View Original Notice ? Rams are in a rush to add Von Miller’s sack skills
THOUSAND OAKS — The year Von Miller entered the NFL draft out of Texas A&M, Raheem Morris was a head coach helping to decide if the nation’s collegiate leader in sacks would be a good target for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first-round pick.
In a meeting of team executives, somebody said the outside linebacker would be a poor fit for the Bucs’ 4-3 defensive scheme.
Morris knew how good Miller was.
“I said, ‘Change the scheme!’” Morris said Thursday. “And I meant it.”
Morris didn’t get to re-sculpt the Tampa Bay defense around Miller, who was drafted second overall by the Denver Broncos in 2011, 18 picks ahead of the Bucs.
But 10 years later, Miller has been traded to the Rams, and Morris is the defensive coordinator in charge of tweaking their 3-4 defense to exploit his skills.
The first glimpse could come when the Rams (7-1) face the Tennessee Titans (6-2) on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium, assuming Miller is recovered from the left ankle injury that kept him out of the Broncos’ game last weekend. Miller was listed as a “limited” participant in practice Thursday. But he looked good in individual drills, which were open to reporters.
To Morris, the possibilities are unlimited for how to combine Miller, the NFL’s active leader in sacks (110½), with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, the league leader over the past eight seasons (90½) and opposite-side outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, the Rams’ sacks leader this season (6½).
“Von Miller will help anybody calling defenses,” Morris said. “He makes plays come to life. Similar to a lot of guys that we have. He’s one of those great players in this league that you can move just about anywhere, do whatever you want to do with him.
“I think the first time I talked to you (reporters) in an in-person forum, we talked about (the Rams defense’s focus on) mentally and physically affecting the quarterback. He certainly fits that philosophy.”
Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said it’s a relief to have Miller on his team and not have to figure out how to protect a quarterback from this pass rush in anything more consequential than practice.
“There’s only so many screens and draws and trick plays you can call before you eventually have to drop back (for a pass),” O’Connell said. “At that point, you really have to prioritize. You have to figure out who you want to leave individually blocked.
“Just from the sideline, I’ve looked out and seen just about every way to block Aaron Donald: slide the line, try to help with the back, try do all those different things. I’m sure the guys in Denver would probably say the same thing about Von, they’ve seen every way to block that.
“But the one thing I do know is you can’t do both those things at the same time.”
The Rams already lead the NFL in sacks this season with 25 in eight games. A different linebacker or defensive lineman has finished second to Donald on the team in sacks each of the past five seasons. None of those arrived with a reputation matching Miller’s.
Donald was smiling so brightly when he talked about Miller after practice Thursday, he was asked when’s the last time he felt this happy.
“I don’t know man, probably when my baby was born,” Donald said.
This might result in Donald facing fewer double-team blocks.
“It’s going to be hard for teams to try to focus on (blocking) one person because you’ve got so many good players,” Donald said. “So it should be fun. We’ve still got to go out there and compete and make it happen, but we’ve got a great opportunity to do some great things.”
Can he picture the possibilities?
“It’s a lot we can do, but I can picture it for sure,” Donald said with a teasing laugh.
Donald, Miller and Morris might show the world what it looks like Sunday.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey bumped a knee in practice Thursday and was listed as a limited participant on the Rams’ injury report. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (back) and receiver Robert Woods (foot) were out of practice for the second day in a row. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee), out Wednesday, returned but was limited. Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (pectoral strain) remained limited. Stafford said at his weekly press conference on Wednesday that his back is “just stiff,” and “I’ll be fine and play Sunday.”