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Raheem Morris lays out vision for Rams defense

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  • Raheem Morris lays out vision for Rams defense

    Raheem Morris has a pretty good idea of what he's inheriting at his new job, especially when it comes to personnel.

    In defensive lineman Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, he has two players who are not only multi-All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, but in his words on the Rams Revealed podcast, also "potential gold jacket guys" – meaning potential future hall-of-Famers.

    "You don't mess them up," Morris said during a video conference Thursday when asked how he intends to use the duo. "Let's let these guys get going."

    Raheem Morris on becoming Rams' next defensive coordinator, defensive philosophy, Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey

    It's a wise approach to take, as the two will be the cornerstones of a defense that won't be undergoing wholesale changes with Morris overseeing it.

    Morris began his coaching career gaining extensive experience in the Tampa-2 defense, a system traditionally employed in a 4-3 (four down linemen, three linebackers) alignment that creates a three-deep look in Cover 2 with the middle linebacker dropping back to cover the middle of the field.

    However, Morris is aware of the way defensives are evolving, particularly when it comes to the trends involving the usage of sub-packages. The Rams are going to "look like a 3-4 base team," as in, a three-down lineman, four linebackers alignment, but won't strictly be that for their base scheme.

    "When you go into your sub-packages, which the league has kind of developed into, you see a lot more four-down fronts," Morris said. "Whether you're talking about odd or even fronts, whether you're talking about bringing different people in to do some different things, you're going to do all those things, you're going to have all those different types of packages. Obviously, you'll talk about who you are and what you are. We're going to look like a three-four base team, something that we tried to look like in Atlanta."

    This aligns with Rams general manager Les Snead's end-of-season comments about head coach Sean McVay wanting to "keep the DNA" of Brandon Staley's Vic Fangio-influenced defensive scheme, with Morris adding his own twist. It was a similar approach taken by Staley after he took over for Wade Phillips, who deployed a base 3-4 scheme during his three seasons with the Rams. Staley kept the 3-4 but also deployed a variety of alignments and fronts.

    Like his predecessor, Morris will also look to find ways to capitalize on Ramsey and Donald's versatile skillsets.

    "Jalen is a great player," Morris said. "He's probably rare. He's unique. He can be a shutdown corner. You can move him inside. He can play at the nickel position. He's smart. You see his toughness oozing all over the tape. You see his competitive nature just all over the tape. You see the exciting plays. You see what he can be and his best version of himself at all times when he's out there in the field."

    As for Donald, the goal remains to find ways to scheme one-on-one matchups for him. Among interior defenders with at least 150 rushes against two or more blockers, Donald led the league with 319 per PFF and still posted the highest win rate at 18.2 percent. However, Morris also recognizes the value of that attention commanded by Donald.

    "You want to get him aligned up and find the ways to get him one-on-ones, but at the same time, he's done such a great job of getting his teammates one-on-one and setting up the guys around him that you don't want to take away that part of his strength either," Morris said.

    Beyond Donald and Ramsey, the rest of the group could look different with safety John Johnson III, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and cornerback Troy Hill all pending unrestricted free agents. Morris said he's going to give his opinion but understands those decisions are ultimately Snead and McVay's to make, whether it be for financial or other reasons.

    Morris knows those players and others contributed to a No. 1-ranked defense, but the final piece to the vision of his defense involves much loftier goals.

    "I wasn't brought here to try to duplicate what they did last year," Morris said. "We were brought here to win and we're brought here to win a championship."

    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Well, I HOPE Ramsay commits to / achieves playing like a 'Gold Jacket' CB in 2021!

    Still in his professional prime. Let's fulfill that potential JR.


    • #3
      Morris is entering a good situation. And good coaches recognize that and scheme to the strengths of their players. While I'm sure Morris will institute his own little wrinkles, I don't anticipate big changes for a defense that doesn't need them. Biggest challenge as I see it is to upgrade the LB position and compensate for what will almost certainly be losses in Johnson and possibly Floyd.


      • #4
        I wouldn't expect to see any big pronouncements of changes as we certainly don't want to divulge any secrets. Looks like we are scheming closer to a 4-3 defense. I am interested to learn if there have been position coach hirings to replace Joe Barry and Aubrey Pleasant, plus any other position coaches who have departed.
        Last edited by mde8352gorams; -02-15-2021, 12:10 PM.


        Related Topics


        • Nick
          Donald Looks 'Fast' and 'Fresh' at Wednesday's Practice
          by Nick
          Donald Looks 'Fast' and 'Fresh' at Wednesday's Practice
          Posted 9 hours ago
          Myles Simmons
          Rams Insider

          After reporting to the Rams on Saturday, defensive tackle Aaron Donald returned to practice on Wednesday. And if the week continues like today’s session, head coach Sean McVay expects Donald not only to play, but also to start on Sunday against Washington.

          “[Donald] looked fast, looked fresh, looked like the player that you’ve seen. It didn’t look like he missed a beat and it was good to have him back out there,” McVay said. “Great demeanor, guys were excited to have him back. He’s all smiles because he loves football, so nothing but positive things there. I was happy, too.

          “He’s going to be a starter for us and so that’s how we’ll go with it this week,” McVay added.

Speaking to the media at a press conference for the first time since April, Donald said he did his best to stay in shape working out where he played his college ball, Pitt. And while the Rams and Donald’s representation have not worked out a contract extension as of yet, Donald said his sole focus at this point is on the game.

          “I love football, so being away from it definitely was tough,” Donald said. “But like I said it was a decision I made to do, but the way I chose to handle it is the way I chose to handle it and I’m here now.”

          According to the defensive tackle, Saturday was not necessarily a date he and his representation targeted for his arrival.

          “It was just a decision that talking to my agents, talking to my family — it just happened how it happened,” Donald said. “It wasn’t something I chose. It wasn’t a certain date they were shooting for — it just happened.”

          Now that he’s returned, Donald said he felt “a lot of love” from his teammates.

          “Happy to be back, happy for them to have me here,” Donald said. “They understand the business side of things, but there were just glad I was back.”

          “Everything he went through, hopefully he’s seeing that guys are still supporting him,” outside linebacker Robert Quinn said. “Great to have him back out there to get ready to start playing football again.”

          “You see his explosiveness — he didn’t lose any explosiveness from him not being here,” Quinn added. “I think guys said from the first day he didn’t show up, ‘We know his work ethic, we know the type of person he is.’ We knew he was going to come back in shape. So it’s just great to see that he still stayed committed — that’s a great sign. And, again, just great to have him back with the fellas and get on the field and have a little bit of fun.”

          On the field, Donald was apparently his usual disruptive self, continuing to be the type of player who’s earned a reputation as a practice wrecker.

          “It’s nice seeing him across the line of scrimmage again, making practice hard for us again,”...
          -09-14-2017, 04:24 AM
        • Nick
          ESPN: How Aaron Donald's situation might be tied to Khalil Mack's
          by Nick
          How Aaron Donald's situation might be tied to Khalil Mack's
          Aaron Donald is looking to get paid like the NFL's best defensive player, which many believe he is.
          2:19 PM ET
          Alden Gonzalez
          ESPN Staff Writer

          THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Aaron Donald will probably, at some point, become the game's highest-paid defensive player -- for some time, at least. His extension, whenever it gets done, promises to have a profound impact on the structure of the Los Angeles Rams' salary cap, the type that can greatly affect who can return and what can be added.

          Given that, Rams general manager Les Snead was asked whether his star defensive tackle represents the first or the last domino of his offseason.

          "I don't know necessarily in terms of last or first," Snead told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon, four days after the Rams' season-ending loss to the Atlanta Falcons. "What I do know is he's an important domino."

          Another important domino could be Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, who might need to sign his deal before the Rams and Donald's representatives can get serious about their own extension.

          Mack was drafted eight spots ahead of Donald, with the fifth overall pick in 2014. Like Donald, Mack is approaching the final year of his rookie contract (except Mack will make $13.85 million, more than double what Donald is scheduled to earn because he was selected within the first 10 picks and plays a historically more lucrative position).

          Donald is an interior lineman who affects games more than any edge rusher. He could win NFL Defensive Player of the Year -- an award Mack won in 2016 -- and has been widely considered the game's best defensive player for at least the past two seasons, most notably by evaluators at Pro Football Focus. Donald's representatives at CAA would probably lean toward waiting to see if Mack's rep, Joel Segal, will set the market first, which is at least part of the reason a deal was never completed last year.

          "To be honest with you, I would be probably lying if I put a timeline on this one," Snead said when asked about Donald's potential extension, which could pay him $20 million a year. "We want him to be a Ram a long time. So when we ink that deal -- or not -- I can’t put a timeline on it. But it is a major priority, as it always will be until we get it done."

          It's a priority because of Donald's stature but not necessarily because of Donald's contract. The 26-year-old is under control at a very reasonable price this coming season, at $6.89 million, and the Rams can use the franchise tag on him up to three times thereafter. More pressing, from a practical sense, are potential free agents such as safety Lamarcus Joyner, cornerback Trumaine Johnson and wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a potential candidate to be tagged.

          "We’ll have them all going on simultaneously...
          -01-11-2018, 02:48 PM
        • MauiRam
          Rams rookie Aaron Donald out to prove he's more than meets the eye ..
          by MauiRam
          by Joan Niesen

          EARTH CITY, Mo.-- Before the NFL draft in early May, Rams defensive line coach Mike Waufle hatched a plan. As St. Louis looked to beef up its already top-level unit, Waufle perused his options. He found himself keeping a close eye on two big defensive tackles, both comparable in stature to 6-foot-5, 320-pound Michael Brockers, the Rams' first-round selection in 2012.

          But Waufle has never been a man for whom size is the ultimate prize. When he ran the Raiders’ defensive line from 1998-2003, the coach at times butted heads with Al Davis on that very subject, and he prides himself on winning a Super Bowl in with the Giants in 2007 with a line that weighed in lighter than most people realized. So when tape of one particular defensive tackle came across Waufle’s desk in the spring, he was compelled to give it a second look -- and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth. Suddenly, those two big tackles were far less appealing than this undersized one, who stands just 6 feet tall and weighs in at about 280 pounds.

          ​Waufle still touted the bigger players, though, until the draft got closer. Then, as May 8 approached, he asked Rams general manager Les Snead about calling a staff-wide meeting. Snead granted permission, and Waufle began to prepare his presentation.

          “I lured everybody in thinking, okay, which defensive tackle were we going to choose between [those] two,” Waufle said. “And then I said, there’s one player, though, that’s better than these two guys. His name’s Aaron Donald.

          “Aaron had some unbelievable tape that I hadn’t seen in 17 years. I’d never seen productive tape like that.”

          Waufle’s colleagues agreed. With the 13th pick in the 2014 draft -- the Rams had already selected offensive tackle Greg Robinson second overall -- St. Louis took Donald, the too-short, too-small tackle out of Pittsburgh. It might have been the biggest steal of the first round.

          When the Rams reported to camp last week, attention naturally shifted to the team’s defensive line. So what if quarterback Sam Bradford is back from a torn ACL -- if St. Louis wins come fall, it’ll be due in large part to its defense, and as if to drive that point home, Donald strode into camp and left fans on the sidelines drooling.

          “When he reported with the rookies, the offensive line couldn’t block him,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “It was consistently, play after play after play … whether it was run or pass, what the protection was.”

          Others around the Rams' facility resorted to less nuanced explanations of what they’ve seen. “Oh man,” was all Brockers could muster. “He’s keeping us vets on our toes.” Waufle’s sentiment was just as simple: “He’s showed up,” the coach said, with the self-satisfied smile of a man who fleeced the 14 teams who picked before him.

          Waufle got his first inkling of what Donald could accomplish as...
          -08-01-2014, 10:54 PM
        • MauiRam
          Scout's Tales: Aaron Donald
          by MauiRam

          There are numerous ways NFL teams acquire players, and the Rams’ scouting staff is always hard at work trying to find the next guy who can help them win. In Scout’s Tales, we’ll visit with members of Les Snead’s personnel department and they’ll share stories of how the process brought certain current Rams to St. Louis.

          Area Scout John Zernhelt on School Visits and Seeing Aaron Donald.

          I scout the Northeast part of the country, and my area covers Virginia to Maine. Each school that I’m assigned, if they’ve got draftable prospects, I’ll visit them three times. You watch them in summer camp; you watch them later in September and again in October.

          When you arrive at a school, you get there early in the morning and you meet with the football operations director. He gives you background information on the kid: the hometown, their family and those types of things. After that, you’ll go to a film room and watch tape for the biggest part of the day. You meet with the strength coach. You meet with an academic advisor that gives you some background on the player’s performance in those areas. You meet with the trainer to see if they have ever been injured, how their rehab habits are. Then you go to practice. You get a feel for their effort in practice, how hard they work and that type of thing.

          If they’re a good student and they don’t have any issues academically, there’s no need to dig that much further as far as talking to other people around campus outside of the athletic department.

          Our visits are kind of dry. They get scouts in there three or four times a week. It’s like they’re reading the same thing to you every day. Sometimes you’ll have a kid that has an interesting story where they’ve overcome tremendous obstacles to get where they are now. Those things are heartwarming, but the visits are business.

          When you get to the schools in the morning, the scouts are supposed to bring donuts or bagels. A lot of the coaches are trying to eat healthier now than they were years ago. I always take the éclair donuts. There’s nothing low calorie about what I’m taking.

          I’ve spent the last 10 years as a coach and a scout in the NFL, but prior to that I was a college coach for about 25 years. The relationships I have in the college game are really helpful to me now. That’s the case with Aaron Donald. I’ve known Aaron’s position coach for about 30 years. That was a help. I knew I was getting good information and I knew I could trust him.

          With Aaron, he was incredibly productive. He disrupted a ton of plays. He was a great pass rusher and a smart football player. Initially, I wondered how he’d fit with our group because he’s not as tall as our defensive tackles. Michael Brockers is 6-foot-5 and Kendall Langford is 6-foot-6. Aaron is about 6-foot-1. But if his neck were two inches taller, would that make him a better football...
          -03-28-2015, 01:52 PM
        • Nick
          Rams' Aaron Donald gets back to the business of playing
          by Nick
          Rams' Aaron Donald gets back to the business of playing
          By Gary Klein

          His holdout because of a contract dispute is over and he is back on the practice field with Rams teammates.

          But “the business side of things,” as defensive lineman Aaron Donald repeatedly described it Wednesday, continues to hover.

          In the meantime, Donald is preparing for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

          “My main thing is just football,” he said after participating in full-team practice for the first time this season.

          Despite his prolonged absence, which included sitting out the Rams’ season-opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Donald is on track to start against Washington, coach Sean McVay said.

          “He looked fast, looked fresh,” McVay said, adding, “Didn’t look like he missed a beat.”

          Donald, who has two seasons remaining on his rookie contract, sat out offseason workouts, attended but did not participate in a mandatory June minicamp and sat out all of training camp because he wants a new deal.

          Donald and his representatives at CAA Sports are believed to be seeking a contract that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.

          Now that he is on site, the Rams might be more inclined to negotiate the finer points of an extension with the three-time Pro Bowl selection.

          Donald was asked if he had achieved what he wanted through is holdout, whether the Rams had made him an offer that would make him the league’s highest-paid defensive player, and whether he was close to a deal.

          Donald, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with CAA Sports across the front, responded to each question by saying that he would let his agents handle it.

          “I love football, so being away from it definitely was tough,” he said, adding, “The way I chose to handle it is the way I chose to handle it and I’m here now.”

          Donald worked out in Pittsburgh the last few months and said he was in “great shape.” He acknowledged, however, that it was not the same as playing football.

          “So, just going day by day here and just seeing how I feel as the week goes on,” he said.

          Donald played in a 4-3 scheme during his first three NFL seasons. New defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has installed a 3-4.

          Not a problem, Donald said.

          “I don’t feel like I’m behind or anything as far as knowing the plays,” he said. “I might mess up here and there, but when I was out there … I felt pretty solid.”

          Throughout Donald’s holdout, teammates supported him and said they looked forward to welcoming him back.

          Donald was in team and position group meetings Monday. But Wednesday was the first full practice since his return.

          “It’s nice seeing him across the line of scrimmage again, making practice hard for us again,” quarterback Jared Goff said.

          -09-14-2017, 04:23 AM