Rams Positional Outlook: Defensive Line

Posted Feb 22, 2018

A look at how the Rams' defensive line performed in 2017 and how L.A. is set up for the future heading into 2018.

The 2017 Rams won their first NFC West title since 2003 with an 11-5 regular-season record. As Los Angeles’ focus shifts to 2018 and beyond, we’ll take a position-by-position look at how the Rams performed in 2017 and how each group currently stands at the start of the 2018 offseason.


DT | Aaron Donald *^

Team-leading 11.0 sacks and 16 tackles for loss | League-leading 91 quarterback pressures | Five forced fumbles and one fumble recovery | AP Defensive Player of the Year 

DE | Michael Brockers

65 total tackles | Eight tackles for loss | 4.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits

DT | Tyrunn Walker

25 total tackles | Two tackles for loss and 1.0 sacks | Four pass breakups | One forced fumble

DT | Ethan Westbrooks

28 total tackles | Seven tackles for loss | 4.0 sacks and five quarterback hits

DE | Morgan Fox

24 total tackles | Two tackles for loss | 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hits

DT | Tanzel Smart

18 total tackles | One quarterback hit and one pass breakup

DT | Dominique Easley

 Tore his ACL during training camp and spent the entire season on Injured Reserve 

DT | Omarius Bryant

Signed a futures contract with the Rams in January

*Pro Bowl



Easley and Walker are set to become unrestricted free agents on March 14 at the start of the new league year.


Entering training camp, many outside of the building believed the Rams’ starting front would be comprised of Easley, Brockers and Donald. With defensive end Robert Quinn transitioning to outside linebacker, Easley seemed like the obvious choice to complement both traditional starters.

But after tearing his ACL early in training camp, Easley was placed on the Injured Reserve list and coordinator Wade Phillips was forced to tweak his defensive line rotation.

Brockers started out the year as the club’s nose tackle, but was moved to the outside during the Rams’ Week 4 contest against the Cowboys. The LSU product took full advantage of the added space, making many standout plays throughout the season. That move allowed Brockers to showcase his pass-rushing ability, recording 4.5 sacks in 2017 after totaling zero in 2016.

Finding a replacement for Brockers in the middle, however, proved to be a bit of a struggle for the Rams. Walker and Smart both spent time at nose tackle and became key rotational pieces for the unit. Westbrooks was also a key part of the rotation at nose tackle,starting nine game for the franchise this year.

Finally, Donald once again proved why he is widely considered the best interior lineman in the NFL — recording a team leading 11.0 sacks and a league-leading 91 quarterback pressures. His phenomenal campaign earned him his fourth-consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl, third All-Pro designation, and first AP Defensive Player of the Year award.

Donald’s pending contract negotiations will remain a priority for L.A. at defensive line moving forward. But the fourth-year pro still has one more year remaining before he will officially hit free agency in 2019.