When the Rams were able to land defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh in free agency last year, it was considered a significant coup for the club’s defensive line.
Suh was productive in 2018, recording 4.5 sacks, four tackles for loss, and 19 quarterback hits during the regular season. But he was dominant in the postseason, recording 1.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, and a pair of tackles for loss in three games.
Check out the top photos of the Los Angeles Rams defensive line and linebackers from the 2018 season.
Moreover, Suh was on the field a lot — playing 87.8 percent of snaps. Only linebacker Cory Littleton, safety John Johnson, cornerback Marcus Peters, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, and safety Lamarcus Joyner were on the field more. And after Suh, the next-highest defensive snap percentage belongs to outside linebacker Samson Ebukam at 68.6.
But as the Rams entered the 2019 free agency period, general manager Les Snead admitted that L.A. was projecting Suh to receive a contract offer outside of the team’s budget on the open market.
So where does that leave L.A. at nose tackle for next season? Well, Snead mentioned that the club could turn to defensive lineman Michael Brockers for the position. While Brockers has spent the majority of the past two seasons as the Rams’ five-technique, he has played nose tackle in the past and excelled at the spot.
“[W]e’ve talked a little bit about the flexibility that Michael Brockers does give you to play nose and five,” Snead said. “Then it gets into, do we add anybody else during free agency or the draft? And what his flexibility allows you to do is to pick the best player and not necessarily, ‘We’ve got to have a nose tackle,’ because, hey, maybe the best five technique will move down. So it does give you some flexibility and that’s what we are going to do there.”
Parsing Snead’s words a bit, it sounds like Los Angeles is certainly prepared to possibly select a defensive lineman in the upcoming NFL Draft — but because of Brockers’ positional flexibility the club can go into it drafting the best player available instead of selecting a player to fill a specific need.
But even if the Rams were not going to select a defensive lineman, they have options currently on the roster. If, for instance, Brockers were to kick inside to nose tackle, John Franklin-Myers could be a candidate to take over at five technique. Plus, rising second-year lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and rising third-third-year lineman Tanzel Smart could be candidates for the nose tackle spot.
Either way, nose tackle will be a position worth monitoring once the Rams begin their offseason program next month.