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Thread: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

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    Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Bernie Miklasz

    For years now, offense has been the primary obsession with Rams football. From Air Coryell to the Greatest Show on Turf, we loved daring and accurate quarterbacks, big-play receivers, elusive running backs and sudden flurries of points.

    We used to celebrate a good-times offense in St. Louis.

    Now we’re just searching for one.

    A football town where Mel Gray, Jackie Smith, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt once ran free and wild to pull in passes behind overwhelmed cornerbacks has been reduced to getting frothed over the addition of career-knucklehead wide receiver Kenny Britt.

    We engage in endless screeching over the merits of quarterback Sam Bradford, take cheap shots at easy-target offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and wonder if coach Jeff Fisher will ever disavow his inner Bronko Nagurski.

    If you’ll excuse me from the same old Rams talk, I’d like to look at another area of the team that failed to perform at a playoff-caliber level in recent seasons.

    That would be the Rams’ defense.

    Yes, thanks to Robert Quinn and the ravenous front four, the Rams’ defense finished third in the NFL with 53 sacks in 2013. But Quinn’s superb 19-sack season and a steady, disruptive surge of pressure on opposing quarterbacks concealed the unit’s weaknesses. The Rams’ defense ranked near the bottom of the 32-team league in too many important categories.

    The Rams gave up a league-worst 8.06 yards per passing attempt and couldn’t get off the field with enough frequency. Despite having a ferocious pass rush, the Rams ranked 18th in stopping opponents on third down.

    The Rams didn’t blitz enough, which was probably a good thing. They weren’t effective at it, getting ripped by quarterbacks for 10 touchdowns and a 100.8 passer rating when sending extra pass rushers.

    The Rams gave up more touchdowns (15) and points (125) on drives lasting five minutes or longer than any NFL team. And 21.1 percent of the possessions against the Rams’ defense ended in a touchdown; that ranked 21st.

    The Rams’ defense allowed 327 points last season. That doesn’t include points produced when the other team scored on takeaways or special teams. Defense, only.

    The 12 teams that made the 2013 playoffs allowed an average of 305 points on defense. The Rams have designs on catching up to Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona in the NFC West. And while the challenge of that mission is almost always tied to the Rams’ offense, it’s also up to the defense to make up some of the ground.

    Here’s the points-allowed totals (and league ranking) for each NFC West defense last season:

    • Seattle, 217 points, No. 2.

    • San Francisco, 270 points, No. 3.

    • Arizona, 315 points, No. 8.

    • St. Louis, 327 points, tied for No. 13.

    I’m not saying the Rams’ defense is awful. There’s a lot to like here. NFL analyst Mike Tanier just wrote a piece and offered the opinion that the Rams have the NFL’s best front seven going into 2014.

    I should also point out that the Rams’ defense would clearly benefit from a more potent Rams offense. Imagine the sacks that Quinn and his mates could rack up if they were given the chance to protect more leads during games.

    And the Rams’ secondary was chewed up by injuries in 2013. That said, the defense has room for growth and improvement.

    That’s where new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams comes in.

    Other than No. 2 overall draft pick Greg Robinson, I don’t believe the Rams made a more valuable offseason addition than Williams. And ultimately — despite the soap-opera aspect to the hiring — Fisher made a wise decision to put Williams back in charge of the team’s defense.

    Williams’ creativity and fondness for playing an aggressive, attacking style seem to be an ideal fit for the Rams’ talent.

    As respected NFL analyst Bucky Brooks wrote recently at NFL.com: “This appears to be the perfect marriage of coach and personnel, the type of development that could make the Rams a dark-horse contender in the NFC West — and beyond.”

    Williams isn’t perfect. Though his overall record as an NFL defensive coordinator is impressive, he’s had some clunker defenses along the way.

    But the Rams will be going from working for an inexperienced coordinator (the departed Tim Walton) to being guided by one of the most heralded defensive strategists in NFL history.

    I know this much: Williams won’t have his players just sitting there, getting picked apart for easy pass completions. He’ll line up his defenses in multiple looks to confuse and frustrate quarterbacks. The Rams won’t be passive or predictable.

    “We’re going to probably be a little more creative,” Fisher said. “We hope to create some more problems, different types of problems for offenses. In addition to Gregg running the defense, our defense is significantly better just from a personnel standpoint right now.”

    The Rams drafted six defensive players last month, including first-round tackle Aaron Donald, cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and safety Mo Alexander. They’ll join some other promising young defenders, including linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald. I can’t wait to see what Williams does with Ogletree and McDonald; he’ll be turning those guys loose from all angles.

    The Williams attitude is already noticeable in the Rams’ organized team activities. Fisher has broken up a few scuffles.

    “You can see the change,” Fisher said after Tuesday’s practice. “You can see the energy. I’ve had to back (Williams) down just a little bit.”

    Williams is undoubtedly eager to redeem himself after his role in the New Orleans “Bountygate” scandal that resulted in his one-season NFL suspension in 2012.

    Williams is hungry. His players are hungry. It’s a combustible mix. And unless you play quarterback for a Rams opponent, it should be a lot of fun.


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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    The Rams gave up a league-worst 8.06 yards per passing attempt and couldn’t get off the field with enough frequency.
    Funny how lining CBs 10 yards off the ball will do that very thing.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by HUbison View Post
    Funny how lining CBs 10 yards off the ball will do that very thing.
    Exactly. That drove me crazy last year. Watching the opponents play pitch and catch was beyond frustrating.
    ramsbruce likes this.
    Faithful Rams fan since 1968

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    For years now, offense has been the primary obsession with Rams football. From Air Coryell to the Greatest Show on Turf
    I'm not sure Air Coryell was ever a part of Rams football.

    I know this much: Williams won’t have his players just sitting there, getting picked apart for easy pass completions. He’ll line up his defenses in multiple looks to confuse and frustrate quarterbacks. The Rams won’t be passive or predictable.
    I'm looking forward to this.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMFANRAIDERHATER View Post
    Exactly. That drove me crazy last year. Watching the opponents play pitch and catch was beyond frustrating.
    You certainly were not alone. It was actually pretty ridiculous, but that's what you get when you've got a gaping hole at Safety and an inexperienced defensive coordinator.

    Glad both were significantly upgraded this offseason.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    I'm not sure Air Coryell was ever a part of Rams football.



    I'm looking forward to this.

    Well, Ernie Zampese was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator for the Chargers during the "Air Coryell" years, and later he served as offensive coordinator for the Rams for 6 or 7 years if I remember correctly. That is apparently what Bernie is referring to.

    I take issue with his statement that "for years, offense has been the primary obsession with Rams football. The Rams were a defensive-minded football team for years, especially in the 70s, when they led the NFL in total defense throughout the decade. And the GSOT only lasted a few years- it's not like the Rams had a high flying offense for a decade.

    And I'll tell you this: if the Rams do poorly this year, it certainly won't be because their defense stinks. Offense is unquestionably the area where the most question marks exist.
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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post

    I take issue with his statement that "for years, offense has been the primary obsession with Rams football. The Rams were a defensive-minded football team for years, especially in the 70s, when they led the NFL in total defense throughout the decade. And the GSOT only lasted a few years- it's not like the Rams had a high flying offense for a decade.
    Agreed. The Rams have had truly superb offenses (early to mid '50s and the GSOT) but at times their defense has been nothing short of outstanding as well, even before the '70s. Believe you me, the famed Fearsome Foursome was not just a moniker for the DL; it was an awesome, complete, effective, defense.

    And I'll tell you this: if the Rams do poorly this year, it certainly won't be because their defense stinks. Offense is unquestionably the area where the most question marks exist. -- NJRF1
    Muy cierto, señor.


    On the other hand, the 'Air Coryell' exploits mentioned in the article probably refer to Don Coryell's years as HC of the St. Louis Cardinals (1973-77), when he started to take off in the NFL as an innovative passing / offensive scheme master.


    But our 2014 D...

    It is hard not to think that the Rams defense has already improved.


    Last edited by RealRam; -06-13-2014 at 07:07 AM. Reason: Quote ending

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    Well, Ernie Zampese was the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator for the Chargers during the "Air Coryell" years, and later he served as offensive coordinator for the Rams for 6 or 7 years if I remember correctly. That is apparently what Bernie is referring to.
    That did occur to me, although Zampese ran his own version of Coryell's offense, so to me, "Air Coryell" was specific to the teams Don Coryell actually ran.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams need to improve on defense

    Quote Originally Posted by RAMFANRAIDERHATER View Post
    Exactly. That drove me crazy last year. Watching the opponents play pitch and catch was beyond frustrating.
    The first week, I thought it to be an anomaly. Rams would line up and hit the Receiver, jam slow him down.....whatever. By week three, I saw it was just the way it was coached to be played. I am so looking forward to this years D version!

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