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  1. #1
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    Rams defense looks to bring the pressure ..

    BY BILL COATS | Friday, September 17, 2010 12:20 am

    Mentored by the late Jim Johnson, the revered defensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, Steve Spagnuolo cultivated an aggressive, blitz-heavy philosophy that he took to New York and then brought to the Rams.

    As defensive coordinator of the Giants, Spagnuolo unleashed his troops, demonizing quarterbacks. Working from a 4-3 alignment, Spagnuolo regularly sent ends, linebackers and especially defensive backs charging into opposing backfields.

    In their 17-14 upset of unbeaten New England in Super Bowl XLII, Spagnuolo's Giants consistently harassed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sacking him five times. Brady had been sacked only 16 times previously that season, and no more than three times in any game.

    Hired as head coach by the Rams in January 2009, Spagnuolo brought in Carolina linebackers coach Ken Flajole as his defensive coordinator. They shared similar views on how defenses should attack.

    "If you look at both their backgrounds ... they always played aggressive defense: Stop the run and get after the passer," Rams defensive tackle Clifton Ryan said.

    "We'd like to be like that," Spagnuolo confirmed. Yet a commitment to that approach couldn't be made right away.


    Spagnuolo and Flajole inherited a defensive unit that was thin in talent: The 2008 Rams finished 28th in total defense and 31st in scoring (29.1 ppg). Things didn't improve significantly last year: the Rams slipped to 29th in total defense, cutting their points-per-game yield slightly, to 27.2.

    But things have changed, evidenced Sunday during the season-opening 17-13 loss to Arizona. Spagnuolo and Flajole unveiled a defensive game plan that was more aggressive than any in the '09 season.

    The Rams blitzed on 30 of the Cardinals' 64 plays. Conversely, the Big Red defenders, renowned as aggressive blitzers, brought extra rushers on just 25 of the Rams' 81 snaps.

    Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson absorbed a nasty beating. He was sacked only twice but was whacked about 10 other times. Defensive end Chris Long alone was credited with three quarterback hits.

    "I think Coach has a lot of confidence in us, that our blitzes will hit home," Long said. "And we like that. ... It's fun to fly around and hit the quarterback."

    This isn't a tweaked approach, Flajole stressed; this is the way he and Spagnuolo regularly want the Rams to play defense.

    "We do have an aggressive mind-set, and I think our guys feed upon that," Flajole said. "When the calls are aggressive, I think that maybe gets them going."

    To a man, the players declared an unabashed affection for the style they deployed Sunday.

    "It's fun being able just to kind of pin your ears back and go," middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "A lot of times on those pressures, it just comes down to running and hitting somebody. And that's fun football."

    Safety James Butler pointed out that "no defensive back likes to cover (receivers) for a long period of time. The faster everybody can get to the quarterback, the shorter we have to cover. So we definitely love it."

    Butler played for Spagnuolo in New York. He said the way the Rams defended the Big Red was reminiscent of the Giants' uncompromising strategy.

    "It's starting to piece together," Butler said. "I think the guys are getting comfortable, everybody knows what they're doing, and they're playing fast. That's the result. That's how it's supposed to look."


    The more aggressive approach is made possible because of a several factors:

    The Rams added a dependable run-stuffer in free agent defensive tackle Fred Robbins.

    New starters at outside linebacker, Larry Grant and Na'il Diggs, provide increased range.

    Most significant, the Rams are in their second year of this defensive scheme, so they're not learning on the fly anymore.

    "We understand what we're trying to get out of each pressure," Laurinaitis said. "You don't have to think; you just go."

    Added Long: "Everybody knows where they're supposed to be, everybody knows what they're supposed to do when they get there. It makes a lot simpler ... like second nature."

    The ultimate goal is to dictate the flow of the game by forcing the offense to react to what the defense is doing, instead of vice-versa.

    "We make them play our kind of football; we don't sit back and wait," Butler said. "Being aggressive, it gives us the advantage."

    Of course, there is danger involved, too. When blitzes fail, defenses are vulnerable because they're outmanned downfield. "There are always risks," Butler acknowledged. "But at the end of the day, I'd rather be the aggressor."

    Also, Flajole emphasized that just because the Rams blitzed heavily vs. the Cardinals doesn't mean that they'll attack as stringently every week.

    "It really depends on the circumstances and who we're playing," he said. "This crew that we're playing this week presents some of their own unique problems."

    Next up for the Rams is the Raiders on Sunday in Oakland. Quarterback Jason Campbell is far more mobile than Anderson.

    "Every week's a different adventure," Flajole said. "This quarterback can move around a little bit, so sometimes if you blitz him and you give him a rush lane, he can take it and he can make you pay with his feet."

    So, Spagnuolo and Flajole might have to dial it back a bit. Or, maybe not.

    "Do we pressure as much or blitz as much as we did the week before?" Flajole said, cracking a smile. "That'll be our little secret."

  2. #2
    NJ Ramsfan1 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams defense looks to bring the pressure ..

    I like this aggressive-minded approach to defense tremendously. Not only will it become more and more effective as the coaching staff keeps upgrading talent in select areas, but it is fun to watch. No quarterback enjoys having guys flying in his face from every direction.

    One thing we all tend to overlook at times is that the best scheme in the world means nothing if you don't have the players to execute it. Hopefully, the overall defensive effort we saw vs. Arizona is a sign of things to come in the near future.

  3. #3
    Servox28 Guest

    Re: Rams defense looks to bring the pressure ..

    yeah they looked great against arizona,im hoping they look even better and demolish jason campbell this week

    ny giants D 2.0 haha

  4. #4
    TerminusEst Guest

    Re: Rams defense looks to bring the pressure ..

    And just think, if we can get the VJax deal done, we can help out Long and Robbins by getting a DT or DE with our first rounder in the draft.

  5. #5
    01d 0rd3r's Avatar
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    Re: Rams defense looks to bring the pressure ..

    Very much the defense I want taking the field. Heavy blitzing all day long.

    EDIT: Huh 1000 posts, have I been here that long?

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