Team Report: Inside Slant
Defense, defense, defense.
For the Rams, it's the same old song. As first-year coach Scott Linehan looks ahead after his team was 8-8, he knows the focus has to be on defense, especially stopping the run.
"We've certainly got an area we're prioritizing, and that's to improve our run defense," Linehan said. "Wherever that is, whether it's in our front or our linebackers, we're going to scour the league and see if there's somebody there that fits what we lack."
Linehan hired Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator last year, and the team added defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, linebacker Will Witherspoon, strong safety Corey Chavous and cornerback Fakhir Brown in free agency. They also selected cornerback Tye Hill in the first round of the draft.
Despite another season-ending (injury) suffered by cornerback Travis Fisher, the pass defense held up well. The defense forced more takeaways than it had the previous two seasons. But the run defense still left a lot to be desired.
Road graders are what the Rams need inside to keep blockers away from their linebackers. Witherspoon played well, but will probably be better after spending his first season in the middle. Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa played injured for most of the 11 games he played, and his tackling suffered.
But on the inside, nose tackle Jimmy Kennedy struggled in his first season at the position. His backup, Jason Fisk, is undersized, and will probably retire. The departure of Ryan Pickett to Green Bay in the off-season couldn't be overcome.
Now, the Rams will be searching for someone on the nose that can be at least as good as Pickett.
The question is whether they can find that in free agency. The Rams have the cap space, but so do a lot of teams. More clubs will likely be able to keep their own free agents or be competitive in the open market.
"Every team's probably got the ability to go out and spend the money if they need to get an improvement for their team," Linehan said.
Help is also needed at the defensive end spot opposite Leonard Little, who led the team with 13 sacks. Brandon Green, who ended the year as the starter on the right side, had just 1.5 sacks.
The good news is that the pass defense was solid. Hill established himself as a starter, and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe showed steady improvement throughout the season. Ron Bartell was showing he belonged by the end of the season.
"I think we have a pretty good secondary returning next year," Bartell said, "You've got the veteran guys like Corey and Fakhir Brown. And I think it's really good that us young guys were able to get some experience this year."
Said Hill, "The important thing is, I kept growing every game, and I started to make a few plays here and there. This year was really a building process for me. This was my foundation year. I'm looking to build off this year to next year."
Atogwe said, "We're only getting better from here. We're not the type of individuals who are going to rest on what we've done this year. We're going to continue to push each other, challenge each other, and grow from this. So, when we come back next year, our goal is going to be the best secondary in the league."
Concluded Chavous, "I think this group of young defensive backs is outstanding. And then when you have a guy like Fakhir Brown ... it's something that might go unnoticed, but it's not unnoticed by anybody in this locker room. He's one of the best corners in the league."
Re: Team Report: Inside Slant
i like what the secondary are saying especially the way that they gonna work to get better and be the best, some young players get the job done once and think they have it made!