The LA Rams defensive front had a great 2019 with 50 sacks (4th in the NFL) and 177 QB pressures (3rd). However, they lose pass-rushing specialist, Dante Fowler and veteran linebacker, Clay Matthews. Both players accounted for 11.5 and eight sacks respectively. Even former Rams inside linebacker, Cory Littleton had 3.5 sacks. All told, the Rams need to replace 23 of the 50 sacks. Who will do that?
New defensive coordinator, Brandon Staley will have his work cut out for him in matching last year’s production, especially with unproven players, a free agent, a rookie and a rotational guy. I’m looking at third-year outside linebacker, Ogbonnia “Obo” Orowonkwo to get a massive increase in snaps and make some noise in the range of 7-9 sacks.
Obo, a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft out of Oklahoma was sidelined most of his first two seasons with the Rams before flashing towards the end of last year. Rams fans have high hopes for Obo who managed 1.5 sacks on a paltry 117 defensive snaps last year (145 special teams snaps). If you project his sacks over 940 snaps – the same as Dante Fowler, Obo could have 13.5 sacks in 2020.
That’s the best case scenario as it doesn’t appear likely that he’ll get all of the snaps vacated by Fowler. Those snaps most likely will go to free agent, Leonard Floyd. Floyd, the ninth overall pick by the Bears in 2016 who had nearly an identical snap count to Fowler. Floyd had only three sacks, but racked up 26 pressures – two fewer than Matthews. Let’s hope Floyd’s reunion with Staley unlocks his pass rushing potential.
Then there’s Rams veteran, Samson Ebukam who has the second most sacks on the Rams roster at 4.5. Ebukam was also a rotational pass-rusher with 571 defensive snaps – or 51 percent. Along with Obo, Ebukam will benefit with the departure of Matthews and his 623 snaps.
That leaves us with rookie Terrell Lewis who most likely will start the season slow due to his limited playing time at Alabama, injury history and late arrival to camp. Others in the mix are Jachai Polite and Justin Lawler.