Defense has been a hallmark of Jeff Fisher coached squads since the former defensive back himself became a head coach. That’s why it’s quite surprising just how underwhelming the St. Louis Rams have looked on that side of the ball through two preseason games thus far.
Following the opening loss to the Cleveland Browns, stalwart offensive tackle for the Brownies, Joe Thomas, actually told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
“They were about as vanilla as you possibly could be last week, so it wasn’t a challenge at all figuring what we needed to do because they just stood there for us.”
It would seem that doing more than just ‘standing there’ would be required in an NFL game, but Fisher actually played the game at one point so what did he have to say about the team’s effort?
“Yes, we stayed very basic and that was our intention. The first preseason game is never an indication of where you’re at because there are so many things going on.”
Even though the first game isn’t ‘an indication of where you’re at’ it still seems appropriate that the Rams would do more than just stand there defensively. The secondary in particular is an area of concern given the youth and inexperience as starters that the back-end of the defense has. Janoris Jenkins is entering his second year at corner and Cortland Finnegan is a seasoned veteran, but the two projected starting safeties in rookie T.J. McDonald and Darian Stewart have limited experience to say the least.
While the unit improved against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers by limiting their first-team offense to just two field goals, the Rams still need to see the secondary improve drastically before the regular season begins. Thankfully they will get another big test on August 24 in the third preseason game against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. This third preseason tilt is often treated like a regular season contest to get everyone ready for the real deal so hopefully the Rams are less vanilla and show more of what they will be capable of when the regular season begins.
Allowing a quarterback like Rodgers to have success would be understandable, but the performance in the opener against Brandon Weeden’s Browns was inexcusable. This secondary must get things in order and the pass rush needs to wreak some havoc to take some pressure off of the back-end. The Rams may be poised to take a few steps forward offensively this season, but that won’t count for much if they take a few steps back on defense.