4 Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator Candidates To Replace Raheem Morris

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons hired Raheem Morris as their new head coach, providing the Los Angeles Rams with compensatory third-round picks in the 2024 and 2025 NFL Draft. However, Morris’s departure also means it’s time to evaluate Rams defensive coordinator candidates to join Sean McVay’s coaching staff.

Los Angeles does have a coveted vacancy for a defensive play-caller. Not only would the next defensive coordinator take over a unit with a future Hall of Famer (Aaron Donald) and some young talent, but he’d also join the McVay coaching tree. Considering Morris (head coach), Matt LaFleur (head coach), Zac Taylor (head coach), Brandon Staley (ex-head coach), Kevin O’Connell (head coach) and Zac Robinson (offensive coordinator) have all turned stints with McVay into promotions, this is a great opportunity.

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Let’s dive into our Rams defensive coordinator candidates for 2024. Of note, we’ve excluded Ejiro Evero because he’s still under contract with the Carolina Panthers and given their interest in keeping him, a return to Los Angeles is doubtful.

Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator Candidates 2024

Brandon Staley, Former Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Los Angeles Rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Immediately after Morris left for Atlanta, Brandon Staley was named as one of the potential Rams defensive coordinator candidates. Already brought in for interviews by the Green Bay Packers and Miami Dolphins, it will come as no surprise that McVay is interested in a reunion.

Yes, Staley coordinated two of the NFL’s worst defenses in his final seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. He clashed with players, ruffled feathers with his peers around the league, and simply didn’t seem fit for the job. However, that shouldn’t immediately rule him out from a return with the Rams.

Related: NFL insider reveals Brandon Staley’s negative reputation

PPGYards per Play3rd Down SuccessRZ TD Rate
Los Angeles Rams defense (2020)19.3 (2nd)4.7 (1st)35.74% (4th)59.62% (12th)

The defensive success Los Angeles experienced with Staley as the defensive coordinator certainly looks different in hindsight. Years later, it’s clear that the first-year defensive architect was helped by having future Hall of Fame inductees Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey playing at all-time levels.

With that said, Saley was an excellent linebackers coach with the Denver Broncos under Vic Fangio and he McVay has always loved Staley’s eye for the game. While the Rams might be better off bringing Staley back in a different role, he’s a viable option as defensive coordinator and it would be a move that McVay earned the benefit of the doubt for.

Christian Parker, Denver Broncos Defensive Backs Coach

NFL: Denver Broncos Training Camp
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone remembers the Denver Broncos defense for allowing 70 points to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3. The truth is, the Broncos coaching staff had to work through personnel and find what group it wanted on the field. Once everything was figured out, Denver’s defense rebounded.

  • Denver Broncos defense (Weeks 5-18): 87.6 QB rating allowed, 63.5% completion rate, 1.2 pass touchdowns per game, 0.7 interceptions per game, 217.7 passing yards per game

Related: Los Angeles Rams mock draft 2024

What truly stood out about the Broncos’ defense was the play in the secondary. Pat Surtain II, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a first-team All-Pro in 2022, rightfully earned a majority of the credit. However, Denver’s defensive backs coach Christian Parker might’ve been just as influential.

QB RatingYPADropback EPADropback Success Rate
Broncos’ pass defense (2023)83.1 (7th)5.9 (4th)-0.32 (5th)43.8% (9th)
Broncos’ pass defense (2023)87.67.0-0.022 (11th)43.3% (8th)
2023 Denver Broncos defensive statistics are for Weeks 5-18

Parker, who was targeted for defensive coordinator vacancies by the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, is intriguing for another reason. Beyond his track record in player development and his sharp defensive mind, the 32-year-old also worked for three different coaching staffs in Denver.

While that might not sound meaningful, it’s a testament to his glowing reputation around the NFL. Vic Fangio, Nathaniel Hackett, and Sean Payton all valued Parker as an integral member of their staff, with Hackett and Payton retaining him despite having no prior working relationship. Plus, for McVay, Parker would also come with a recommendation from his former assistant Matt LaFleur.

Dennard Wilson, Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs Coach

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New Orleans Saints
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

When the Philadelphia Eagles had one of the best NFL defenses in 2022, defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson was doing phenomenal work with their cornerbacks and safeties. James Bradberry (46% reception rate, 54.2 QB rating allowed) and Darius Slay (76.8 QB rating allowed) thrived under Wilson’s tutelage.

Then, once Jonathan Gannon left to become the Arizona Cardinals head coach, Wilson was passed over for two external hires (Matt Patricia and Sean Desai). After his outstanding work with the Eagles’ defensive backs wasn’t appreciated by the organization, he joined the Baltimore Ravens as DBs coach.

QB RatingCompletion RateYPADropback EPA
Eagles pass defense (2022)82.4 (4th)63.22% (14th)5.5 (1st)-0.087 (1st)
Ravens pass defense (2023)74.5 (1st)60.42% (4th)5.2 (1st)-0.188 (2nd)
All defensive statistics are totals allowed

Look at what happened a year later. The Eagles’ pass defense was among the worst in the NFL, with Bradberry and Slay both regressing. In Baltimore, Kyle Hamilton earned first-team All-Pro honors in just his second season, while safety Geno Stone (9 pass deflections, 7 interceptions) enjoyed a breakout year for one of the best pass defenses in the league. If Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald sticks around for another reason, Wilson should be one of the top Rams defensive coordinator candidates.

Jim Leonhard, Illinois Fighting Illini Analyst

Syndication: Journal Sentinel
Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY NETWORKCredit: Mark Hoffman / USA TODAY NETWORK

After playing safety for nearly a decade in the NFL, Jim Leonhard quickly transitioned to coaching. The Wisconsin native was named the Badgers’ defensive backs coach in 2016 and did so well that he was promoted to defensive coordinator the following season. During his tenure as the Badgers’ defensive play-caller, Wisconsin consistently had one of the best defenses in college football.

PPGTotal YPG3rd Down %Yards per Play
201713.9 (2nd)262.1 (2nd in FBS)29.1% (4th)4.2 (3rd in FBS)
201822.6 (27th)344.2 (24th)37.43% (48th)5.4 (50th)
201916.9 (8th)288.6 (4th)27.27% (1st)4.6 (6th)
202017.4 (9th)299.9 (4th)28.74% (5th)4.9 (19th)
202116.2 (3rd)239.7 (1st)29.34% (2nd)4.0 (1st)
202221.9 (24th)308.6 (9th)32.54% (15th)4.6 (11th)
College football statistics via TeamRankings.com

Leonhard, 41, was eventually named Wisconsin’s interim coach but wasn’t retained when the Badgers hired Luke Fickell. Instead, the three-time All-American defensive back joined Illinois as a senior football analyst. After fielding interest from NFL teams for several years, now could be an ideal time to make the jump.

Ordinarily, a young defensive-minded coach without any coaching experience in the NFL would typically have to climb up the ranks with his first step coming as a safeties coach. However, the Green Bay Packers wanted Leonhard as their defensive coordinator before hiring Joe Barry, but Leonhard turned them down. With a shot at a head-coaching job in college off the table for now, Leonhard could be a nice option for McVay. Plus, he’s already gone through the process having met with the Rams in 2020.

Related: Best college football coaches 2024

Projecting ideal Los Angeles Rams defensive coaching staff

  • Defensive Coordinator: Christian Parker or Dennard Wilson
  • Linebackers coach: Joe Barry
  • Defensive Backs coach: Aubrey Pleasant
  • Pass Rush Coordinator: Chris Shula
  • Assistant Head Coach: Jimmy Lake
  • Pass Game Coordinator: Brandon Staley
  • Defensive Line Coach: Sharrif Floyd