Want to see what a young, defeated defense looks like? Just take a gander at the St. Louis Rams down on the turf behind Larry Fitzgerald in the above photo.
This scene has become all too familiar with fans this season while watching this defense regress from its performance a year ago. Sunday’s outing against the Arizona Cardinals was the fifth time this season the Rams surrendered 30 or more points, and that upped their average points allowed to 23.7 or nearly a two point increase from their 21.8 average a season ago.
So what gives? This defense added more young talent (Alec Ogletree, T.J. McDonald) and the youngsters from a season ago (Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson) all had an additional year of seasoning to get prepared. It’s really hard to put your finger on just what is causing this team to repeat the same mistakes over and over because youth can only be an excuse for so long.
Four players on this St. Louis defense were selected in the first round while two were taken in round two. Add on top of that the fact that eight of the 11 current defensive starters were brought in by head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead and the excuses really start to disappear. There’s a fine line between a team being young and going through growing pains to when a squad is officially underachieving and a disappointment.
The Rams are certainly teetering on that territory currently as Sunday’s loss was their fifth in their last seven games. This team is also 1-4 in the division this year after going a sparkling 4-1-1 in NFC West last year with upsets over both goliaths in the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. Now they are back to their familiar dwellings in the divisional basement with even the Cardinals passing them up in the hierarchy.
What this really comes down to is poor coaching and a lack of adjustments by the guys in charge of putting the players on the field in the best position to make plays. There is clearly enough talent on this defense to make things happen with Robert Quinn embarking on what is clearly a Defensive Player of the Year worthy performance. The rest of this unit is severely lagging behind, and that falls on the coaches.
With three games remaining against three formidable opponents – New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Seahawks – it’s time the Rams show some progress. If this team wants to carry any optimism that a potential end to their decade long stretch of futility is on the horizon it needs to start showing up on the field – now.