1959-1965 - The L.A. Rebuild

Ranking the Rams: The five best defensive linemen in franchise history

The defensive line has always been a strong position for the Rams franchise. From Deacon Jones to Robert Quinn, it’s hard to find a time when the Rams didn’t have an elite pass rusher on the roster.

Here are the top five defensive linemen in franchise history:

Deacon Jones (1961-1971) – Deacon Jones isn’t just the best defensive linemen in Los Angeles Rams history, he’s possibly the best player in franchise history and one of the greatest players in NFL history. Jones was selected to eight Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro teams during his career. He was named to the NFL’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams, and he’ll probably be named to the 100th anniversary team. Jones was also a first ballot induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s even credited for coming up with the term “sack.” Deacon Jones was the anchor of the “Fearsome Foursome,” the nickname for the Rams’ prolific front four during the sixties.

Since sacks were unofficial when Jones played, many younger fans may not realize how good he was. If sacks were official, Jones would be credited with 159.5 sacks as a Rams, and 173.5 total in his career. In 1967, Jones recorded 26 sacks, which is 3.5 more sacks than Michael Strahan’s current official single-season sack record. Jones also played before the league expanded the schedule from 14 games to 16. Deacon Jones put up mind-blowing numbers in his career, and it’s hard to believe that he will ever lose his spot atop the list.

Jack Youngblood (1971-1984) – Another member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Jack Youngblood joined the Rams during Deacon Jones’s final season with the team and quickly established himself as the face of the franchise. Youngblood’s unofficial sack total is 151.5, almost doubling Leonard Little’s current franchise record of 87.5. Youngblood helped lead the Rams to the playoffs every year from 1973 to 1980. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and eight All-Pro teams during his career.

Youngblood’s defining moment came in the 1979 playoffs. Not only did he lead the Rams to their first Super Bowl appearance, he did so with a broken fibula. Youngblood even played in the Pro Bowl despite the injury. His legendary endurance was also proven when  he played in 201 consecutive games during his career. Youngblood is arguably the toughest player in Rams history and one of the most important players to ever play for the Rams.

Merlin Olsen (1962-1976) – Selected with the third pick in the 1962 NFL Draft, Merlin Olsen played alongside Deacon Jones as a part of the “Fearsome Foursome.” The longevity of Olsen’s productive play was remarkable. He appeared in 14 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1962-1975 and was voted to nine All-Pro teams. Olsen’s one of the only players ever to be selected to multiple All-Decade teams and was also named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team. Finally, Jones entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. He had one of the most prolific careers in NFL history, and he’s the best defensive tackle to wear a Rams uniform.

Larry Brooks (1972-1982) – Larry Brooks played alongside Jack Youngblood for his entire career, helping anchor one of the best defenses the Rams have ever had. Although his career wasn’t as spectacular as the three names ahead of him, Brooks remains one of the 1970s’ best defensive linemen. He earned five consecutive Pro Bowl berths from 1976 to 1980, while also appearing on four All-Pro teams. Brooks was one of the best players on the roster during the Rams’ eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1973 to 1980.

Leonard Little (1998-2009) – Choosing the fifth man on this list was a challenge. I could make a case that players like Fred Dryer or Lamar Lundy deserve to be in this spot, but Leonard Little gets the edge. Little was selected to only one Pro Bowl and one All-Pro team, but he had a great career with the Rams. The former Tennessee star came off the bench during the 2001 season and still recorded 14.5 sacks in 13 games. His impact on the defensive front-seven gave the Rams defense the edge it needed to reach Super Bowl XXXVI. Little recorded 87.5 sacks during his career with the team, which is currently a Rams franchise record. He was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and the leader of the Rams’ pass rush from 2001-2006.

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