Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has loved using his nickel package so far this season. Their nickel cornerback, Lamarcus Joyner, is so good defending the run that Williams has utilized him over a third linebacker. The Rams have utilized this look to combat the strengths of their divisional opponents. Specifically, this defensive scheme has allowed the Rams to match up favorably against the Cardinals and 49ers, who are spread and/or no huddle offensive teams.
Here are the snap numbers so far this season. Linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron have played the most snaps for LA. Next are safety Maurice Alexander, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, safety T.J. McDonald and CB Lamarcus Joyner. The next closest LB is Sam linebacker Josh Forrest, who has 233 fewer snaps than Joyner. The Rams’ base defense can be categorized as a 4-2-5. Utilizing this personnel grouping is popular at the college and NFL level because it matches up well against spread and no huddle teams like the aforementioned 49ers and Cardinals.
Having that 5th DB, Joyner, heavily involved in the run game and always near the line of scrimmage often takes him out of pass defense. Therefore, Gregg Williams must scheme other ways to defend the pass successfully. One defensive concept that he has utilized is called “Cover 2 Read.” Of course, there are many variations to this concept, but this was one way that the Rams wanted to force 49ers QB Blaine Gabbert to methodically work his way down the field. Early in the game, Gabbert was making quick reads and had success defeating this coverage. Take a look:
I expect to see a lot of this concept this Sunday against the Bills. It is good at combating run because of the DB’s help in run support, and it allows the defense to stay in a zone look but pattern match the routes of the WRs. That can be confusing to an inexperienced QB like Tyrod Taylor, so let’s hope he has studied up!
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