News & Analysis

Premium Content Sign Up

Galina: How Brandon Staley and the Los Angeles Rams have created the league's most unique defense

Oct 26, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20) celebrates making a fourth quarter interception against the Chicago Bear at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams defense went back to school this offseason. They took graduate-level classes on fronts and coverages, received their diploma and have now taken the league by storm with a modern, almost collegiate, approach to defense.

Brandon Staley, who served as a college defensive coordinator as recently as 2016, was brought in during the offseason to replace the veteran Wade Phillips, and the results have been stunning so far. They have suffocated offenses en route to a 5-2 record and are the NFL's third-ranked defense in expected points added (EPA) allowed per play.

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

The Rams defense was never bad under Phillips. It ranked 10th and 15th, respectively, the last two seasons in EPA per play, but McVay wanted something fresh. He’s now got that with Staley.

The 37-year-old was formerly the defensive coordinator for Division III John Carroll University before being hired by Vic Fangio to coach outside linebackers in Chicago in 2017. Staley then moved with Fangio to Denver to take up the same role in 2019. Now, with the influence of Fangio, and with Staley's mind untethered to the common practices of NFL defenses, the Rams look like they’ve once again struck gold with the hiring of a young coach.

The Box Count Dilemma

Lifelong NFL defensive coordinators will tell you the only way to stop the run is to put an extra body down in the box and play a single-high coverage — this allows you to cover every single gap the offense can present to you.

It’s best illustrated against a basic one-back spread 2×2 offensive formation:

Single-high coverage

Two-high coverage

Subscribe to PFF Edge to continue reading

Already have a subscription? Sign In

Know tomorrow, today. Western Southern Financial Group.
Sponsor

NFL Featured Tools

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2021 draft class.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF's Big Board for the 2021 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

    Edge
  • PFF's exclusive metrics provide matchup previews, position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

    Available with

    Edge
  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NFL player performance data.

    Available with

    Elite
Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr