THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – The Rams' goal when building a team a team, according to general manager Les Snead, is to construct one that stresses and applies pressure to opposing teams on offense and defense.
In March, they traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford – currently second in the NFL in passing yards (2,477) and passing touchdowns (22). On Monday, they traded for outside linebacker Von Miller – a 3-time First Team All-Pro and 8-time Pro Bowl selection who has 110.5 sacks, 225 QB hits and 26 forced fumbles in his NFL career.
In adding a player of Miller's caliber, they accomplished that goal and addressed a key position on their defense.
"Outside linebacker, very important in our defense, especially someone, who has a pedigree of affecting the passer like he has," Snead said during a video conference with reporters Tuesday. "So what we what we felt like in any of these opportunities, and there's players that get shopped or discussed, but, okay, how does he fit? How does he help us? And we have (outside linebacker) Leonard Floyd, we have (defensive lineman) Aaron Donald, we did feel like that adding Von to that front seven, to that mix, (we) would be (adding) a player that would stress the protection, stress the opponent, the one on one matchup."
The possibility of acquiring Miller developed late last week – Rams head coach Sean McVay in a video conference Monday told reporters it came up "in the last couple of days" – and by Monday, the Rams had sent a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 third-round pick to the Broncos in exchange for Miller.
While the 32-year-old Miller has a decorated resume because of his pass rush reputation, as illustrated by his career stat line, McVay views him as capable of doing more than just that for their defense.
"Obviously an incredibly unique football player that not only is a great pass rusher, but he's a complete football player that can really affect and influence an offense in a negative way on all three downs," McVay said. "You can utilize him in a variety of different ways."
Still, affecting the quarterback is one of the biggest factors in an NFL team's success each week, regular season and playoffs. The Rams know better than any team.
Three years ago, they acquired outside linebacker Dante Fowler from the Jaguars. Nearly three months later after the trade, Fowler beat his blocker one-on-one to disrupt Saints quarterback Drew Brees' pass, which was intercepted by safety John Johnson as Johnson fell backward. The interception led to kicker Greg Zuerlein's game-winning, 57-yard field goal that sent the Rams to the Super Bowl.
"That's a realistic story that paints a picture of what an edge rusher who harasses the QB can do that maybe you don't notice if we were going out and made a, let's call it a more-boring move and trade for a blocking tight end," Snead said. "Even though if you go to Green Bay, good old UCLA alum Marcedes Lewis really helped them the other night blocking. So I call that not as – a little more boring, but those guys have a role and contribute as well."
McVay said putting that kind of pressure on a quarterback also helps the second and third levels of a defense, and "because of the way that that position in particular, in a player of Von's caliber, can help raise the level of play or alleviate, you can move the hard downs a little bit around," is what made trading for Miller so enticing.
Mix in Miller with the depth developed at the position this season, and the possibilities are exciting.
"To be able to have this many good players that you feel like have played beneficial, meaningful snaps, it's a real exciting thing for our coaches and our defensive staff in particular, to figure out ways to try to make it difficult on offenses on a weekly basis," McVay said.