The Rams can't exchange Aaron Donald. However Chris Shula, grandson of Don, has a plan

by Christina S. Brown
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Chris Shula had envisioned this second for a decade, rolling via the ideas in his thoughts of how he would articulate his imaginative and prescient to gamers as a first-time NFL defensive coordinator. 

On the primary day of offseason work, the phrases got here naturally for the brand new DC of the Los Angeles Rams.

“That was one thing I had been desirous about — easy methods to set the tone in entrance of the complete unit,” Shula instructed FOX Sports activities in an unique interview. “You simply wish to set the expectations of the requirements that you just wish to maintain them accountable to, the fashion of play that we wish to play with. However not solely that, we wish to construct relationships with these guys, get them to really feel snug, have the ability to ask questions and be weak. 

“I needed to get all that on the market in that first assembly. So I spent a whole lot of time and put a whole lot of thought into what I needed to say and easy methods to go about it. You do not simply wish to go proper to soccer. … You wish to present them that we actually care about them, and we will have a plan for them to get higher day-after-day.”

Shula had a apply run a decade in the past because the defensive coordinator for Division III John Carroll. Then he labored his approach up as a place coach with the Los Angeles Chargers and, for the previous seven seasons, in varied capacities with the Rams.

“It doesn’t matter what’s occurring, up or down, he is at all times regular,” stated Rams inside linebacker Ernest Jones. “He is tremendous clever; the best way he is been capable of switch my recreation from a pre-snap place is second to none. … Gamers love him, and he is going to slot in completely.” 

In his first season as an NFL defensive coordinator, Shula faces the monumental job of changing future Corridor of Famer Aaron Donald, who retired this offseason after a decade of dominance. Shula is aware of it can take a committee method to fill the massive void left by arguably the best inside defensive lineman in league historical past.

Aaron Donald publicizes retirement after 10 NFL seasons

Aaron Donald announces retirement after 10 NFL seasons

Shula plans to concentrate on what his gamers do greatest. And that goes again to what his grandfather, Corridor of Fame coach Don Shula, taught him throughout his visits to Miami as a teenager: Schemes might change over time, however the fundamentals of killing blocks, tackling, taking the ball away and the pursuit of the soccer stay the identical. 

“I do not take it without any consideration, so far as what he achieved on this league,” Shula stated of his grandfather, the all-time winningest NFL coach. “I do not actually give it some thought, so far as holding up a legacy or something like that. However it’s cool to listen to completely different tales about him.

“One factor that caught out to me, and nonetheless does, is all people thinks soccer has modified a lot. [My grandfather] at all times stated, ‘So far as I am involved, it is nonetheless about blocking, getting off blocks. Tackling and breaking tackles. Securing the ball and taking the ball away.’ … [So] we attempt to emphasize right here simply the simplicity of soccer.”

Don Shula early in his tenure as Dolphins coach

Shula additionally discovered the sport from different members of his household. His father, Dave, performed a 12 months within the NFL as a receiver and spent 15 years as a coach, together with four-plus seasons as head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. He at present serves because the receivers coach at his alma mater, Dartmouth. 

Chris’ uncle, Mike, was the offensive coordinator for 3 NFL groups and was the pinnacle coach at Alabama earlier than Nick Saban. Mike Shula is at present an offensive analyst at South Carolina. 

Shula and Rams head coach Sean McVay share a bond via their household’s soccer legacy. McVay’s grandfather, John McVay, was an NFL head coach and later served as basic supervisor of the San Francisco 49ers, teaming with offensive guru Invoice Walsh to steer that franchise to 5 Tremendous Bowls. Sean’s father Tim was an all-state quarterback in highschool in Ohio and performed defensive again at Indiana. 

Sean McVay and Chris Shula additionally share one other bond: They have been school teammates at Miami College in Ohio. 

“He is that man that everyone seems like he is their greatest pal as a result of he is so current when he is with you,” McVay stated of Shula. “He is so genuine. He is so refreshingly safe in who he’s, and he is been ready for this chance. 

Chris Shula throughout an offseason program. Picture courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams

“I am excited as a result of I feel he is surrounded by a bunch of different good coaches, and I feel he is actually prepared to assist these gamers be one of the best that they are often.” 

Early on Rams, Shula labored for former Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who’s from one other multi-generational soccer household. Phillips noticed Shula’s potential from the beginning. 

“He is a pointy man, a fast learner, a tough employee and an impressive coach,” Phillips stated. “We turned issues round there fairly rapidly. We labored rather well collectively. He can coach inside and outdoors linebackers rather well, together with the remainder of the protection. He is a Shula.” 

Rams win NFC West in Colin Cowherd’s early NFL standings

Rams win NFC West in Colin Cowherd's early NFL standings

Together with Phillips, Shula labored as an assistant with the Rams for defensive coordinators Brandon Staley and Raheem Morris, now the pinnacle coach of the Atlanta Falcons. 

Shula, 38, stated he’s taken bits and items from all three defensive minds, studying the significance of conserving issues easy from Phillips, innovation from Staley and the worth of constructing good relationships with gamers from Morris. 

Shula and his workers at the moment are knee-deep into constructing the protection they need. The most important query, in fact, is easy methods to fill the massive gap in the midst of the road left by Donald.

“Clearly, we will should step up as a bunch,” Shula stated. “We made a giant level to Kobie Turner that we do not anticipate him to be an Aaron Donald, as a result of he actually is considered one of one. We knew when he was within the recreation how offenses have been going to guard towards us. Now, it is a bit bit extra of a guessing recreation.”

Shula talked about the opportunity of Turner, who had 9 sacks as a rookie nostril sort out and completed third in Defensive Rookie of the Yr voting, increasing his position to play a number of positions alongside the defensive position. And he expects the move rush to learn from the chemistry and skill of a pair of Florida State rookies, Jared Verse and Braden Fiske. They have been the Rams’ high two alternatives on this 12 months’s draft.

“We favored them every individually as gamers, whether or not they have been on the identical workforce or not,” Shula stated. “I feel [playing together is] going to assist them positively, particularly after they get into these rush-type conditions in the event that they’re on the identical aspect. There’s some actually good clips of them dashing collectively. I feel that is a really feel factor. We just like the package deal deal we received with them.” 

Nevertheless, Philips believes the Rams should discover one other participant like Donald who can constantly win one-on-one move rush alternatives. In keeping with Subsequent Gen Stats, Donald generated 659 pressures since 2016, 239 greater than the next-closest defensive sort out (Chris Jones, 420). 

Donald completed with 111 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, second amongst defensive tackles to Corridor of Famer John Randle (137.5). Donald is No. 3 in league historical past in tackles for loss with 176.

“We might make the most of Aaron in a whole lot of other ways,” Phillips stated. “So, that takes away your one-on-one benefits. We tried to ensure Aaron had a one-on-one as a lot as we might, particularly in passing conditions as a result of he might beat folks one-on-one. 

So, it’s simply the personnel you have got and attempt to make the most of what they’ll do. They produce other good gamers clearly, however there aren’t any Aaron Donalds, that’s for certain.”

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Shula additionally stated the Rams will proceed to make use of a 3-4 defensive entrance for his or her base scheme. And despite the fact that Turner cannot exchange Donald by himself, the second-year professional will probably be a significant component.

“He’ll be a man who’s on the sector a ton,” Shula stated about Turner. “We like to have the flexibleness to maneuver these guys round, relying on the personnel group that is within the recreation. We’re fortunate, as a result of he can play a number of spots fairly simply, whether or not it is bodily or mentally. 

“We will preserve folks guessing the place we will type of transfer him round. And the good factor about Kobie is he is so selfless, he is at all times going to do what’s greatest for the workforce. So it will likely be enjoyable to make use of that chess piece accordingly.

“It should be attention-grabbing to see the way it all performs out.”

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for greater than a decade, overlaying the Los Angeles Rams for Sports activities Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma Information Tribune. Comply with him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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