There hasn’t been much to brag about for the St. Louis Rams this season, but the one exception to that has been the team’s fearsome pass rush. The team’s 29 sacks is tied for third in the NFL currently which makes one shudder at the thought of what the defense might look like without that pass rushing presence. Thankfully that’s not the case, and the fearsome duo of Robert Quinn and Chris Long must pressure the pocket big time against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
If there’s one consistent vulnerability the Colts have shown this season it’s their less than stellar offensive line. The team spent some cash in free agency to upgrade that unit around their top overall pick from a year ago, but the improved insulation hasn’t worked out entirely as planned. Prized acquisition tackle Gosder Cherilus has been solid this year as has his opposite in Anthony Castonzo, but the interior of the Indy offensive line has shown some serious holes.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the interior trio of Hugh Thornton at left guard, Samson Satele at center, and Mike McGlynn at right guard have graded out in the negatives consistently this season. In their previous encounter on Sunday night with the Houston Texans the run blocking was lackluster and the pass protection was abhorrent from this group. They combined to allow 12 pressures with two sacks and seven hits on Luck which really doesn’t bode well for matching up against the St. Louis defensive front.
Given the fact that the tackles have been solid this season, perhaps the attention should migrate from Quinn and Long rushing on the edges to Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford applying pressure inside. This defensive tackle duo has been outshined by the ends during the season, but they have each had solid years to date with Brockers having 3.5 sacks and Langford having three of his own. These guys are both more than capable of disrupting things right up the gut for the Colts’ pass protection which is a quarterback’s worst nightmare.
Getting a signal caller off of his spot and out of rhythm is the top priority for defenses when it comes to applying pressure. Forcing Luck to move around and get happy feet could cause some errant throws or make him move into areas where Long or Quinn may be waiting to finish off the sack. There’s no doubt this will be vital if the Rams want to mask their deficiencies in the defensive secondary against a team that likes to air it out.
The playoffs may be out of the question, but the Rams will be playing for pride on defense this Sunday. Look for their pass rush to get home on Luck early and often as this game could be much closer than many are thinking. Given the way St. Louis hung in there against the Seattle Seahawks it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them right in the mix until the final ticks of the clock in Week 10 as well.