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Best- and worst-case scenarios for Rams' defense
Best- and worst-case scenarios for Rams' defense
By Steve Reynolds on May 4, 2007 12:44 AM
No Jenkins, no problem?
It seemed all but a certainty that the St. Louis Rams would make a trade with the Carolina Panthers to acquire defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.
Although injury history was a concern, Jenkins is considered to be among the best at his position and to say that the Rams are in desperate need of players who can stop the run would be a profound understatement.
It was believed that the Panthers' asking price was a first-round pick while the Rams' initial offer was a third-rounder and that the two clubs would meet somewhere in the middle.
Therefore, with trade scenarios flying and Internet rumors running rampant, Rams fans felt assured that some manner of trade was in the works, with the speculation reaching a fevered pitch come Draft Day.
As it turned out, that speculation concluded not with a bang but rather a resounding thud.
With the exception of their draft picks, the Rams face the upcoming season basically as is, with newcomers Chris Draft and end James Hall being the players most likely to make a positive impact on the defensive side of the ball.
Let's take a look at the possible scenarios for the upcoming season:
Best-case scenario: Will Witherspoon continues to be a tackling machine and blossoms into one of the better middle linebackers in the league. Pisa Tinoisamoa stays injury free and battles Witherspoon for the team lead in tackles. Brandon Chillar makes a leap forward comparable to last year and Chris Draft adds another 100-plus tackles to the lineup.
Worst-case scenario: Tinoisamoa's body cannot keep up with his aggressive style of play and is injury riddled. The Rams' line continues to be poor, disallowing Draft from duplicating his numbers from Carolina. Without quality D-tackle play, Witherspoon gets erased every other down by much larger O-linemen who are able to get their hooks in. Chillar has already reached his full potential.
Don't be surprised if: Draft replaces Chillar in the starting lineup from the outset of the season. Although serviceable, Chillar did not receive any offers from other teams on the restricted free-agent market, signaling that he may have reached his maximum potential.
Best-case scenario: Fakhir Brown continues to be solid and Tye Hill blossoms into a Pro Bowl corner. Ronald Bartell proves that he is a quality nickel back and rookie third-round cornerback Jonathan Wade proves that he has the talent to go along with his blistering speed, foreshadowing a lightning quick future tandem with Hill at CB.
O.J. Atogwe delivers on his promise and becomes a hard-hitting, turnover machine ala John Lynch from his Tampa Bay days. Corey Chavous continues to be solid in his role as the general of the secondary.
Worst-case scenario: Brown gets old in a hurry (he'll turn 30 in September) and cannot match his solid play from last year. Hill's progression does not befit a first-round draft pick and he begins to display signs of being a bust.
Atogwe's previous year of forcing turnovers turns out to be less like Lynch and more like Ryan McNeil. Bartell does not possess the talent to be a starter and Wade is afraid to step on the field because, as NFLDraftScout put it, "(he) seems to lack courage when asked to step inside the box to lend run support (shies away from contact)." Chavous' age and lack of speed catch up to him.
Don't be surprised if: The youngsters in the Rams' secondary show major improvement despite being on their heels all season. If the Rams' line again fails to generate a pass rush without relying on extra blitzers, the secondary could be in for a long year.
Best-case scenario: With opponents double teaming Leonard Little, James Hall becomes a 10-plus-sack man. Jimmy Kennedy plays above his head, in no small part due to it being his contract year, and Adam Carriker proves solid despite his rookie status. Youngsters Claude Wroten and Victor Adeyanju take another step forward and La'Roi Glover is solid because he is only relied on to play half the snaps he was in for last season.
Worst-case scenario: Heretofore unknown quantity Hall gets injured so quickly that fans think his name is "oft-injured Hall." Carriker looks like a rookie and Kennedy plays like, well, Kennedy. If later-round picks Cliff Ryan and Keith Jackson see a lot of playing time, the defense is in serious trouble as it will signal that the starting tackles are ineffective. Glover either plays too many snaps or too few due to being released.
Don't be surprised if: You see a starting tackle duo of Adam Carriker and Claude Wroten by midseason.
Head coach Scott Linehan feels that the defense will improve despite the failure to add any big names in free agency.
"Now I think we have addressed those (defensive) needs and now we have to go out and prove it and do it on the field... I feel really good about the players we have added," said Linehan.
The Rams now have no choice but to be satisfied.
Re: Best- and worst-case scenarios for Rams' defense
There will be a lot of battles in training camp as these defensive guys fight for starting spots. I wish I could be there to watch who is playing well.
I really hope that Pisa can stay injury free this year.[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Re: Best- and worst-case scenarios for Rams' defenseDon't be surprised if: You see a starting tackle duo of Adam Carriker and Claude Wroten by midseason.