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  • Run-down Rams have some gaps to fill

    BY JEFF GORDON
    Post-Dispatch Online Sports Columnist
    09/30/2004

    Online Columnist Jeff Gordon

    Cardinals running back Emmitt Smith ran the ball on the Rams defense. So did Falcons running back Warrick Dunn and quarterback Michael Vick.

    Saints running back Aaron Stecker ran wild on this unit during Week 3. Aaron Stecker!

    The Rams rank 30th in the NFL in yards allowed per game, yards allowed per play, rushing yards per game and rushing yards per attempt. Now the Rams travel to San Francisco to face the Giants and 1,000-yard rusher Kevan Barlow.

    Let's hope the fellas have been shoring up the rush defense this week at Rams Park, because we all know what the ***** will try to do Sunday night.

    "Kevan Barlow, as we all know, can be a very explosive and physical runner and is a threat to go the distance at any time," Rams coach Mike Martz said during his mid-week news conference. "We've seen him do it."

    Are the Rams capable of stopping the run? They insist they can.

    We listened to defensive linemen Tyoka Jackson, Bryce Fisher and Leonard Little discuss the topic and their assessment was unanimous.

    In this defense, players must remain disciplined. If they are supposed to fill a gap, then they must fill that gap – especially if a blitz call has exposed their back side.

    "We need to stay in our gaps," Little said. "That's the biggest thing with this defense, staying in our gaps and being disciplined. If we're not disciplined, then there will be holes that develop and they will run all day."

    Jackson, Fisher and Little insisted the defense isn't getting pushed around. Rather, the defense is just screwing up.

    "I would say a lot of it is mental mistakes," Jackson said. "When you have an on-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. We have to make sure that every look that we see, we practice in terms of getting into our right fit, and go out and execute it."

    It's easy to pick up the message the Rams coaching staff has been selling this week in the meeting rooms and on the practice field.

    "As a whole, what's happened defensively, we've played real well and then we give up a big play," Martz said. "And that is the discipline of playing the defense and staying in it. There are a lot of things involved with it.

    "It's not just getting mashed or not having good-enough people. It's just a question of playing the defense properly."

    Out in the Bay Area, Barlow feels better than he has in weeks. He seems primed for a big game on ESPN's Sunday night telecast.

    So this will be a big game for defensive tackles Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett, not to mention the young (and banged-up) linebacker corps. Robert Thomas, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Tommy Polley and Brandon Chillar will all bear watching.

    Will the Rams defense get manhandled or will it hold up? Will the Rams play within their defensive system or will they become over-eager and start running around?

    "We'll get back to doing what we do best, run, tackle, get in your gap and play one-gap defense," Jackson said. "Then the defense will start to play like the talent level says it should."

    Well, it better – or this season will get very ugly very quickly.

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  • RamWraith
    Run Defense Focuses on Discipline
    by RamWraith
    Thursday, September 30, 2004

    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    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...
    -10-01-2004, 05:30 AM
  • RamWraith
    Defense Making Strides
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For the better part of the past few years, the Rams offense has done everything it can to carry the team with the defense struggling to gain traction.

    In the midst of a 0-7 season, many would believe that continued defensive struggles have been the reason for the difficult start. But not this year.

    With the offense floundering, the defense seems to be finding its rhythm. While coach Scott Linehan has indicated there is a lack of confidence in the offense because of its problems scoring, the defense certainly isn’t lacking in that area.

    “If you’ve been around our guys and see them in the locker room, they don’t lack confidence,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “They’re actually having fun out there playing. It’s frustrating, like this whole team is right now. I think one thing they do, they have a nice bond and enjoy being around each other. They enjoy playing. They play hard. It’s not always perfect. There are a lot of young guys getting better. For the most part, they know we’re in a bad situation but it doesn’t really affect them.”

    If there are any positive to be gleaned from the winless start aside from the effort of punter Donnie Jones, most of them are to be found on the defensive side of the ball.

    For the first time this season against Seattle, the Rams started the 11 players they were expected to have on defense at the beginning of the year.

    In the past two contests, the defense has pieced together two of its finest performances in recent memory. It held Baltimore to 248 yards on 63 plays for an average of 3.9 yards per play. Last week, it held the Seahawks to 289 yards on 68 plays for an average of 4.3 yards per play.

    For a historical perspective, consider that the Rams haven’t held opponents to under 300 yards of total offense in consecutive games since the end of the 2005 season.

    “We have gained a lot of confidence these past couple of weeks,” linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. “We feel like we can play with the best so it has been good to feel like it and then actually do it. Last year we felt like we could do it, but we weren’t doing it so this year when it’s coming to fruition, it’s pretty cool.”

    Nowhere have the defensive strides been more evident than the defense’s newfound ability to stop the run. Entering this season and it seems like every season in recent memory; the burning question remained as to how the Rams can find a way to stop opposing running games.

    After unknowns such as Noah Herron, Rock Cartwright and Aaron Stecker gashed that unit in recent years, the Rams brought in a couple of youngsters for the interior of the defensive line to slow down opposing backs.

    Clifton Ryan and Adam Carriker came in with some unfair expectations about how much they could help...
    -10-25-2007, 06:00 AM
  • RamDez
    Martz sensitive about Rams' struggling defensive unit
    by RamDez
    Martz sensitive about Rams' struggling defensive unit
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Saturday, Oct. 02 2004

    The many penalties have been puzzling. Special teams have been anything but
    special, with the exception of Jeff Wilkins. As for timeouts, replay
    challenges, and use - or is it neglect? - of the running game, well, "Mad" Mike
    Martz has been particularly maddening this season.

    But when all is said and done, the most disappointing element in the Rams' 1-2
    start has been the play of the defense. The Rams rank 30th in total defense and
    30th in rushing defense. That's third from the bottom.

    For the first time since the move to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams have gone
    three straight games without a takeaway.

    Arizona's Emmitt Smith ran like he was 25 instead of 35 against them in the
    season opener. In Week 2, Atlanta's Michael Vick played like Superman; he's
    looked like Clark Kent against everybody else. And last week, New Orleans'
    Aaron Stecker gashed them for 106 rushing yards. Not only was this a career
    high for Stecker - it was practically a career. He had never run for more than
    175 yards in a season in his four previous NFL campaigns.

    "We've just got to play better," Martz says. "I don't think it has anything to
    do with Larry (Marmie)."

    This obviously is a sensitive subject for Martz. He replaced one good friend
    (Lovie Smith) with another good friend (Marmie) as defensive coordinator after
    Smith became head coach in Chicago. In fact, it's such a sensitive subject that
    Martz refused to make Marmie available to be interviewed for this article.

    Marmie's hiring in St. Louis drew some criticism because of the
    less-than-stellar performance by the Arizona Cardinals' defense during his four
    seasons there as defensive coordinator.

    "Whatever problems we have right now on defense, we certainly ended up last
    season with," Martz said. "It's not like we were playing such great defense at
    the end of the season last year. When you look at the rushes and the yards per
    rush, that's a big concern, whoever the coordinator is.

    "We've just got to do a better job of tackling at the point. We've had some
    missed tackles that have ended up in big plays. You can't have that. And that
    has nothing to do with who's coaching the defense. Or the system. Or anything
    else. We've just got to make a play, and make a tackle."


    Not stepping up

    The Rams haven't been swarming to the ball, one of their trademarks under
    Smith. So when somebody misses a tackle, there's no one there to bail him out.
    Or no one there to jar the ball loose for a fumble after the initial tackler
    ...
    -10-02-2004, 11:43 PM
  • RamWraith
    Rams Getting Defensive
    by RamWraith
    Monday, September 19, 2005

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    It has been quite awhile since the Rams last put a game in the hands of their defense, but that’s exactly what they did Sunday afternoon in Arizona.

    And to the credit of that revamped St. Louis defense, it did the job when it needed to. The Rams held the Cardinals to four field goals and were able to keep Arizona from scoring on a last-minute drive to preserve a 17-12 victory at Sun Devil Stadium.

    “It would have been nice to hold them to three or four and out in their territory and let our offense take a knee,” strong safety Adam Archuleta said. “But this was a good test for our defense. I think we kind of needed that to get some confidence. I’m glad it ended up this way.”

    There have been few Rams’ teams in recent years that anyone would rather see the defense on the field than the offense with the game on the line. Of course, anytime a team has a lead it would prefer to have its offense on the field to run the clock out, but it’s a change of pace to hear one of the Rams’ defensive leaders saying that they wanted to be on the field.

    That is the type of change that could pay huge dividends down the road for a team that has spent the better part of the past year searching for a defensive identity. That’s not to say that the Rams boast the best defense in the league, but after a couple of weeks, it certainly stacks up among the top half of the league.

    With a pair of Monday night games still to be played, the Rams sit at No. 15 in total defense, allowing 298 yards per game. But a further glimpse at where those yards have come from would seem to indicate that St. Louis has been even better in those two games against San Francisco and Arizona.

    The ***** boosted their yardage total with the help of a number of trick plays, including a pass by receiver Arnaz Battle that netted 24 yards. The Cardinals had modest numbers in Sunday’s game until they were able to post almost 80 yards on their frantic, last-minute drive.

    But the biggest difference so far for the Rams defense resides in the front seven, where the defensive line is getting push on passing downs and eating up blockers on run plays and the improved linebacker crew is hitting its fills and punishing the running backs.

    Before Monday night’s games, the Rams ranked fourth in the league against the run, allowing just 58 yards per game on the ground. Some might scream that is because St. Louis has yet to play a premier back the likes of Shaun Alexander or Priest Holmes, but the fact is that the Rams still have to do their job against the run, something that was difficult a season ago.

    “Who knows?” coach Mike Martz said. “You still have to play, and if you are good, you still have to make those plays. They are competing very well, and they are getting better every week. So,...
    -09-20-2005, 05:14 AM
  • RamWraith
    So far, so good for Rams' revamped defense
    by RamWraith
    BY JEFF GORDON
    STLtoday.com Sports Columnist
    09/21/2005

    It is a bit premature to rave about the Rams' defensive front seven.

    The team is 1-1, having split with the ***** and Cardinals -– the 31st- and 29th-best teams in the NFL, according to the latest power ratings from ESPN.com. We’re not sure the maturing defensive linemen and revamped linebacker corps have been fully tested.

    But there certainly have been some encouraging signs. Opponents are averaging just 3.1 yards per carry on the ground. The Rams have controlled the ball for an average of 34 minutes in the first two games, limiting their opponents to an average of 26 minutes time of possession.

    The Rams have forced four turnovers in the first two games, three fumbles and an interception. They have earned 15 stops in 20 third-down situations. Opponents have only rushed for five first downs on the ground.

    A year ago, the defensive front seven was routinely gashed for big gains on the ground. The longest run the Rams have allowed this season is 16 yards.

    So far, so good.

    “The most important thing for us is the W column,” defensive tackle Damione Lewis said before Wednesday’s practice at Rams Park. “You’ve got to win in this league . . . The biggest thing is keeping them out of the end zone.”

    The defensive unit did that at the end of last week’s game, allowing the Rams to escape with a 17-12 victory. Kurt Warner drove the Cardinals to the Rams 5, only to get sacked by Adam Archuleta on a safety blitz on what turned out to be the final play of the game.

    “Last week’s game gave us some confidence,” defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. “I would not have that game end any other way. It served notice to this entire ballclub if our defense comes to play, we can win games like that. There is no extra pressure on our offense that we have to score 30 or 40 points for us to get a win. I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”

    Lewis, Ryan Pickett and Jimmy Kennedy have played their best collective football on the interior of the Rams offensive line. They are playing like first-round draft picks, at last. They are feeding off each other’s success.

    “We’re all jelling together,” Lewis said. “This is really the first time we really had, this early on in the season, all three of us (healthy) together. Hopefully it will pay off for us.

    “We try to get after it. We’re maturing and playing a lot better. Things are coming together for us. Everything is working for us right now.”

    Defensive end Leonard Little looks like his old Pro Bowl self. Anthony Hargrove and Brandon Green are making plays at right end. Linebackers Chris Claiborne, Dexter Coakley and Pisa Tinoisamoa have held up as well.

    Now the “D” will get a tougher test against the Tennessee Titans, a team with two quality running backs (Travis...
    -09-21-2005, 01:53 PM
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