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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rating the Rams: Defensive line

    By Steve Reynolds
    The St. Louis Rams ' 2006 defensive line was the flash point for the team's season-long aversion to defense and is the culprit most directly responsible for the unit's two greatest weaknesses: stopping the run and putting pressure (or in this case lack thereof) on the quarterback.

    The Rams' line saw nearly a complete overhaul in the '06 season, losing tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett to free agency and mislaying end Anthony Hargrove because he was otherwise engaged at drama camp (demoted and traded for missing practice and refusing to give an explanation).

    St. Louis' defense not only gave up the second-most rushing yards in the league last year, the unit also allowed a maddening amount of big plays from NFL rushing juggernauts such as Green Bay's Noah Herron and Seattle's Maurice Morris.

    In the same mold, the D-line was utterly ineffectual (with a lone exception) pressuring the opposing quarterback. Disguising coverages and sending blitzing LBs and DBs should be a normal part of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's scheme, not a necessity due to the front four being nullified every passing down. QBs had all day to throw against the Rams; and given time like that, even Eli Manning will burn you.

    Let us grade the starting defenders along the Rams' defensive line from this past season:

    Leonard Little, DE; Height: 6-3, Weight: 263; Age: 32

    The stalwart Little was the lone consistent bright spot for the Rams' D-line. Little added 13 sacks, also singlehandedly preserving the team's win at Green Bay and giving the Rams a chance to beat Seattle in a game they had, at that point, given away. Little proved that he is the type of defender who can change the outcome of a game (a rarity in today's NFL) and was rewarded with a contract extension. For a "small" lineman Little plays the run surprisingly well, although he occasionally gets erased when large blockers can get their hooks in.

    Stopping the run: B
    Rushing the passer: A
    Prognosis for 2007 should be: Starting LE

    Jimmy Kennedy, NT; Height: 6-4, Weight: 325; Age: 27

    The lone first-round draft pick remaining on the line, more due to contract length than winning the battle of attrition, Kennedy was given the chance to start at nose tackle to see if he was the future. In a word, no.

    In three words, not even close.

    Kennedy played in every game for the Rams last season. However, you wouldn't know it because the announcers seldom, if ever, called his name. Seemingly the latest bust in a long line of DT choices, Kennedy is entering his contract year, and if he ever had anything to prove, the time is next season. Don't hold your breath, Rams fans; it's time to put the Jimmy Kennedy Experiment on hiatus.

    Stopping the run: D-
    Rushing the passer: F
    Prognosis for 2007 should be: Best-case scenario, backup DT seeing occasional time in rotation.

    La'Roi Glover, DT; Height 6-2, Weight 290; Age: 33 next season

    Let's face it, Glover is not the player he was in New Orleans, and the Rams (over)paid him as if he were. However, the DT is still the player he was in Dallas, which his numbers reflect. Glover flourished in New Orleans and Dallas because he was surrounded by talented players, and the onus was not put upon him to do it all. However, on a Rams team that merely masqueraded as a defense, Glover was simply part of the problem. Glover is too old to shoulder the burden of being the prominent run stopper on the line, but not so old that he cannot be a good, or even excellent, complementary player. His future will parallel what the Rams do in the offseason.

    Stopping the run: D
    Rushing the passer: C
    Prognosis for 2007 should be: Whether he is a starter is immaterial; he should play little more than half the snaps per game.

    Victor Adeyanju, DE; Height: 6-4, Weight: 270; Age: 24

    For a player who's supposed strength is stopping the run, Adeyanju didn't make a noticeable impact overall in the porous Rams run defense. Adeyanju played reasonably well for a rookie, but the Rams need much more help than what he will bring to the table; and the DE is a major liability in pass-rushing situations. However, Adeyanju showed ability in his first year and will be given time to develop.

    Stopping the run: D
    Rushing the passer: F
    Prognosis for 2007 should be: Should not start, but he ought to see a lot of time in rotation.

    The Rams must spend their free agent dollars on the defensive line this offseason. The draft may provide assistance long term, but this team needs help now and can't afford to blow yet another high-round pick on an ineffective DT. The Rams have to fork out the dough this year in free agency to acquire a proven DE to play opposite Little, as well as procuring one, if not two, quality defensive tackle(s).

    Otherwise, the only thing the Rams will stuff next year is their shot at the playoffs.

  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Rating the Rams: Defensive line

    My question is should there be a sense of urgency concerning our defense?

    1.The Colts won the Superbowl with the worst run defense in the NFL.
    2. Is the real issue the D-line or the O-line? (for our RAMS)
    3. Would we be better off drafting d-line players and waiting for them to develop or sign veteran free agents because the time is now?
    4. Should our 1st priority be looking for O-line draftees or free agents?(instead of D-line)
    5. We have a better than average offense but for how long?
    6. How many seasons do we have left with the likes of Bulger, Bruce and Holt?
    7. Are there any immediate impact players that will be available to us in the draft? (defensively)
    8. Are we in the Win now mentality or should we be building from the ground up? (Cowboys of the 90's)
    9. To sum it all up. Do we go for it right now or take our chances and try and build a team that will be in the upper echelon of the NFL for more than 1 year?
    Last edited by laram0; -02-15-2007 at 10:40 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Rating the Rams: Defensive line

    This D line is about as bad as the 2000 one was. To answer la's answer: yes. Spend all of our money right now on defense and go with what we have on offense and see what happens. The time is running out on Holt/Bruce, and getting a 3rd WR is cheaper than a starting D lineman who can stop the run.

    I've been tough on some of my critiques on Justin Smith, but one thing I've noticed about all his press clippings is that he is a run stopper. Maybe if Pisa gets back healthy and he can rush the passer, then maybe Smith might be a good fit. However, on thing I remember is that this defense got torched up the middle.

  4. #4
    RAMMAN68's Avatar
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    Re: Rating the Rams: Defensive line

    No mention of Wroten, who I thought did a decent job for a rookie. I'm on the fence with Kennedy; I think if we can get a good DT in FA it might help Kennedy's performance. I really would hate to see the Rams go after yet another DL in the first round. I think they can get some good DL players via FA if they really do their homework.

    Adm. William "Bull" Halsey

  5. #5
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    Re: Rating the Rams: Defensive line

    Bah, I want another Run at the Bowl before Bruce and Holt are gone. SPEND SPEND SPEND. Get the D now and get the bowl next year.


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