By Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Rams were, by and large, a good defensive team last season. They allowed the 12th-fewest points, generated the fifth-most turnovers and ranked sixth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. But they had their issues defending the run. The Rams allowed 122.3 rushing yards per game in 2017, fifth-most in the NFL, and their struggles were even more pronounced up the middle. Between both tackle spots, opponents averaged 4.76 rushing yards per carry against the Rams, a mark topped only by the neighboring Los Angeles Chargers.
Improving against the run now stands as a focus of this offseason, and bigger bodies along the interior might help defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The Rams' two inside linebackers, Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, are converted safeties who sit on the smaller side for their position. Some of that was previously made up for by the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Michael Brockers, but he moved from nose tackle to 5-technique in the early part of the 2017 season, making the Rams even smaller inside.
The Rams could open a spot at inside linebacker by either parting with Barron -- thus saving $22 million toward the salary cap over the next three years -- or converting one of those inside linebackers to edge-rusher. The latter option hasn't garnered serious consideration, but it can't be ruled out entirely. The market for outside linebackers -- a spot with two openings now that Connor Barwin is slated for free agency and Robert Quinn is set to join the Miami Dolphins -- looks underwhelming. But there are nice fits inside to help shut down the...