In the last couple of years, the Los Angeles Rams have established themselves for possessing one of the premier defensive front fours in the entire NFL.
Prior to this season, the Rams' defensive line had featured four former first round picks at each starting position. Even with the departure of veteran defensive end Chris Long in the offseason, Los Angeles still has in place a game-changing unit up front that Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is well aware of having played them twice a year in each of the last three seasons.
“It’s been more than the last few games; it’s been the last few years," Arians said. "They’re outstanding; probably one of the best, just straight foursomes, that there is in the game right now. You got two complete game wreckers and two really, really good players.”
This group is led by standout defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is well-regarded as being arguably the best defensive player in the league through his two years that includes earning a pair of Pro-Bowl selections, a First-Team All-Pro nod (2015), and a NFL Defensive Rookie fo the Year award (2014). Donald is the epitome of a game-changing player with 20.0 sacks through his first two seasons that has also shown the ability to be effective regardless of where he lines up.
"When you have a game wrecker up the middle, and a game wrecker off the edge, that’s probably as good of pair you can have," Arians said. "Aaron is a high-motor guy, strong, can blow up the running game. Obviously, he puts a lot of pressure in the middle of the pocket. So, it’s a great challenge for our offensive line.”
The Rams have also seen the re-emergence of defensive end Robert Quinn performing like the player he was prior to his back injury last season. Quinn currently has seven tackles with two sacks and is tied for the league lead with two forced fumbles. The former Pro Bowler's play this season has even caught the eye of Arians ahead of Sunday's matchup.
“It looks like he’s back to himself, full speed," Arians said. "He handles the run as well as the pass, but he’s just a tremendous player coming off that edge.”
The other two starters along the defensive front in defensive tackle Michael Brockers and defensive end William Hayes are more than capable players in their own right. Brockers is coming off his best individual campaign that saw him finish with career highs with 77 total tackles and 12 tackles for loss that helped him earn a new three-year extension with the team a few weeks ago. Hayes has also been a reliable and steady force on the defensive line racking up 22.5 sacks in five-plus seasons with the Rams.
Although Los Angeles currently has just four total sacks, they are still getting a significant amount of pressure on opposing quarterbacks with 23 hits, which is the fourth-highest mark in the NFL through the first three weeks. In the team's two meetings last season, the Rams' defensive front made a huge impact with at least 10 hits on the quarterback in each game along with six total sacks.