The St. Louis Rams obviously still have a lot of room for improvement, but their defense is actually on the verge of making them into a legitimate playoff threat. They’re young, they’re fast, and they get to the quarterback. Best of all for the Rams, they’re all locked up long term, too. There is a whole lot to like about this defensive group, and I think they’re just getting started. That really is saying something, considering they are tied for the league lead with 52 sacks.
The front seven of this group, although far from complete, played exceptionally well this year. At least as far as individual statistics are concerned. Believe it or not, the entire defense is middle of the pack in yardage. Michael Brockers, who many people thought was a reach at the 14th overall pick, played very well for the Rams this season tallying 4.5 sacks and 5 tackles for a loss. If that weren’t impressive enough, he did it while battling a high ankle sprain which he said never really healed.
Chris Long and Robert Quinn were also very impressive this season, at applying pressure to the quarterback, and had a combined 22 sacks on the season. There were nights where the duo were nothing short of unstoppable, and many an offensive line were left embarrassed in their feeble attempts to stop the two.
Known less for their pass rushing ability, and more for their run stopping, the Rams linebacking corps had an alright year. James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar’s continued development is starting to pay dividends. Dunbar, who many once considered average at best, or maybe even a depth player, played a huge role for this defense. He was second in tackles - behind only fellow LB Laurinaitis - and set career highs in tackles, and interceptions. The savvy free agent signing seems to have found his niche, and the Rams couldn’t be happier to have found him. His speed and intelligence make him a valuable asset, and getting him an extension should be a top priority in the off-season.
The Rams reenergized secondary was a hell of a lot better this year, than last. They completely redid the cornerback position in the off-season and it paid off wonderfully. Following his coach of old, Cortland Finnegan came to the Rams via free agency, and fit in wonderfully. He is not only asked to shut down the opposing teams best receivers week in and week out, but he also has the onerous task of being a mentor to his much maligned, and talented team mate Janoris Jenkins. He did an excellent job of that, and still takes on the toughest assignment week in and week out.
Things are looking good next year for the St. Louis Rams. They’ve got a young core all locked up to long term deals, that hasn’t even scratched the surface of its potential. With Chris Long in his prime, and players like Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Janoris Jenkins still developing, this is shaping up to be an offensive game planner's nightmare.