Rams depth chart shows Aaron Donald is on his own, so why is he still here?

In the last week, the Los Angeles Rams traded Jalen Ramsey, released Leonard Floyd and Bobby Wagner, and watched Nick Scott and Greg Gaines sign with other teams. There is no way the Rams will make any effort to retain A’Shawn Robinson, Taylor Rapp, Troy Hill or David Long, four other defensive free agents yet to be signed; Robinson will meet with the Giants on Monday, Rapp has met with the Patriots and the Bengals.

Don’t worry if you’re asking the most obvious question left to be answered: What the heck is the Rams’ plan, and how is Aaron Donald a part of it?

The Rams have never had a terrible defense with Donald since taking him 12th overall in 2013. They’ve had mediocre years, they’ve had a few years on the verge of bad, and aside from the time they were in first place when Brandon Staley was a defensive coordinator, LA is usually around average. But the Rams ranked 21st in points allowed and 19th in yards allowed in 2022, 18th in DVOA on FootballOutsiders.

With no first-round pick, offensive needs, and no apparent intention of improving the team through free agency or a trade, will 2023 be the worst defense Aaron Donald has ever played in?

The Rams will be forced to make some additions before Week 1, whether Les Snead and Sean McVay like it or not. But as of March 19, 2023, this is the defensive depth chart for the LA Rams under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris in his third season. The team’s official website isn’t up to date yet, so I’ll use a combination of that with who is left and expected to be in the lead at the end of the season.

Defensive Line (2022 Snap Counts in brackets)

DE – Marquise Copeland (342), Jonah Williams (341), Earnest Brown IV (136)

New Testament – Bobby Brown III (164)

DT – Aaron Donald (616), Larrell Murchison (54)

Donald missed six games last year, but still played nearly twice as many snaps as any other player left on the defensive line. Unless they bring back Robinson, there’s a big need at the top position at nose tackle. If Donald doesn’t return, this group could be the worst defensive line in the NFL. where it is classified with Donald is an interesting question.


OLB – Daniel Hardy (41), Keir Thomas (71)

OLB – Michael Hoecht (408), Zach Van Valkenburg

ILB – Ernest Jones (723), Jake Hummel

ILB – Christian Rozeboom (7)

Without Wagner, Floyd, Travin Howard (FA) and Jake Gervase (FA), this group really focuses on Ernest Jones. It’s not that Jones had a bad season, it’s more that expectations were high going into his second year and winning a mentorship with Wagner and then not taking the next step. Jones’ playing time decreased as the season progressed.


LCB – Derion Kendrick (483), Robert Rochell (26)

RCB – Cobie Durant (281), Shaun Jolly (0)

NCB – Nobody

Rochell’s downfall could be one of the underrated stories of the 2022 season. He looked promising as a rookie, but now it’s a question of whether he can make the team. Without Ramsey, this unit played in just 700 total combined snaps last season. As of now, who’s playing nickel? He could be a sure move or maybe jolly. Jolly played no defensive snaps and did play six special teams snaps in 2022.


FS – Quentin Lake (63), Jordan Fuller (91)

SS – Russ Yeast (113), Richard LeCounte III (0)

Never mind, Fuller is the biggest disappointment. The Rams’ official website doesn’t even list him on the depth chart.

How do the Rams improve on defense when they haven’t made any effort this year to improve on defense? Stripping out all the parts that cost money, LA’s defense is left with just two players who appeared in more than 50% of the snaps last season (Jones, Donald) and zero players who played in more than 70% of the snaps.

Right now, the Rams have lost their top six defensive players in plays and seven of their top eight.

Even if LA used its first three picks on defense, that would still only be picks 36, 69 and 77 and they don’t make their fourth pick until 167 towards the end of the fifth round.

How does Snead turn this defense into a unit that won’t get buried every week? And how does Aaron Donald feel about all of this?

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