By now it seems fair to say that Rob Ryan was a huge addition for what was an absolute abomination on defense for the New Orleans Saints last season. His presence as defensive coordinator has vaulted them back to respectability and propelled the team to a 3-0 record as a result.
But if you remember back to the offseason the St. Louis Rams were busy trying to land Ryan to coach up their defense. The team was alright on that side of the ball in 2012 with head coach Jeff Fisher manning the post with the aid of his assistant head coach Dave McGinnis, but a real coaching staff must have a coordinator to coach up the defense. Ultimately the Rams decided on former Detroit Lions secondary coach Tim Walton to run the show, and that choice isn’t looking all that great at the season’s quarter pole.
Now it’s impossible to say whether or not the addition of Ryan would have made the defense a juggernaut, but it’s not difficult to surmise that his presence would have been far more beneficial than that of Walton thus far. St. Louis has five takeaways through four games which is respectable, but the Saints’ six takeaways through just three games sounds a lot more appealing.
It’s hard to indict a coach for a stat which can be more based on chance than anything, but the defense’s lackluster numbers across the board are frightening. Last season the Rams finished the year ranked 14th in total defense allowing 342.6 yards per game on average, but this year that total has ballooned to 387.2 through four games, ranking 26th in the NFL. Perhaps the most damning statistic is the run defense which was average a year ago surrendering 117.5 yards per game good for 15th in the league. At the quarter pole this season, the Rams’ run defense looks like a team destined for a top ten draft pick in April as they are getting gouged for 133.5 yards per game, ranking 29th in the league.
For comparison’s sake, Ryan has taken the Saints’ deplorable unit from a year ago that allowed a ridiculous 440.1 yards per game to a stingy group giving up just 295.7 yards a game this year for the fourth best number in the league. That kind of impact would have gone a long way to help a Rams team the lacks any kind of ground game offensively and has difficulty controlling the time of possession as a result.
Veteran defensive end Chris Long summed up the Rams’ performance on defense following their Thursday night blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers by telling SI:
“It’s disgusting. It really is. That’s not who we are, but if we keep playing like that, that will be who we are. When you give up that many yards in the ground game it’s a lot of things going wrong. We have a lot of things to correct.”
Disgust is definitely one of the words that come to mind when watching the St. Louis defense this season. If these issues continue to persist throughout the course of the season, missing out on Rob Ryan will without a doubt be a huge blunder for the Rams.