The Los Angeles Rams will be one of the most interesting teams for the 2019 NFL Season. Despite an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, questions still remain if they can build upon last year.
One such question will be with the team’s defense, as there is a clear hole to fill on the defensive line. With Ndamukong Suh leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, the Rams will need a strong replacement nose tackle.
So far, it appears that there is a chance for rookie tackle Greg Gaines to enter the starting lineup. His impressive offseason workouts have even led A.P. Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald to compliment him, via Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times:
“A big guy, playing great run [technique], pushing the pocket great. He’s definitely showing up,” Donald said. “He’s getting better and grinding. Hopefully, he can get better and better.”
Despite his good first impressions, defensive line coach Eric Henderson is holding out on naming a starter for the vacant nose tackle spot. Third-year player Tanzel Smart and second-year player Sebastian Joseph-Day are both listed in the Rams depth chart for the nose tackle. Joseph-Day has yet to see playing time and Smart has appeared in 18 games, making Gaines the likely favorite.
Gaines spent four years at the University of Washington where he had a moderately successful college career, totaling 9.5 sacks and 149 total tackles.
His former Washington teammate and current Rams teammate Taylor Rapp, who was also drafted in 2019, believes that the big man in the middle was an important part of their collegiate success:
“He was a huge piece to our success” in college, said safety Taylor Rapp, the Rams’ other rookie draft pick from Washington, selected in the second round.
“His talent and his work ethic, the way he works and the way he comes in, he’s already a true pro as a rookie.”
Rapp must be right as the numbers do not lie. Each year of Gaines collegiate career, the Huskies allowed the fewest points allowed amongst all Pac-12 teams. Washington also had the best record amongst the rest of the Pac-12 in 2016 and 2017. Additionally, just one season before Gaines joined the Huskies defensive line they were giving up eight more points per game.
Henderson still wants to see Gaines refine his game, which could potentially give the Rams veteran tackles a better chance. However, it seems that Gaines’ raw talent very well may earn him a spot on the Rams defensive line.
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