After the 2005 season ended the Rams knew they needed to improve the defensive unit. So they went after Will Witherspoon and convinced him that he would be a welcomed and needed addition as part of this major task at hand. The challenge in front of Witherspoon was that the Rams were asking him to change positions. Witherspoon had played his 4 year career for the Carolina Panthers at the outside linebacker position. A position the he had excelled at during his tenure with the Panthers.
Stats as a Panther (Outside Linebacker)
62 games- (280 solo tackles)-(74 assisted tackles)-(8 sacks)-(7 interceptions)
(2 forced fumbles)-(1 TD)-(38 passes defensed)
The new position Witherspoon would be required to play as a Ram was middle linebacker. A position that challenges an individuals leadship skills. As we all know Witherspoon accepted the challenge along with the $money$ of course.
From a fans point of view has he made a successful transition and stepped up and taken the bull by the horns?
After playing the 1st half of this season the Rams are ranked 27th out of 32 teams based on average yards allowed per game. They're ranked 14th out of 16 teams in the NFC. Concerning the defense there are 3 other categories that jumped out a me. The Rams are dead last in the NFL for average yards allowed per play. They're ranked 29th at stopping the opposition on 3rd down.
The 3 teams behind the Rams in the 3rd down category are the Texans, Colts and Whiners, in that order. Lastly, believe it or not the Rams lead the NFL in fewest defensive penalties called against them.
Stats as a Ram:Middle Linebacker
8 games- (58 solo tackles)-(8 assisted tackles)-(0 sacks)-(0 interceptions)
(2 forced fumbles)-(0 TD's)-(5 passes defensed)
Witherspoons individual statistics have him tied for the league lead in the solo tackles(58) category by a middle linebacker with Demeco Ryans of the Texans.
Total tackles (solo+assists) he's tied for 7th among middle linebackers with 66. Zach Thomas of the Miami Dolphins leads this category with 75. Other notables in the total tackle rankings are Demeco Ryans (73), London Fletcher-Bills (70), Brian Urlacher-Bears(69), Jonathan Vilma-Jets (69), Kirk Morrison-Raiders (69) and Gary Brackett-Colts(66).
Another individual category which I like to call the Playmaker Category. (Sacks+Ints+FF+TD+Passes Defensed)
Witherspoon is again tied for 7th among other middle linebackers in the NFL with 7 playmaker plays. Leading this category is London Fletcher of the Buffalo Bills with 14 playmaker plays that includes 2 defensive TD's.
Team stats have to have us wondering about Witherspoon? Individual stats show that he is an above average middle linebacker in the NFL.
The questions are, as a middle linebacker (QB of the defense) does the ineffectiveness of the defensive unit as whole reflect on Witherspoon at all?
Does the lack of a strong supporting cast hurt or inflate Witherspoons numbers? How has he dealt with the leadership role? Does he agree with the play calling of Jim Haslett? Is he comfortable with Haslett? Is Haslett calling plays that put Witherspoon in a position to be a playmaker? Is Witherspoon getting caught out of position trying to compensate for a teammates lack of ability?
As a fan, not knowing all the nuances that go into running a successful defensive unit and seeing this guy flying all over the field. I feel like we definitely have an anchor to build our defense around. After all Witherspoon is only 26 years old and has only 8 games under his belt at his new position.
Re: Will Witherspoon
The beauty of this is that Witherspoon is only 26 yrs old. Hopefully our defense will be able to grow with him and become a dominant force in a couple of years.