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Thread: Thomas: Rams Speed Up Defense Too

  1. #1
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    Thomas: Rams Speed Up Defense Too

    Rams speed up defense, too

    4 hours ago • By Jim Thomas 314-340-8197

    All along this offseason, the Rams’ game plan was much different on defense than offense. The offense underwent a radical makeover in skill position players, adding a Pro Bowl left tackle along the way.

    As for the defense, the shopping list was limited largely to two starting positions — safety and outside linebacker.

    Even without benefit of a coordinator last year because of Gregg Williams’ “Bountygate” suspension, the Rams made impressive strides on defense.

    They tied for the league lead in sacks (with Denver), 52. They scored five defensive touchdowns, four by rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins. And they flirted with top 10 status for much of the season in total defense.

    The hope at Rams Park is that the two new starters obtained via the draft, outside linebacker Alec Ogletree of Georgia and safety T.J. McDonald of Southern California, will help the defense take that next step.

    Not unlike the skill-position plan on offense, the idea was to get faster and more athletic at strongside linebacker. That’s where the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Ogletree comes in.

    “You want to talk about a kid that’s made for the NFL game with an ability to drop and cover, a former safety,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said weeks before the draft. “He is fun to watch on tape. He flies. He’s explosive. He’s not great against the run, but boy, in today’s NFL of spread offenses he’s a great fit.”

    Assuming he avoids further off-field issues, that’s exactly what the Rams hope to get from Ogletree. When you count the NFC West games against San Francisco and Seattle, plus a contest at Carolina, five of the Rams’ 16 games next season are against teams with running, read-option style quarterbacks. Someone such as Ogletree is needed to run down Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, and keep those breakout runs around the perimeter from happening.

    “I’m definitely up for the challenge,” Ogletree said at his introductory news conference last week. “I’m very confident in my ability to basically tackle somebody, run ’em down. I feel like when I’m between the lines, nobody’s faster than me.”

    That’s why the Rams drafted him.

    “Here’s a good story,” Rams general manager Les Snead said. “(Linebackers coach) Frank Bush was drawing up a lot of things we’re going to see in our division and said, ‘Hey, what do you do right here?’

    “Basically Ogletree drew a line and said, ‘I go right there and make the tackle right at the line of scrimmage.’ He didn’t get into this or that, he just said, ‘I’m going to meet that guy right there.’ ”

    As Snead told the story, he showed Ogletree drawing a direct line — from where he was positioned on defense to the quarterback.

    “I think Frank was sold at that moment,” Snead said.

    At safety, the Rams wanted more range in coverage without sacrificing toughness, and they think they’ve got that in McDonald. There are some who think McDonald could’ve been a first-round draft pick had he turned pro after the 2011 season. But after a disastrous 2012 defensively for the Trojans, which resulted in the departure of coordinator Monte Kiffin, the perception is that McDonald had a bad senior year.

    “I wouldn’t say a bad year,” McDonald said. “I think it was a different year than past years because you didn’t see me flashing across the screen like you did in past years. Because a lot of times I was in the box a lot more (in 2012). I wasn’t coming down from 15 yards deep, flashing across the screen making those plays. It was a little different, but I still went out there and made plays.”

    For anyone doubting McDonald’s coverage skills, Fisher says turn on tape of him against Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert (who was a first-round draft pick).

    “He’s one of those guys that has the cover skills,” Fisher said. “He sees things. He anticipates. ... He gets the game. He plays the position well.”

    Along with holdover Darian Stewart, Ogletree and McDonald project as the only new starters on the Rams’ defense. All four starters return on the defensive line. In fact, the top seven defensive linemen from 2012 are back.

    Two starters are back at linebacker in James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar. And in the secondary, the top three cornerbacks return in Cortland Finnegan, Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

    There are depth issues at linebacker and in the secondary, so the Rams will take a long look at this year’s crop of undrafted free agents. If the price is right, they might search for veterans in this, the garage-sale period of free agency. But the starting unit could be formidable if Ogletree and McDonald do indeed provide the final pieces.

    “Well, I hope that that’s the case,” McDonald said. “I know this defense is great. I definitely watched Janoris last year come in as a rookie and make big plays. James Laurinaitis has been a guy that I’ve watched him since he was at Ohio State.

    “Chris Long, when I was there (in St. Louis) on my visit, I met him and I know he’s a great player. For me all the pieces are there, I just want to be able to come in and make an impact for myself and the rest of my team and help us win games.”

  2. #2
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    Re: Thomas: Rams Speed Up Defense Too

    I get goosebumps thinking about how good our defense can be without Craig Dahl in it.

    Mcdonald seems like he will fit better as a FS playing deep and I have alot of confidence that Stewart can return to his 2011 form. Add in the uber athletic Ogletree taking over for the underachieving Mcintosh and also Dunbar on passing downs, and theres no reason this D cant take the next step to the Elite level.

    Can we please fast forward to week one already!?!?
    Last edited by FestusRam; -05-03-2013 at 01:08 AM.

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    Re: Thomas: Rams Speed Up Defense Too

    I get goosebumps thinking about how good our defense can be without Craig Dahl in it.

    ^^ that times 10000

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