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  1. #1
    RamsFanSam's Avatar
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    In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    Jim Haslett has heard all the rip jobs, all the criticism, all the talk of how his defense was horrible in 2006 and the big reason why the St. Louis Rams went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs.

    As defensive coordinator, he knows all anyone says or writes is that defense is the only thing holding the Rams back from being a legitimate playoff team -- and maybe more -- in 2007.

    Haslett is well aware of the negative numbers being used against his unit, such as how the Rams finished 22nd in total defense, 31st in rushing defense and 28th in scoring defense.

    But he chooses to look at it another way, which you would expect from one of the more fiery coaches in the league, a man who doesn't tolerate struggles very well.

    "Do you realize that we were 120 yards or so from being ranked 13th in the league?" Haslett said. "That's one or two big plays. Nobody ever says anything about that. We also created a lot of turnovers. Nobody says anything about that. We were plus-12 in the turnover ratio because we had 32 takeaways. Do you hear about that? We know we have work to do, and we didn't play as well as could last year, but it does get tiring hearing nothing but the negative."

    Haslett's math isn't exactly right, but his point is well made. The Rams gave up 5,305 total yards to finish 22nd in total defense, while the Dallas Cowboys finished 13th in total defense, giving up 5,164 yards. That difference of 141 yards might not seem like a lot, but in terms of perception it's enormous. Then again, it's also true that the Rams were 216 yards away from being a bottom-five defense.

    The flip side is the offense was near the top of the league in scoring, finishing 10th at 22.9 per game. It is a unit considered one of the better ones in football, which is why the negatives on the defense are magnified.

    That's especially true when talking about the run defense. The Rams gave up 145.4 yards per game on the ground and 4.7 per rush. That leaves an image of a smallish defense that can't tackle or get off the field.

    When a defense can't stop the run, it sets the table for any perception it gets, which is usually one of being soft and not very good. Defenses that get pounded on regularly have big problems.

    Haslett understands that, which is why he's thrilled the Rams drafted Nebraska defensive tackle Adam Carriker in the first round of this year's draft. His wide body is expected to go a long way in helping the Rams improve their run defense.

    "He has a chance to be a heck of a tackle," Haslett said.

    The Rams have also added defensive end James Hall, acquired from the Lions, and he should help the run defense and take some pressure off Leonard Little on passing downs. Little was the team's only true pass rusher, yet Haslett's aggressive approach somehow enabled the Rams to get 34 sacks.

    Without much resistance in the middle of the defense, though, the smallish linebackers got knocked back a bunch. They also didn't tackle as well as Haslett had hoped.

    What made those problems at the tackle spot even more difficult to handle was that the Rams had used three first-round picks on the position in the past 10 years. Jimmy Kennedy was the only one of those players on the roster last season, and he has since been traded to the Denver Broncos. Damione Lewis now with Carolina and Ryan Pickett is with the Green Bay Packers.

    "We're better up front now," Haslett said. "I really like this group."

    It will take improvement by some young players to really improve the defense. That includes corner Tye Hill, last year's first-round pick who has some nice cover skills, and safety O.J. Atogwe, a third-year player who started for the first time in 2006. It was also the first year for Will Witherspoon, last year's marquee free-agent signing, to play in the middle. Haslett said it took time for him to adjust.

    "The guys are more comfortable," Haslett said. "You can see it."

    Haslett is also comfortable in his role as the coordinator, which is a step back after being head coach of the New Orleans Saints for six years. In January 2006, he wasn't sure he'd be coaching last year. He was fired as coach of the Saints, a move made after one of the most-trying seasons in any coach's career.

    He was responsible for leading the nomadic Saints after Hurricane Katrina forced them out of New Orleans. They moved operations to San Antonio, practiced on makeshift fields, lived out of hotels and inside the Alamodome and played games in San Antonio and in Baton Rouge.

    Haslett lost 25 pounds that year, and while he earned endless praise from his players, he was let go after the season. Fair? No, but is the NFL ever fair?

    Ready to sit out the season -- he was still owed a year by the Saints -- Haslett got a call from Rams coach Scott Linehan inquiring if he'd be interested in being his defensive coordinator. Even though the two really didn't know each other, Haslett decided to take the job. Linehan is an offensive mind, and he pretty much leaves Haslett to run the defensive side, which is Haslett's calling card.

    "I really enjoyed it after that crazy year with the Saints," Haslett said. "The players on this team are good guys. They're fun to coach. It made for an easy transition."

    Haslett watched last season as his former team went to the NFC Championship Game. Many said the biggest difference on that team was that the coaching staff had changed, a direct shot at Haslett and his staff. But the team also had a new quarterback in Drew Brees, not Aaron Brooks. Quarterbacks run this league, not coaches.

    While the Saints made the run, Haslett said there was no bitterness. That's because a lot of the key players, including running back Deuce McAllister, tackle Jammal Brown, receiver Devery Henderson, fullback Mike Karney and others were brought to the team on his watch.

    "I was happy for the players after what a lot of them went through the year before," Haslett said. "Nobody could possibly understand what those guys went through unless they were a part of it."

    As he readies for 2007, Haslett does so with an eye on becoming a head coach again. He was 45-51 in his six seasons as the Saints head coach, but 13 of those losses came in the nomadic season of 2005. His worst season before that was 7-9 in 2001, his only losing season in his first five years.

    In a league where Norv Turner gets a third chance, shouldn't Haslett get a second? In my mind, he's a much better coach than what the perception might be, plus dealing with that 2005 season should earn him some résumé points on somebody's list.

    "Everybody is looking for the hot guy each year," Haslett said. "I would love the opportunity to be a head coach again, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing here. We have a lot of work to do. If we improve, we'll see how it goes."

    If the defense improves, and the Rams make the playoffs, the rip jobs will stop and Haslett will be back off the head-coaching backburner.

    Who knows? If the defense makes a major improvement, he just might find himself the 2008 hot guy.


  2. #2
    Bud Light Guy is offline Registered User
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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    There are 3 things you must consider.

    1. Martz left this team's defense in such dissaray, and do to very very bad drafting, this team's defense is going to take a few seasons to become respectable.

    2. Coaching changes have more effect that what most people think. Different coaching styles, schemes, etc can have alot of effect on a player that is playing during a coaching change.

    3. You can be passionate all you want, but if you don't have the knowledge and the good players that can succeed in that system, you're defense isn't going to amount to diddly squat.

  3. #3
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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    I think the additions of James Hall and C Draft are going to end being up being the best additions, defensively. Hall will free up Little, greatly improving are pass rush. Draft is a experienced play maker in his prime who will take a lot of pressure off the other LB's, especially Pisa who was hurt most of the season. As for Carriker I think he will be a genuine stud someday, but he just isn't going to have enough help next to him to excel this year.

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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    Opps, sorry didn't mean to post twice. Stupid computer.:\
    Last edited by mikhal5569; -07-04-2007 at 08:41 AM.

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    Javaman is offline Registered User
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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    I have a feeling the defense will be alot better this year!! Haslett knows what he has to work with alot better than he did before and if his passion is back the guy is a football beast!


    "Lets get it done"

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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    I really like the changes we made on defense. Its a huge change from what we saw from Martz...irresponsible spending looking for a quick fix when the problem needed more than a patch job. Draft and Hall aren't studs, but they're important pieces. For example, we can now run an occassional 3-4 look if we want to in part because Draft is here. Our pass defense will improve if for no other reason than we don't have to blitz to get to the QB...because Hall is here.

    Yah, we're not done unless the rookies and Wroten prove it on the field, but I think we made another step forward this year. And I'm not the optomistic type.

  7. #7
    RamsFanSam's Avatar
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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    I guess I see things a lot differently than the so-called "experts". All of them talk about how the teams who picked up big-name free agents have made great off-season moves, no matter how much the teams overpaid for them. Every time I see a story about how great some team will be because they spent millions of dollars for an overhyped player, I think of Archuletta's overwhelming success in Washington.

    The Rams made ONE offseason move that attracted a lot of attention: McMichael. The rest of the moves were quiet, even Drew Bennett's signing was a lot quieter than I thought it would be. This is a good thing. Why?

    As the article above has stated, the difference between the worst D and 13th rated D was 357 yards. We also had a +12 turnover ratio, 34 sacks (I didn't realize it was so high), and this was out of what everyone here calls a crappy defense!

    Can Carriker be the one factor that raises us from lousy to average? No. He will help us out. But, adding Draft and Hall, along with the attitude difference and a season of the system, as well as healthy players, and we could have one of the better D's in the NFC. A "big name" doesn't mean anything. Rosie O'Donnell is a big name, but that doesn't mean she's a better entertainer than "John Doe".

    Go ahead, bash me for the rose-colored glasses. I'm just looking at things the way I see them. The Rams have one of the top offenses in the league, a defense that isn't too far away from average, and some solid additions. We also rid our team of some liabilities (Kennedy). It is going to be a season of the offense pounding away, racking up a buttload of points fast and hard, and opponents playing catch-up football. I'm not saying we will win every game, nor am I saying we won't have our butts kicked in an upset. What I am saying is that with our offense, scoring will be more common. Our defense will be a shock to a lot of teams. Haslett made some huge differences in only one year. A plus-12 turnover ratio. 34 sacks. An attitude change for the players.

    What will this second year of his defense bring? It can only be better. Our offense plus an average D means a real good chance at the playoffs. our O plus a good D means a good chance of playing DEEP into January. Our O plus a scary D means....

    LOOKOUT, NFL....THE RAMS ARE BACK!!!
    Last edited by RamsFanSam; -07-04-2007 at 10:29 AM.

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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    We were 8-8 with a brand new coaching staff who didn't know exactly what they had. We had the two heads of the team, Linehan and Haslett, not even knowing each other, little lone being comfortable together. Yes, coaching has a lot to do with success but having players who are comfortable with the system and consistency does a whole lot more. Who are the best teams in the NFL? Generally those who have had long standing coaches. They don't win the super bowl every year but they are generally in the top tier and in the playoffs every year. That's why I hate the Not For Long of today, when a team has a down year and the coach is blamed and canned. Haslett had that happen with the Saints. They tanked due to Katrina but otherwise he had a solid run with subpar players, which is why I respect him. If he'd been able to keep his job it's possible that they could have done as well, though I agree that the team and the offense especially did need an overhaul. Just as the Rams needed an overhaul, as while Martz is an amazing offensive mind, he sucks as a head coach. Like Norv Tuner(I predict he'll be out in two years), he's a great assistant but he can't run a show, and our defense rotted because of it. Haslett can run the show and will get another shot, I just hope he gets a ring before he leaves St Louis.

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    Re: In defense of his defense, Haslett as passionate as ever

    I've always liked Haslett's fiery demeanor on the sidelines. I'm talking before he came to our RAMS. I didn't see alot of that fire last season from him. Hopefully the pilot light is lit again and having 1 year under his belt will start the fire.

    I liked the fact that we hired Haslett last season and I'm just as happy that we have him again for 2007.

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