way the Rams are going with tis coaching staff. Not entirely thrilled at the OC/DC situation. Cant even think just how and where McVay will structure his offense given the issues that need addressing. The good thing is the Rams haven't gone down the same rabbit hole the Raiders have bleeding proven top talent in the hopes of younger (better) players--but after that I have no idea where the Rams will be in 2020


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