THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Washington’s change of starting quarterback will not result in major adjustments for the Los Angeles Rams defense, other than the film they have to study this week.
For a group that is still evolving under first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, it is a welcome development.
“I think my comments from after the Dallas game would still prove true. We’re encouraged but far from satisfied,” Staley said Wednesday. “I think we’ve shown a lot of good moments in all four of these games. I’m excited about the the type of group that we have, the type of men that we have on our defense.”
Much of that initial success has come from the ability to mix and match defensive personnel. The Rams (3-1) had nine different players make a tackle for loss or sack in the 17-9 win over the New York Giants, with reserves Morgan Fox, Obo Okoronkwo and Justin Hollins accounting for three of the defense’s five takedowns of quarterback Daniel Jones.
Being able to substitute defenders is critical, Staley said, especially up front. The impact of that rotation becomes apparent in the fourth quarter, where five of the Rams’ 12 sacks this season have come.
“We kind of look at the front as a basketball team, you know. The more rotations that you can have, it’s going to allow new guys to come in,” Staley said. “I think it’s stressful on the offensive line because you’re getting guys that have different speed. You can get used to blocking the same guy the entire game. Sometimes when you have to block a different guy, that just changes the pace on an offensive lineman.”
Much as Staley wants to make opposing offenses account for multiple challenges, he will be preparing for a quarterback that has yet to throw a pass this season after Washington coach Ron Rivera benched Dwayne Haskins on Wednesday. Kyle Allen will make his first start since following Rivera from Carolina to Washington as a free agent, which will have the Rams looking at the 12 starts he made for the Panthers last season.
Allen went 5-7 in those games, completing 62% of his passes for 3,322 yards and 17 touchdowns against 16 interceptions.
“A lot of good tape on him,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He did a lot of good things, he’s got some comfort and familiarity with (Washington offensive coordinator) Scott Turner and running the system that they want to be able to activate, so Kyle is a good football player. We’ll be ready and it doesn’t change too much, except for you’re going to go back and look at that inventory more than maybe you would have otherwise.”
Staley arrived in Los Angeles wanting stability with the quarterback of his defense, which is why he made safety John Johnson III the primary play caller. Traditionally a responsibility given to a linebacker, Staley didn’t know who would be on the field regularly because of inexperience and turnover at the position.
Instead, he turned to Johnson, knowing the Boston College product would always be on the field.
“When you meet this guy, you’ve got all the qualities that you could ever want in a signal caller,” Staley said. “I know I’ve been telling you guys, but I love talking to John Johnson on that headset. It gives me so much confidence to know that he’s on the other end of that line. He’s so steady. He’s so calm. He’s such a competitor.”
Johnson is the perfect person to relay not only the given call but the energy Staley delivers it with.
“Sometimes, it’s translating that with the right spirit, with the right emotion, and being able to say things the right way and give that last extra reminder to the guys, and he’s just been awesome,” Staley said. “And I could tell you that I’m surprised and that would not be the truth because he’s just the best and has given us a big lift in that role.”
NOTES: McVay will decide later this week whether to activate rookie linebacker Terrell Lewis (knee) off the non-football injury list. Lewis, a third-round pick from Alabama, had exploratory surgery on his right knee last month. … Offensive lineman Bobby Evans (shoulder) and linebackers Micah Kiser (groin) and Kenny Young (knee) did not practice because of injuries sustained against the Giants. … Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and defensive tackle Aaron Donald got Wednesday’s practice off to rest.