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Thread: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

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    Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Bernie: Rams' pass defense historically bad

    1 hour ago • Bernie Miklasz bjmiklasz@post-dispatch.com

    With the Rams prepping for Sunday's home game against New Orleans, there's been plenty of attention given to Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

    You know the story: Rams head coach Jeff Fisher hired Ryan to run the Rams defense … except that he didn't.

    The bizarre Ryan-Rams relationship ended in a quickie divorce, with Ryan immediately hooking up with the Saints. And Ryan has done a very good job of supervising an improved New Orleans defense.

    While the story line is understandable, I'm much more interested in the play of the Rams defense under first-year coordinator Tim Walton.

    Forget Ryan.

    Not enough attention has been paid to the Rams' defensive decline.

    Compared to last season, the 2014 Rams are giving up more points, more yards from scrimmage, more overall touchdowns from scrimmage, more touchdown catches, more yards per completion, more yards per touch. The passer rating against the Rams defense is up, as is the completion percentage and the yards per passing attempt. The TD/INT ratio allowed by the Rams has gotten worse, as has the percentage of making successful stops on third down.

    The one positive: The Rams have improved their performance against the run this season. They lead the NFL in the percentage of “stuffed” running plays, and have lowered their average yield per rushing attempt from 4.3 yards last season to 3.9 this season. That average of 3.9 yards allowed per run is the eighth-best by an NFL defense.

    The Rams are among the best pass-rush teams, ranking tied for seventh in sacks (38) and No. 3 in the percentage of passing plays that result in a sack (8.4 pct.) So the big men up front are getting it done. They've improved at jamming the running lanes, and Robert Quinn and Chris Long bring the pass-rush heat.

    The problem? When the Rams don't generate a pass rush, they're pretty much helpless to stop the forward pass.

    We're talking about a historically bad pass defense here.

    In terms of completion percentage against a defense, we're seeing one of the worst performances on record. With assistance from STATS LLC, I did some research on this and will pass along the findings.

    Highest completion percentage allowed in a single season:

    * 2011 Indianapolis, 71.1 percent.

    * 2007 Detroit, 70.1 percent.

    * 2013 St. Louis, 68.5 percent.

    The opponents' passer rate of 97.2 against the 2013 Rams is the 34th highest (as in “worst” ) against an NFL defense in league history.

    That 97.2 passer rating is also the highest (worst) allowed in franchise history, going back to the Cleveland Rams days.

    The Rams' average of giving up 8.36 passing yards per attempt is tied for the 41st highest (worst) in league history.

    The 8.36 Y/A is the second-highest (worst) in franchise history; the '91 Los Angeles Rams gave up 8.43 yards per attempt.

    And obviously the 68.5 pct. completion rate is the highest against a Rams team in franchise history.

    It's astounding to me how a defense that regularly disrupts quarterbacks can be so awful against the pass. A strong pass rush is supposed to benefit the secondary and tighten the pass defense, right?

    Well, the 2013 Rams are flipping that theory upside down.

    Let's have a look at specific areas and players; all stats culled from the excellent web site, Pro Football Focus …

    CORNERBACKS

    Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, Cortland Finnegan (now on injured reserve) and rookie Brandon McGee have given up a 67.4 completion percentage, 1,497 yards and 8.7 yards per attempt. They've been hit up for 12 touchdown passes with four interceptions. The passer rating against Rams' corners is a hideous 108.1.

    Johnson is the only corner that's played pretty well; the passer rating against him is 79.3 Now in his second NFL season Jenkins has been a huge disappointment; quarterbacks have zinged him for 50 completions in 75 attempts with four touchdowns (and one INT) for a passer rating of 116.6.

    SAFETIES

    Rodney McLeod, T.J. McDonald, Darian Stewart and Matt Giordano have been targeted 51 times and given up 41 completions (70.6) percent. They've allowed 10.6 yards per passing attempt and have been burned for a passer rating of 102.5. McDonald, a rookie, has a chance to become a good safety. But this season quarterbacks have completed 12 of 15 passes against him with two touchdowns.

    OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

    Rookie Alec Ogletree and veterans Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Will Witherspoon have been exploited repeatedly on the under routes; quarterbacks have hit on 81 passes against them on 93 targets for an insane rate of 87 percent completions, with an average of 10.25 yards per attempt.

    Ogletree has the potential of developing into a special talent, but opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks are taking advantage of his inexperience by picking on him. They've completed 57 of 68 passes against Ogletree when targeting him; that's a 70 percent completion rate. Among the league's 4-3 outside linebackers, Ogletree has given up the most total yards passing (699) and yards after the catch (560.)

    MIDDLE LINEBACKER

    Quarterbacks have completed 35 of 48 on James Laurinaitis. But when targeting him they have no touchdowns and two interceptions. And Laurinaitis has done a a good job of containing the yards after the catch. Overall, JL grades out decently for his overall coverage. Pro Football Focus ranks him 13th in conerage among 4-3 middle linebackers.

    Despite having the assistance of one of the league's best pass rushes, why is the Rams' pass defense so poor and porous?

    1. Obviously, there's a talent gap in the secondary. I'm assuming Fisher and GM Les Snead will put a high priority of reinforcing the area by drafting or signing corners and safeties. They can't ignore such a glaring weakness.

    2. Some of this is attributable to inexperience. Ogletree will get better and McDonald should get better. But then again, we thought Jenkins would improve in his second NFL season. And he hasn't.

    3. The Rams have to make better decisions; that $50 million free-agent investment in Finnegan hasn't worked out as expected. And the Rams released safety Quintin Mikell after last season; he's starting for a championship-caliber defense in Carolina. (Mikell, however, isn't effective against the pass. He's a box safety and a good one.)

    4. Walton is still in the process of proving himself as a coordinator. I liked his hiring as Rams defensive coordinator. Walton is a promising young coach. But all coaches are accountable for performance, and the Rams' pass defense is terrible. Before joining Fisher's staff Walton ran the Detroit secondary for four seasons; over that time the Lions ranked 22nd in yards allowed per passing attempt (7.28), gave up the fourth-most TD passes (110), and were 31st in allowing a 92.3 passer rating. Based on the body of work, I think it's fair to scrutinize Walton's acumen in stopping a passing game.

    The Rams figure to be under duress on Sunday. Saints quarterback Drew Brees ranks second in the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes (33) and is completing 68 percent of his throws. The Saints present acute matchup problems for the Rams because of Brees' ability to spread the ball around to many targets.

    Wideout Marques Colston has 56 receptions. Jimmy Graham leads NFL tight ends in catches (74), receiving yards (1,046) and touchdowns (14.) Running backs Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles have combined for 122 receptions, 959 receiving yards and five TD grabs.

    That's a lot of targets.

    That's a lot of receivers to account for.

    I wouldn't worry too much about Rob Ryan.

    The Rams have many other things to worry about Sunday.

    Thanks for reading …

    — Bernie


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    The problem? When the Rams don't generate a pass rush, they're pretty much helpless to stop the forward pass.
    I think Bernie has it backwards. I'd put it this way: the coverages have been so soft, and have allowed such a high completion % on quick passes, that the pass rush often has no chance to get to the QB.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    I think Bernie has it backwards. I'd put it this way: the coverages have been so soft, and have allowed such a high completion % on quick passes, that the pass rush often has no chance to get to the QB.
    Head....nail...the...on.
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Stats on JJ just plain scary........

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Jenkins has to get his head out of his behind. Who is he? Is he the guy we saw last year or was that a fluke. Right now, he's just a guy who gambles too much, tackles poorly and gives too much cushion- i.e. a below average defensive back hardly worth the position in which he was drafted.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by macrammer View Post
    Stats on JJ just plain scary........
    I still like his potential, but he bites on too many play fakes, pump fakes, and double moves. JJ needs to get more disciplined in his coverage.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    The safeties are the key,imo. Hard to say whether McLeod is more of a liability at nickel or at safety. Mcdonald's most memorable play had to be the Bobbitt tackle on Vernon Davis (shouldn't celebrate that, of course...ahem....heheheh.).

    Jenkins has actually improved a lot,imo. His run support & tackling have been a part of that improved run D. He's a gambler, for sure, but without the support he got last year from Mikell, in particular, he's been exposed spectacularly a few times but he's battled some of the best & won quite a few as well.

    I agree that the safeties forced Fisher/Walton to use that semi-prevent shell deal but no feisty slot and a rookie doomed it, not unexpectedly, imo. In too many games - not all- they rarely met a YAC they didn't want to give up underneath. AO has the speed to chase them down, hence the high tackle stat, but it's chain-moving, screw-turning stuff that breaks a defense,imo, more often than the splashy play that is actually a result, not a cause.

    If you want to really commonsense it, the futile offense giving up field position & not scoring looms large as well. Why not throw in the DL for some inconsistent performances, eg Long and Brockers & others.There were some early games when I could tell when the 2nd stringers like Sims, Hayes were in together without checking numbers. Not the consistent deep strength we'd hoped it would be,imo.

    All of our divisional foes have top safeties. Just sayin'....& Fisher needs to find a new roommate.
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -12-14-2013 at 08:13 AM.
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    I have a Sporting News magazine cover from back in the 80's with the Headline "The Secondary Comes First". Featured on the cover were the Rams' starting safeties, Nolan Cromwell and Johnnie Johnson and their corners Leroy Irvin and Gary Green. All were pro bowlers.

    Contrast them with the guys we have out there now. God, how I long for those days.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I have a Sporting News magazine cover from back in the 80's with the Headline "The Secondary Comes First". Featured on the cover were the Rams' starting safeties, Nolan Cromwell and Johnnie Johnson and their corners Leroy Irvin and Gary Green. All were pro bowlers.

    Contrast them with the guys we have out there now. God, how I long for those days.
    Yes, those were the days. NC and JJ were awesome! But, our youth may still prevail albeit with some hard and tough lessons along the way.......
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    In fairness to JJ he does get the best WR on every team we face. Last week the Rams had Rodney McLeod on fritz for the first half and that was a joke. JJ has always played him well not sure what we where thinking, JJ did get the assignment late and played him much tighter and more physical. I'm not down on JJ but am on Cort. TJ was playing well before he got hurt and has struggles since his return, but he's has to play his way back into form. He should be better in year two. We definitely need an upgrade on the back end next year and Fisher said as much on Monday.
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    A solid free safety who can play deep and help the CB's out when covering the better WR's will go a long way toward helping end this problem. I'm not sure the answer lies in the draft as this is not a strong one for DB's. However paying a FA big $ doesn't sound so good either unless he's totally functional with our defensive schemes and even then he'll need time to adjust with his backfield teammates.

    I question Bernie focusing this only Tim Walton with out looking at Chuck Cecil our secondary coach. This is week 15 and we haven't been able to make adjustments in style of play to reduce the damage? Jeff Fisher was a DB when he played, he must see some things that need to be changed. Puzzling is all I can say.

    I'm not looking forward to tomorrow against Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by macrammer View Post
    Yes, those were the days. NC and JJ were awesome! But, our youth may still prevail albeit with some hard and tough lessons along the way.......
    Macrammer, I think you're right our youth will likely prevail. But as much as everyone is ready to dump Cortland Finnegan, he's the most experienced player out there, and now he's not even there. A strong secondary needs some veteran leadership in my view. I sure want Finnegan restructured, but I think he needs to stay for now.

    Go Rams!

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    I still like his potential, but he bites on too many play fakes, pump fakes, and double moves. JJ needs to get more disciplined in his coverage.
    I believe the best way to cure this disease would be to just let him consistently jam receivers. Let him use his elite athleticism to shadow whoever is opposite of him. Same goes with Trumaine.

    Imagine trying to cover a guy when you consistently give him 8-10 yard cushions. Your first thought is going to be that they're going to throw short because that's the smart and obvious thing to do. We're putting our cornerbacks in a position to fail. They're always playing catch up.

    I'm tired of seeing their receivers getting free releases to run their wide open slants and drags.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    I blame it on the soft coverages. I.E the defensive coordinator.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Pass Defense Historically Bad

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I have a Sporting News magazine cover from back in the 80's with the Headline "The Secondary Comes First". Featured on the cover were the Rams' starting safeties, Nolan Cromwell and Johnnie Johnson and their corners Leroy Irvin and Gary Green. All were pro bowlers.

    Contrast them with the guys we have out there now...


    That's a great headline there NJ (SN, Nov., 1985). Although anyone knowing basic American football understands that a real good defense requires a real effective set of DBs, they are often not fully appreciated -- and that means noticing when they are not doing their job.

    Indeed, that group of Cromwell, Gray, Green, Irwin & Johnson were a terrific complement to the Rams D of the era. Great Pro Bowlers as you said:

    * Nolan Cromwell (1977-87): - -

    * Jerry Gray (1985-91): - -

    * Gary Green (1984-85): - -

    * LeRoy Irvin (1980-99): -

    * Johnnie Johnson (1980-88): - -
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