Through 4 games, how has this Rams defense compared to last year’s unit?

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It was always going to be hard for the Los Angeles Rams to repeat the year they put together on defense in 2020. They were the best defense in football, allowing the fewest points, yards, first downs, yards per pass attempt and touchdown passes.

In addition to losing Troy Hill, John Johnson, Morgan Fox, Samson Ebukam and Michael Brockers, the defense also watched its leader – Brandon Staley – leave to become the head coach of the Chargers. Anyone expecting the Rams to once again rank first in the NFL in total defense was destined to be disappointed.

But through four games, fans have begun to panic about Raheem Morris’ unit. They’ve allowed the sixth-most yards, rank 18th in points allowed and are 30th in third-down defense. This, of course, comes after the Rams were torched by Kyler Murray and the Cardinals to the tune of a 37-20 loss at home.

We’re only four games into the season, but is it time to panic about this defensive unit? Not really. The Cardinals just have the best offense in football right now, exposing every team they face.

To provide some context, here’s a comparison of how the Rams defense performed through the first four weeks of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Points allowed

Total yards allowed

Completion percentage

Passer rating

2020

80

1,413

64.9%

84.0

2021

99

1,587

71.2%

92.3

Sacks

Yards/rush attempt

Takeaways

3rd down conversions

2020

12

4.99

6

40.4%

2021

12

4.70

4

50.0%

There are some clear disparities in these numbers, particularly against the pass. They’re allowing almost 40 passing yards per game more this season than they did in the first four games of last season. And quarterbacks are completing passes at a significantly higher rate this season, which has in turn led to a higher passer rating, too.

The Rams picked off four passes in their first four games last season compared to three this year, but they’ve also allowed one fewer touchdown pass this season. And the pass rush has been about the same as it was last year, with 12 sacks through four games in each season.

Currently, the Rams rank 13th in defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. Through four games last year, the Rams ranked 15th in DVOA before finishing fourth for the entire season.

There are obviously some concerns about the defense thus far, but last year’s unit didn’t peak until the middle of the year. There’s still plenty of time for Morris’ group to turn things around and become one of the better units in football.

Anything is possible when you have players such as Aaron Donald, Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams on defense.