As we head into the 2020 season, the past decade brought plenty of change to the Los Angeles Rams. You might call it a tale of two cities as the Rams were a dismal 36-59-1 in St. Louis for their first six seasons of the 2010s. Then the franchise embarked in a triumphant return to Los Angeles by going 37-27 in their march back to prominence. The Rams homecoming was highlighted by a Super Bowl appearance and a roster filled with stars, who could contend for an NFC West division title well into the next decade. Some of the names on the Rams All-Decade Team have brought great joy and disappointment to their fan base, but no one can deny the lasting memories they provided all.
2010s Los Angeles Rams All-Decade Team: Defense & Special Teams
Defensive Ends: Robert Quinn (2011-17), Chris Long (2010-15)
The front seven of the Rams defense has been the heart-and-soul of the franchise for the last decade. The defensive line provided a fierce pass rush while the linebackers were rock-solid against the run. Robert Quinn and Chris Long were the perfect bookend duo at the defensive end position for the team, easily landing them on the Rams All-Decade Team.
Quinn was a terrific pass-rusher as he recorded double-digit sacks (2012-14) for three consecutive seasons. Arguably, his 2013 season should go down as one of the most dominant by a pass-rusher in NFL history. He recorded 19 sacks, 34 quarterback hits, tackled a ball-carrier 23 times behind the line of scrimmage and forced seven fumbles on the season. Often a stat sheet of this nature is filled by two or three players, not one defender. For his effort, Quinn was named to both the All-Pro and Pro Bowl team that season. The lone negative with Quinn during his time with the Rams was the amount of nagging injuries that kept him out of the lineup.
Two words come to mind when Long’s name is mentioned: reliable and productive. He was a three-down defensive end as he could rush (45.5 sacks) the quarterback and play the run (56 tackle for losses) just as effectively. Plus, Long was a vocal team leader for the Rams as his voice was heard on the field and in the locker room. Had Long had the opportunity to play in a major media market like Los Angeles, his impact on the league could have been significant. He is a quality person on-and-off the field.
Defensive Tackles: Aaron Donald (2014-19), Michael Brockers (2012-19)
It’s hard to imagine a better defender that played in the 2010s than Aaron Donald. In his six seasons with the Rams, Donald has won some hardware for his outstanding play: a five-time All-Pro selectee, six-time Pro Bowl honoree and a two-time winner of the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. If you’re not catching on, Donald is a special football player. Often, he creates havoc in an opponent’s backfield. Donald has recorded double-digit sacks in four seasons and before it’s all over, he could be considered “the best-ever” to play at the defensive tackle position.
Michael Brockers is your classic “stay-at-home” interior defensive lineman. His ability to take on multiple blockers has allowed Donald to roam freely and make plays on opposing ballcarriers. Brockers production has been solid all throughout the decade. In eight seasons with the Rams, he has recorded 23 sacks, 52 quarterback hits and 43 tackles for loss. Brockers’ importance to the defense should never be overlooked.
Linebackers: Alec Ogletree (2013-17), James Laurinaitis (2010-15), Mark Barron (2014-18)
In today’s NFL, you need athletic linebackers who are versatile enough to play both the inside and outside positions depending on the scheme run by the coaching staff. Alec Ogletree falls under this category as he began his Rams career at the outside linebacker position before moving to the inside. Now, Ogletree never seemed comfortable on the edge as he appeared to be lost on pass coverage. However as an inside linebacker, Ogletree became the Rams leading tackler (2013-14) in two consecutive seasons. And over time, Ogletree supplanted James Laurinaitis as the unit’s leader.
If you’re looking for that one individual who brought change on the football field for the Rams, then look no further than Laurinaitis. In his six seasons with the franchise, Laurinaitis quickly became the leading voice inside the locker room and his play set the tone each week in games. He made 112 consecutive starts during his time with the Rams. Often, Laurinaitis led the team in tackles (655 for his career) before a man named Ogletree came on-board. One might feel his time with the Rams was way too short.
Mark Barron’s career with the Rams was quite unique as he came to the franchise as a safety and left as an outside linebacker. Injuries forced Barron to switch positions as he gained immediate success lining up on the edge. Barron was solid tackler and very reliable in pass coverage schemes. The lone complaint about him was his inconsistency in getting to the quarterback.
Cornerbacks: Trumaine Johnson (2012-17), Janoris Jenkins (2012-15)
For most of the decade, the Rams secondary has been one of the best units in the NFL. The partnership of Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins rose immediately to elite status for most of the 2010s. Both players were part of the Rams 2012 draft class.
Johnson was more of a physical defender who punished opponents off the line of scrimmage. Jenkins developed into an excellent showdown corner who used his quickness to stifle top receivers in one-on-one coverage. In fact, he tied an NFL record of returning three interceptions for touchdowns in his rookie season. Johnson had 18 interceptions in his six seasons with the Rams. Jenkins recorded 10 interceptions in his four seasons with the franchise.
It was unfortunate that neither player could remain with the Rams longer as each moved on via free agency.
Safeties: TJ McDonald (2013-16), LaMarcus Joyner (2014-18)
Many Rams fans thought TJ McDonald would become the centerpiece of the defense for many years to come. McDonald was a vastly underrated safety as he could knock an opposing receiver off-stride with a vicious hit. Plus, his pass coverage technique was textbook perfect. This helped McDonald in picking off a pass or two during his career with the Rams.
LaMarcus Joyner is another versatile pass defender who could play all four secondary positions. Joyner bounced between cornerback, slotback and safety before the Rams coaching staff moved him permanently to the safety position prior to the 2017 season. Despite having outstanding pass coverage skills, many opposing coaches rave more about Joyner’s ability to defend the run.
Kicker: Greg Zuerlein (2012-19)
It’s hard to find an NFL kicker with a stronger leg than Greg Zuerlein. He has successfully converted 82 percent of his career field goal attempts. Plus, Zuerlein has made 33 field goals that were over 50 yards in length and is one of three kickers (Brett Maher and Sebastian Janikowski) to have two or more field goals over 60 yards. Simply put, Zuerlein is one of the best kickers to ever play in the NFL.
Punter: Johnny Hekker (2012-19)
Rams fans should never take for granted how great a punter is Johnny Hekker. In fact, the partnership of Hekker and Zuerlein has made the Rams kicking combo one of the best in the 2010s. Hekker has been a four-time All-Pro selection and he was named to four Pro Bowls as well. He’s averaged 47.0 yards-per-kick for a career and no one will forget his 65-yard punt against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII. Plus, Hekker is a terrific executor of the fake punt for the Rams.
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