At 7-3 and in first place of the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams are vying for one of the top seeds in the playoffs. First-year head coach Sean McVay has ignited the offense and Jared Goff looks like a franchise quarterback that is surrounded with weapons. The offensive line is much improved with the help of Andrew Whitworth via free agency.
As exciting as the season has gone for Los Angeles, their struggles stopping the run will be the reason a deep playoff may not be the end result of the season. Football games late in the year generally come down to running the ball and stopping the run; the Rams need to discover their fundamentals to compete with dominant NFC rushing attacks such as Philadelphia and New Orleans in the postseason.
The Rams have allowed 4.5 yards per carry (sixth most) and the fifth most yards per game (123) in the NFL. When you consider how often the Rams have played with a lead, the numbers could be even worse.
Most recently in its disappointing loss to the Vikings, at the root of the Rams issues stopping the run is the defensive line getting moved out of their gap.
In order for the Rams to contend in the NFC, the defensive line must become more stout. Let’s examine three defensive tackle prospects that can help improve Los Angeles’ ability to stop the run.
Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
Nnadi is a bull against the run and is capable of dominating the line of scrimmage. With a powerful anchor and tremendous pop in his hands, Nnadi consistently controls his gap and even plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
While Nnadi doesn’t offer excitable pass rushing upside, he is still mobile enough to work laterally against zone runs. As evidenced by his 17.5 tackles for loss across the last two seasons, Nnadi is capable of getting into the backfield and making plays.
His ability to anchor, stack, find the football and shed blocks makes him one of the top defensive tackle prospects available for 2018.
Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
In the mold of former Crimson Tide defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson and Jarran Reed, Payne is a technically refined and stout run defender. With terrific hand usage and a powerful base, Payne consistently anchors against the run and isn’t easily moved off his spot.
While he isn’t guilty of making frequent splash plays, his ability to man his gap(s) creates opportunities for his teammates to attack cleanly downhill and fill windows.
He would be the deal complimentary plug next to Aaron Donald and allow the undersized Mark Barron on the second level aggressively pursue the football.
Vita Vea, Washington
Vea would add 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds of beef to the middle of the Rams defense. Not only is he a massive man but he has impressive movement skills for his size.
Playing on a stout Washington Huskies unit, Vea has played multiple positions along the defensive line but projects as a pure one-technique in the NFL. His size and strength allows him to take on double teams and control the line of scrimmage.
From a size and power perspective, Vea would fit well clogging up running lanes in the middle of the Rams defense.