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Run Defense Focuses on Discipline
Thursday, September 30, 2004
By Nick Wagoner
The Rams’ defense isn’t exactly getting a break when it lines up opposite San Francisco running back Kevan Barlow. It will, however, get some relief with Tim Rattay or Ken Dorsey at quarterback.
The appearance of one or both of those quarterbacks in the *****’ backfield is a welcome change to the mobile quarterbacks St. Louis has faced in each of the past two weeks.
Atlanta’s Michael Vick rolled up 109 rushing yards and New Orleans’ Aaron Brooks, Vick’s second cousin put up 27 yards on five carries, including a 12-yard run in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. Those quarterbacks hurt the Rams with their arms, also, combining for 495 yards through the air.
The Vick family tree does not extend its branches to San Francisco and for that, defensive tackle Ryan Pickett is thankful.
“That’s like a gift,” Pickett said. “We are happy about that. We’re not worried about the running as much. Now we have a chance to get after a quarterback who is not as mobile as Brooks and Vick.”
The run defense’s struggles haven’t been limited to attempting to stop the quarterbacks, though. Through three games, the Rams are allowing 164.7 rushing yards per game.
The Saints’ Aaron Stecker had his first career 100-yard game last Sunday, rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. His touchdown run spanned 42 yards. Take away that run and he is averaging about 3.7 yards per carry. That reveals what many already know to be true. The Rams’ run defense isn’t that bad, but has a tendency to allow big plays.
Defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson confirmed.
“I would say a lot of it is mental mistakes,” Jackson said. “When you have a one-gap defense, everybody has to be in their gap and we are all accountable. When one guy, myself or anybody else, gets out of their gap, it makes the defense look bad because there is no one else there to help you.
“You have to go out and execute what you are supposed to do. When you make mistakes, you get exposed by good teams and we have played three good teams. We beat one of them and made a ton of mistakes in the other two games and we lost because of that. If we cut the mistakes down, we will be fine.”
The Rams’ defense is predicated on discipline and without it, a big play can happen at any moment. Likewise, if everybody on the unit stays disciplined, it will likely lead to a big play for the defense.
St. Louis will spend a lot of practice time this week focusing on that obedience to stay home and fill the proper space on every play.
Echoing the sentiments of his teammates, defensive end Leonard Little said this defense is all about focus.
“We need to stay in our gaps,” Little said. “That’s the biggest thing with this defense, staying in our gaps and being discipline. If we’re not discipline, then there will be holes there and they will run all day.”
Barlow presents an interesting challenge to a defense that has yet to face a premiere running back (technically Vick isn’t a running back). Barlow is in his first season as the *****’ full-time starter at running back. This season, he has run for 212 yards on 49 carries, but exploded against New Orleans in week two, rushing for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 carries.
Barlow could be salivating at the opportunity to run against St. Louis, but defensive end Bryce Fisher said the defense couldn’t worry about anyone but itself.
“I don’t know whether they look forward to playing against us or not, that’s up to them,” Fisher said. “The only thing we know, is, this weekend we have to look forward to playing against Kevan Barlow, and shutting down his run.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy was back in St. Louis one day after he had his foot evaluated by doctors in North Carolina. Kennedy got a positive report and head coach Mike Martz said he could resume workouts soon.
“He’s been completely cleared to resume football activities,” Martz said. “He’s two weeks away from having some contact. That’s real good news for us.”
Kennedy said he is a little bit ahead of schedule and is excited about working out and getting back into football shape.
“The doctor said my bone is healed and now it’s just about getting used to running and putting weight on there so I can get back on the field,” Kennedy said. “It was a little disturbing when I broke my foot and I had to deal with that. I am trying to get back as quick as possible.”
He said he could begin running as early as Friday.
Another important part of the Rams’ defense is closer to a return. Cornerback Travis Fisher continues to take part in various bits and pieces of practice as he recovers from a broken forearm. He appears headed for a return sooner than later also, according to Martz.
“They did a scan on him and they are very pleased,” Martz said. “He is probably about two weeks away or so (from contact). They are just concerned about the strength in the forearm. He is pretty much on schedule.”
Middle linebacker Robert Thomas continues to nurse a lower ankle sprain and watched practice again on Thursday. He is listed as probable on Thursday’s injury report.
Linebacker Trev Faulk (hamstring), cornerback DeJuan Groce (knee) and guard Tom Nutten (toe) are also probable. Strong safety Adam Archuleta was added to the injury list Thursday with hamstring tightness. He did not participate in practice.
Guard Chris Dishman (ankle), running back Arlen Harris (hamstring) and linebacker Tony Newson (ankle) were questionable. Kennedy and Fisher are out for Sunday’s game.
-10-01-2004 #2RamTime Guest
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