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Thread: Rams Defense Regroups
Rams Defense Regroups
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
After playing their best run defense of the season Oct. 26 in New England, the Rams were gouged for 177 yards and 5.4 yards per carry the following week against Arizona.
In case you missed it during all the Kurt Warner Mania, rookie Tim Hightower, making his first NFL start, rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown for the Big Red.
Last Sunday, there was more to the Meltdown in the Meadowlands than just Brett Farvre and five Rams turnovers. Favre threw only 19 passes, good for a modest 167 yards. The real damage was done by Thomas Jones and the New York Jets running game. Jones gained 149 yards and scored three touchdowns; all told, the Jets had 206 yards rushing and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
On Monday, the Rams' defensive unit looked at the tape — a horror film of one team (the Jets) basically imposing its will on another team (you know who).
The Rams tried to learn from their mistakes, but not dwell on them.
"You live in one-week capsules," defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said. "It's all about this week. You don't reflect back other than to correct."
"You really have to let that go, because last week was bad," linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "If you carry that over to this week ... it's not going to be good. The good thing about our game is we get to play again this week. And we get to prove that we weren't the team of last week."
But when it comes to run defense, the "team of last week" has surfaced all too frequently for the Rams this season. Jones was the fifth opposing running back to top 100 yards against St. Louis, and the Jets were the third team to top 200 yards rushing.
It's not a pretty picture. With seven games remaining, the Rams are on pace to give up 2,576 yards rushing. That would make them the worst run defense in 71 years of Rams football in terms of yards allowed.
Right now, the record for most rushing yards allowed in one season is 2,440 by the 1961 Rams over a 14-game schedule.
The 2008 Rams are allowing 4.8 yards per carry, a pace that would be exceeded only by the 2006 and the '61 Rams, which both yielded 4.9 yards per carry.
"It starts with cohesiveness; we've lost a little of that," Venturi said. "We have to get it back, and then from there, you've got to tackle. But tackling always becomes better when everybody's in the right spot.
"In this league, you absolutely have to be in the right spots. And then from there you've got to play physical and you've got to tackle. But if you make mistakes on fits, if you're not in the right spots, you're not in the right gap, then you're going to have trouble recovering from that."
That was one of the major problems against the Jets. Rams linebackers either ran to the wrong spot, or were prevented from getting there by Jets blockers.
"When you're not a huge defense, you're not overly big, then everything has to be perfect," coach Jim Haslett said. "Your technique's got to be perfect, your alignments, your assignments, have to be perfect."
And when you're not, bad things happen.
But there's more to the Rams' woes on run defense, than just getting to the right spot. As Jones crossed the line of scrimmage on his first touchdown run last week, three of the four Rams defensive linemen playing at the time were on the ground. That has nothing to do with gap discipline and run fits. That's about getting out-muscled by bigger, stronger players.
It now seems painfully obvious that the Rams need to get bigger on their front seven. Speed helps, but not when a 330-pound pulling guard has his mitts on you, and you're a 225-pound linebacker, it's not a fair fight.
At a minimum, the Rams need a wide-body at defensive tackle. Not necessarily a starter, but a big run stuffer who could be part of the regular line rotation. It also appears that a bigger middle linebacker is a must, meaning that Will Witherspoon would be moved to outside linebacker in 2009.
Witherspoon said no one on the coaching staff has broached the subject about moving outside next season. But there has been plenty of speculation lately on the topic.
"I'm fine with whatever," Witherspoon said. "I don't mind playing the middle. Don't mind being outside. Get me on the field, and I'll make the best out of it."
Witherspoon was the team's MVP last season, when he led the squad in tackles (132) and sacks (seven). He's the first to admit he hasn't approached that level in 2008.
"I don't think I'm playing as well as I have in the past," he said. "Part of it is, yeah, I've been banged up a little more than usual. I just haven't been myself really. I haven't been able to get a punch off the way I would like."
Witherspoon has been playing with a shoulder injury _ a partially torn rotator cuff _ since right before the Rams' bye week. He also suffered a bruised shoulder way back in training camp, so it has been that kind of a season.
"It's one of those things that you've just got to kind of deal with throughout the course of the year," Witherspoon said. "There's no such thing as hitting the restart button."
If only there were.
Re: Rams Defense Regroups
I really hope Witherspoon moves back outside. We need a new face in the LB corps. I would like to see a new combination that does involve Witherspoon on the outside.
As for defensive tackle. I can live with that. Glover is up there anyways. Get the biggest fattest guy to stuff the line. Carriker and Ryan can still be starters.
Re: Rams Defense Regroups
Yep, I'd rather take Rey than an O-lineman if he is there when we pick in 09. Lord knows we need help on the O-line, but Rey would bring what we need in the way of size and attitude to our D. I'm on the Rey Maualuga bandwagon, anybody else out there want to see Rey wearing horns??
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