Last season the St. Louis Rams rose from the depths of the league in terms of defensive aptitude to respectability. A year ago would have seemed like the time to struggle with no defensive coordinator following Gregg Williams’ indefinite suspension from the league, but instead head coach Jeff Fisher and his assistant Dave McGinnis led the defense to a solid showing. Unfortunately their regression has been a main reason for the Rams falling from the ranks of contenders to pretenders in 2013.
Granted, a season-ending injury to your starting signal caller certainly doesn’t help matters, but the Rams knew that their defense would have to be the driving force of consistency to duplicate and possibly build on last year’s surprising turnaround. This year that unit has been getting dominated in one of the most demoralizing categories possible as opponents have enjoyed success in the running game on a regular basis against St. Louis. In fact, there are just two teams ranked below the Rams’ 126.4 yards per game allowed on the ground this season.
What that ultimately leads to is a defense unable to get the ball back into the hands of the offense so they can keep up on the scoreboard. Given the fact that the Rams have surrendered a generous 26.3 points per game this season (24th in the NFL), that’s been quite a difficult task in its own right this season.
There’s no doubt that challenge will only get more troubling against the team’s Monday night opponents in the Seattle Seahawks. Marshawn Lynch and company are prolific on the ground ranking second in the league with 154.4 yards per game on average. That kind of production will inevitably lead to the Rams’ demise if there is no improvement in defending the run in primetime. Linebacker James Laurinaitis explained to ESPN the issues he believes have led to the lackluster play this year saying:
“There’s certain plays where we are dang good and then there’s certain plays where you are just scratching your head. The frustrating thing is it’s not just one position group or one guy. It kind of just hops around. You can’t be a good team defense if you have plays where people are taking turns being the guy to make the mistake.”
Even with rookie starters in linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald, the defense has seen issues with veterans and rookies alike this year leading to the recurring problems. That’s a very troubling sign for this squad which actually has a defensive coordinator this season in Tim Walton who joined the team in the offseason from the Detroit Lions.
Obviously the stock answers of maintaining gap integrity and playing assignment football are key, but the Rams simply need to show more focus and take care of business. There have been times this season where the defense just doesn’t seem to bring 100 percent mental focus to the table. If those lapses continue to occur on Monday night, the Rams could be playing from behind for the majority of the contest against the Russell Wilson led Seahawks.