Rams’ Safety Dance Could Involve Many Partners ..
By Bradford Bruns on May 2nd, 2014 @ 8:38pm
To pick or not to pick? With less than a week to go until the 2014 NFL draft kicks off, that is the question with the Rams’ No. 2 overall spot. The “flirtatious” period that the team’s chief operating officer, Kevin Demoff, and general manager Les Snead have repeatedly referenced must finally yield a payoff.
Whether it’s nobler for St. Louis’ upper brass to opt for a Pro Bowl possibility near the very top of the heap or trade down and acquire multiple selections remains in question. But make no mistake: The last piece of outrageous fortune culled from the squad’s blockbuster swap with the Washington Redskins more than two years ago will soon be known.
And then there’s the not-so-pedestrian matter of how to approach the No. 13 slot. A strong incoming class of contributors in the secondary, for example, hasn’t escaped the attention of one Gateway City legend.“It’s a copycat league,” former wide receiver Isaac Bruce said on Kevin Wheeler’s program this week. “The team that’s sitting on the top of the pedestal right now (the Seattle Seahawks), they pride themselves on having a strong defense. Guys who come downhill, as far as the strong safety and free safety are concerned, guys who can plug holes – we’ve seen in the past how that can benefit a defense and a team.”
While the Rams already boast a presumed cornerstone in T.J. McDonald, Bruce stressed the need to pair the second-year USC product with another physically imposing force at safety.
“When you have guys coming out who can really blow up things, blow up plays, guys on the offense tend to look at that,” Bruce said. “They tend to see the JumboTron when they’re showing the defensive back highlights about guys being knocked out and being knocked off their kilt.”
Candidates to fill such a void abound – maybe. Those whose stock soared in the run-up to February’s scouting combine, such as ex-Alabama standout HaHa Clinton-Dix, don’t necessarily hold the same prestige at the moment.
“To me, I wouldn’t consider Clinton-Dix at No. 13 – no matter what,” Russ Lande, expert for the National Football Post, said on Wednesday. “I don’t think he’s the best safety in the draft, and he’s definitely not a first-round pick in my eyes.
“Instinctively, that’s my biggest issue. When I watch him pass coverage, he often seems frozen right before the ball is thrown. It ends up causing him to be late closing and making plays on balls. I also don’t think he’s a consistently good tackler out in space. To me, those are big issues if you’re talking about a safety. If I were talking about a defensive end, I wouldn’t really care about his tackling out in space or his coverage ability. But we’re talking about a safety.”
Like Lande, 101ESPN’s Tony Softli eschewed Clinton-Dix in favor of alternatives like Florida State’s Terrence Brooks and Calvin Pryor of Louisville, with the latter’s recent workouts helping to offset some of the flaws in his game.
“He’s more of a collision guy,” Softli said regarding Pryor. “He’s more of a collision guy. He doesn’t wrap. You’ll see him shoot his body in there, and he makes great collision. It’s explosive, but he doesn’t finish. And he’s going to have to learn to do that at this level.”
Regardless of when St. Louis decides to take the plunge at safety, the options are plentiful. Yet there appears to be a consensus in relation to the position’s increasingly vulnerable state.
“The same types of athletes are there,” Softli said. “The awareness level back there, how they’re playing them, is very similar to the past. What’s going on with the spread offenses coming out of college, and now, in the NFL: guys are exposed a little bit more. When you’ve got (San Francisco ***** tight end) Vernon Davis running down the field, who runs a 4.3, tell me what safety is going to guard him. That’s a scheme. You’ve got to scheme to stop that.”
“I think the athletes offensively, and how they’re using them, are spreading the defense out a little bit. That’s why the defensive coordinators are starting to put a lot more pressure on the pocket. ‘Well, we can’t always stop and cover these guys man to man. Let’s go hit that quarterback in the mouth and slow him down a little bit.’”
With a treasure trove of 12 picks starting next Thursday, the Rams aren’t limited to a lone shot at finding the right fit for the back end of the defense. But striking it rich at No. 13 would go a long way toward beginning to reverse their sea of troubles in the NFC West.
Re: Rams’ Safety Dance Could Involve Many Partners ..
Interesting article. I definitely don't see the Rams taking Clinton-Dix at #13 or anywhere. Largely because he's a jack-of-all-trades and master of none, but also Jeff Fisher doesn't seem to value the safety position as highly as cornerback. Now of course if a stud safety is sitting there at #13 that may be a different story. We need to bolster our defensive secondary, but that could happen in rounds 2-7. Bucanon is getting a fair amount of hype as the type of safety G. Williams might like, sort of a hybrid not a pure free safety. It's hard to see which CB might be of interest to the Rams, either Gilbert or Dennard.
Frankly if he's there I'd rather see us take Aaron Donald because I think he's a can't miss prospect, while the CB's are riskier.