Phillips First Year is All About Changing the Culture

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Updated: July 12, 2017

Perhaps the smartest thing Les Snead has done in his time with the Rams was hiring Wade Phillips. Sure, the RGIII trade was a monumental heist but unlike the Lufthansa heist this one didn’t pay off that well. Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn aside, they largely came away with nothing. Anyway, Wade Phillips brings decades worth of knowledge and a patience that his predecessor Gregg Williams simply does not have. His defenses are known for its players not being prone to careless mistakes and while knocking you out Deebo style.

Luckily, the Rams aren’t short of talent on defense and in Aaron Donald, Phillips has a leviathan that is nastier than the Mountain. The defense is switching to a 3-4 this year and that means Donald will man the fort on the line while Quinn becomes an outside linebacker. Connor Barwin was brought in to be a veteran presence while Mark Barron grows into being a full-time linebacker and Alec Ogletree develops into being a leader. There’s been a lot of drama concerning Donald’s extension but its all noise because there’s no way Snead doesn’t make him the highest paid defensive player in the league.

The real story on the defense concerns how quickly Phillip can install his system. There are a lot of players who simply won’t be back next season because the Rams will need to make some sacrifices in order to retain both Donald and Ogletree. Trumaine Johnson is the biggest name that won’t be back and while the team has done a relatively good job in bolstering the secondary with Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman but they aren’t enough.

Their safety position is presently in dire straits with Lamarcus Joyner having to improve in a hurry and there not being much else behind him. If the Rams spent their draft picks on receivers this year, expect them to go in on fixing that, unless they decide to use their early picks on offensive line and possibly quarterback. Wade’s biggest job this year is to figure out which players are worth keeping. If that unit makes a leap that’s gravy. Wade will have complete autonomy given head coach Sean McVay’s acknowledgement that when it comes to defense he knows less than Jon Snow.

Gregg Williams was great at creating a blitz happy team that reduced to quarterbacks to the same level that the Rams were operating at which is no easy task. The problem was they made dumb penalties at the worst possible time and when the going got tough the defense collapsed quicker than the third act of Alien Covenant. Wade Phillips is the antithesis of that and it is baffling that Denver let him get away but there’s no point in questioning a miracle.

The spotlight is on Sean McVay and his campaign to revive the forward pass and to prove to people who Jared Goff isn’t some kind of Sasha Baron Cohen performance art. Phillips has a low-key but equally important job. He is responsible for reshaping the culture of the defense and creating a unit that can bring the quiet brutality of John Wick and while not cowering like Monty Burns when they get hit back.

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