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  1. #1
    Goldenfleece's Avatar
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    State of the Rams: Defense

    A week ago I took a look at offensive needs. Now I'd like to take a look at where we stand on defense.

    Defensive Tackle
    Current Options: Clifton Ryan, Darrell Scott, Gary Gibson, Adam Carriker, Lajuan Ramsey, Leger Douzable
    Evaluation: The early losses of Gibson and Carriker make this position difficult to evaluate. Before AC even went down for the season, Gibson was already taking reps with the first team. I really don’t know whether Carriker is good or not because I can’t remember the last time he wasn’t slowed by some injury or another. Ryan had a pretty decent season, although not reflected in the stats. Scott had a very quiet rookie season. Ramsey and Douzable had their moments but would have been fringe players even on our team if not for the injuries.
    Off-season Priority: Medium-High. We have a lot of young players at the position who at some point during the season showed promise, but once again we finished near the bottom of the league in both run defense and sacks. Our defense will not be strong without strong line play.

    Defensive End
    Current Options: Chris Long, Leonard Little, James Hall, C.J. Ah You, Victor Adeyanju
    Evaluation: Long has made strides in his game each season and may yet quiet his doubters if he gets some help. Little is 35 and, although still productive, is not the force he once was. His contract is up, and he may retire. Hall will be 33 next month and is also likely near the end of his career. His contract is up, and he may or may not be back for the 2010 season. Ah You's most memorable moment in 2009 came when he blocked a field goal on a play which was called back because we had 12 men on the field. He saw some playing time in a reserve role and recorded one sack. Adeyanju may have fallen out of favor with the new regime, as he was often inactive on game day. He, too, may leave as a free agent.
    Off-season Priority: High. Three out of five could leave, and we didn't have much of a pass rush even with them. Also, we have a defensive coordinator whose defense relies on pressure. Bad news.

    Middle Linebacker
    Current Options: James Laurinaitis, Dominic Douglas
    Evaluation: “Viral” Laurinaitis was all over the place wreaking havoc on opponents. Yes, he occasionally got caught out of position, but he still had a great rookie season. Douglas joined the active roster in mid-November, a few weeks after he had most recently been cut from the practice squad.
    Off-season Priority: Low. If Laurinaitis ever succumbed to injury, we could probably slide over one of the guys competing for the strongside position or something.

    Outside Linebacker
    Current Options: Paris Lenon, Chris Chamberlain, David Vobora, Larry Grant
    Evaluation: On the weak side, Lenon is sort of the classic journeyman. As a starter for the Lions, he led the team in tackles...but an above-average starter for the Lions might still be below-average for the league. Unfortunately, you might be able to say that about the Rams these days, too. That needs to change. Chamberlain is sort of a classic back-up who earns his spot on special teams.

    On the strong side, we got torched by tight ends on several occasions in 2009. Vobora has out-played his “Mr. Irrelevant” title but does not inspire confidence as a starter. He seemed to get better over the course of the season, though. Grant was a seventh round pick of the ***** a few years ago and made his way over to St. Louis around the same time his college teammate Laurinaitis came on board. The good news is that there doesn‘t seem to be much drop-off between our starter and back-up at strongside linebacker. Coincidentally, that is also the bad news.
    Off-season Priority: Medium. Strongside linebacker is typically a two-down position who comes out for the nickel package, otherwise this ranking might be higher.

    Cornerback
    Current Options: Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Quincy Butler, Justin King, Jonathan Wade, Danny Gorrer
    Evaluation: Bartell is clearly the best of the bunch and one of the few defensive starters who would probably not have trouble finding a starting job elsewhere in the league. Fletcher surprised me by earning a starting role as a rookie. He had some lapses, which was to be expected. Then he got injured, and things went downhill. I couldn’t even tell you what order these guys are on the depth chart when they’re healthy. Wade and King are fast but not great in coverage. Quincy Butler is a guy on our team. I think he started at some point, but I don’t recall that being a good thing.
    Off-season Priority: Medium. Bartell is the only one who has really proven much of anything, but at least with all of the youth at this position, there is reason to hope that we might still get better even without personnel changes.

    Safety
    Current Options: O.J. Atogwe, James Butler, Craig Dahl, David Roach
    Evaluation: Safety is a relative strength compared to the rest of the defense. Atogwe makes big plays, and the off-season prioritization to follow will assume that the team either locks him up with a long-term contract or franchises him. Butler and Dahl played reasonably well, although both have some holes in their games.
    Off-season Priority: Low. Assuming Atogwe returns, we’re in decent shape here.

    Kicker
    Current Options: Josh Brown
    Evaluation: Brown missed a couple easy ones early in the season, but he is usually more consistent and has demonstrated the ability to hit 50+ yard field goals under pressure.
    Off-season Priority: Very Low. I would be sorely disappointed if we wasted time and resources trying to upgrade this position with so many other needs.

    Punter
    Current Options: Donnie Jones
    Evaluation: Jones was a Pro Bowl alternate and rightly so. He is as close as any on this team to being a master of his craft.
    Off-season Priority: Very Low.

    Kick Returner/Punt Returner
    Current Options: Danny Amendola, Donnie Avery, Samkon Gado, Kenneth Darby
    Evaluation: Amendola was an above average kick returner and one of the league's best punt returners in 2009. He broke team records partly because of the number of times he had to return, which makes it all the more impressive that his averages remained high. Only 5 players who returned more than two punts the entire season averaged more yards per punt return, and only 2 of those 5 players above Amendola were returning punts regularly all season.
    Off-season Priority: Very Low.


    Keeping in mind that available talent also plays a major impact in signings, this would be what my aggregated priority list would look like based solely on positional need:

    Very High
    Quarterback

    High
    Defensive End

    Medium-High
    Wide Receiver
    Offensive Guard
    Defensive Tackle

    Medium
    Offensive Tackle
    Outside Linebacker
    Cornerback

    Medium-Low
    Runningback

    Low
    Tight End
    Center
    Middle Linebacker
    Safety

    Very Low
    Kicker
    Punter
    Kick/Punt Returner


  2. #2
    swatter555's Avatar
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Good assesment.

  3. #3
    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Since I agree with almost all of this, I think you did a great job..lol...

    One quibble would be RB.Pretty much anything that can be realistically added to the offense would largely be negated,imo, by an SJ injury & the workload just increases that risk. Not only would I rate this as a HIGH priority but I think it is one that is easiest to fix. The contribution of the back-up RBs last year was virtually non-existent except in pass pro on occasion; wouldn't take much to make a huge difference. Assuming either Ogby or Darby can be SJ-Lite between the tackles, that leaves finding maybe that jukey speedster with decent hands who may not be big enough for every down duty so will come cheaper/lower in the draft & can be older. Not that tall an order,imo, but will give a quick & critical diversified boost to the run game. Many hands make light work.

    I'd also say LB in general is a higher priority. I don't think even the best moments of any LB not named Laurinaitis flashed playmaker to me, doubt they even made par with reasonable performance projections of the under-performing Spoon & Draft if they'd stayed all year. Likely we can't buy a savvy but young upcomer, either. I thought Grant had the best shot; shows what I know...sigh...All in all,I wouldn't be upset to see a significant LB pick; if Weatherspoon is there at the top of RD2...or at least a late pick to replenish & maintain the improved STs with hungry young psychos.

    On a slightly mean-spirited note, related to my fellow Know-Nothings; setting up the all-u-can-eat crowfest for The Maualuga-ites should be a HIGH PRIORITY, no?

  4. #4
    mikhal5569's Avatar
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Good read, I agree with most of your analyst. However, I think people need to see the back up RB as a much bigger need. I'm not saying spend a high draft pick on one, because it such a dime a dozen position. But, the back up slots need to be completely replaced.
    I agree with your logic of why the DE position could be a big target for a overhaul. Personally I just think that we are only one speed rusher shy of a solid unit if Little retires, and yes it's time for him to go.
    I'm personally hoping the team spends the big money on linebackers and the o-line in free agentcy. Then DT and QB with the first two picks.

  5. #5
    ramsfan1957 Guest

    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Great analysis!

  6. #6
    Goldenfleece's Avatar
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    I've gone back and forth a little bit about how urgently we need to upgrade the linebackers. On the one hand, I look at our outside linebackers and see a bunch of late round and undrafted guys who probably have limited upside. On the other, I look at what Flajole did in Carolina and what Spagnuolo did in New York, and those teams had good middle linebackers and outstanding defensive lines. The only reason I know the names of Carolina's outside linebackers from back when they were good is because we recently let both of them go (Draft and Witherspoon). If I were going to name the key players to the success of the Giants' defenses in recent history, I don't think I'd recall who their outside linebackers were. It's a spot where we don't have a lot of talent, but maybe we could get by without a lot of talent there.


    Regarding the runningbacks, I see where people are coming from on that, but I also think that if we ever get this West Coast system running the way it is supposed to, it'll take pressure off the running game. The idea behind the WCO is that you throw to pick up those 3-4 yard chunks when you might have run in another system. Taking the Eagles example, they've had successful years when they threw close to 60% of the time. Westbrook has been famously injury-prone over the years, and the Eagles still won games with the likes of Correll Buckhalter, Duce Staley, Ryan Moats, and other less than stunning back-ups.

    I think a lot of people talk about how we're going to be a hard-nosed running team, but our offensive coordinator is a former quarterbacks coach from a pass-happy offense.

  7. #7
    Warner4prez Guest

    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    I still think CB is a glaring need on this team and I'm hoping we assess it with some sort of worthwhile player. Bartell has played well, and Fletcher was looking like a possible #2 corner, but now who knows if he'll be able to play half of next season or let alone play like he used to. We see a lot of (potenially) great WR's in this division and I do think our d-line is turning into a run stopping unit. Pass rush is seeming a bit more bleak...

    We're probably going to see a shift from a defense that gets burned by the run to a defense that is vulnerable through the air! We see Housh 2x, Crabtree 2x and FitzBoldin 2x. There's got to be a reliable #2 corner here.

  8. #8
    Trevor's Avatar
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Agree with everything said here.

  9. #9
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    I think DT and Outside LB are very high needs for this team. I've given up on Carriker, and our OLB's are nothing more than special team players.

  10. #10
    ImOnFire15 Guest

    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by txramsfan View Post
    I think DT and Outside LB are very high needs for this team. I've given up on Carriker, and our OLB's are nothing more than special team players.
    I agree with this

  11. #11
    Trevor's Avatar
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    Re: State of the Rams: Defense

    Quote Originally Posted by ImOnFire15 View Post
    I agree with this
    Agreed, and someone who isn't using roids please!!!

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