It might not be all that outlandish of a prediction to say the St. Louis Rams will lead the NFL in sacks this year after tying for the league lead a year ago, but sustaining excellence is always more challenging than attaining it for a brief moment in time. One main piece of evidence in support of their case to pace the league in sacks this season was actually taken care of on Labor Day.
Most people know the names of Chris Long and Robert Quinn at defensive ends for the Rams. What some may not know is that the team has two key rotational pieces at the position capable of coming in and giving either of those two a breather when necessary. Eugene Sims was the player the Rams took care of on Labor Day as they inked the backup to a two-year contract extension to further solidify their defensive front for the future.
William Hayes is the other component of the quartet that makes up the Rams’ defensive end group. All four of these guys are more than capable of getting to the quarterback on the regular and wreaking havoc when they get there. Sims, in particular, has played a large role in the rotation as he played the most snaps among the team’s reserve defensive linemen last season with 411. Two more reserves in the aforementioned Hayes and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo signed deals to keep them in St. Louis for the next few years as well.
Clearly general manager Les Snead recognizes that the strength of this defensive unit is on the front line. Teams all around the league realize that protecting your own quarterback and wreaking havoc on opposing signal callers is paramount in the pass-happy NFL of today. The Rams have addressed both issues this offseason with these re-signings on the defensive line as well as the addition of offensive tackle Jake Long in free agency to further insulate Sam Bradford.
Head coach Jeff Fisher is all about strategy on defense as well as last year the Rams often used all four defensive ends on the field at the same time on obvious passing downs. Both Hayes and Sims would play inside at the tackle positions while Long and Quinn would stay at their natural spots of defensive end to rush the passer to the max. Fisher won’t have to be the one dialing up the defenses this season as the Rams actually have a defensive coordinator in Tim Walton for that duty, but it would be wise for him to employ some of the same strategies in 2013.
And when he does, opposing quarterbacks had better have their heads on a swivel. The Rams are ready to pin their ears back this season and pace the league in sacks for a season year in a row. This time it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them live up to Fisher’s proclamation from last offseason when he said they could approach his former Chicago Bears team’s record of 72 sacks in one season.