After trading Michael Brockers to the Lions, the Rams turned to Sebastian Joseph-Day and A’Shawn Robinson as players who needed to step up on the defensive line next to Aaron Donald. Greg Gaines was always going to be part of the rotation up front, but he was seen as more of a backup than a key piece on defense.
In the first seven weeks of the season, he played more than 40% of the defensive snaps just once. But in the last five games, he’s emerged as one of the most important players on that side of the ball.
Since Joseph-Day went down with a pectoral injury, Gaines has recorded two sacks, five quarterback hits and 23 tackles. For a player who was seen as a two-down run stopper when the Rams drafted him in 2019, he’s completely disproved his pre-draft critics by becoming a great pass rusher.
According to Seth Walder of ESPN, Gaines ranks fifth in pass-rush win rate and fourth in run-stop win rate among all defensive tackles – and that includes 3-techniques like Donald, not just nose tackles.
Pro Football Focus has credited him with 27 total pressures on only 277 pass-rush opportunities, ranking 24th among all interior defenders in that category. He has a 70.5 pass-rush grade (35th among interior defenders), largely thanks to his 17 pressures since Week 8. Those 17 pressures are tied for 11th among interior defenders and his three sacks, per PFF’s measures, are tied for ninth since Week 8.
Heading into 2022, the Rams now know they have a proven starter at nose tackle to contribute alongside Donald. That gives them some much-needed financial flexibility on the defensive line in the offseason.
Sebastian Joseph-Day will be a free agent in March and given the way he’s played the last two years, he’s going to command a hefty contract. The Rams shouldn’t rule out re-signing him, but with only $2.5 million in projected cap space, they don’t have much money to spend.
And they still have several other important players set to hit free agency who warrant…