The St. Louis Rams were searching for a new defensive coordinator this offseason when they landed on Rob Ryan. That was a short-lived relationship after Ryan had a change of heart based on the team’s talent and scheme fit. Ryan is known for running aggressive 3-4 defenses while the Rams are a much better fit in a 4-3. With the duo of defensive ends in Chris Long and Robert Quinn, St. Louis would not be able to shift to a 3-4 defense seamlessly.
Ryan quickly landed with the New Orleans Saints, where his 3-4 defense would be welcomed. The Saints’ defense has been improved in nearly every category this season, while the Rams have seen a decline on the defensive side. Would Ryan have been able to come in and fix this defense? Probably not.
St. Louis hired Tim Walton as their new DC after he was in charge of the Detroit Lions secondary for four years. Based on the Lions’ defensive numbers over his tenure, it was not the smartest decision. Detroit never had elite talent in the secondary, but their defense couldn’t produce at a high enough level to help their dominating offense win. It’s no coincidence that the Rams are seeing the same defensive struggles with Walton at the helm.
2013 has seen the Rams produce historically bad numbers on defense. They are giving up more points, yards, touchdowns and yards per completion. Quarterbacks are having a field day when it comes to facing the Rams’ secondary with a passer rating at 97.2 on the season. That is the worst ever in franchise history. Yes, that even takes into account the teams we have seen over the last decade in St. Louis.
Letting QBs complete 68.5 percent of their passes in 13 games is a big reason for all of the defensive letdowns. Not only are they letting them complete nearly 70 percent of passes thrown, they are giving up an average of 8.36 yards per attempt. One word describes this trend: pitiful. This team puts the theory of having a good pass rush to thwart opposing QBs to test.
Let’s face it, even though the defense is tied for seventh in the league at 38 sacks, they still can’t shut down opposing offenses.
James Laurinaitis might be the pass defender on the team after not giving up a touchdown and grabbing two interceptions this season. At outside linebacker, Alec Ogletree and Jo-Lonn Dunbar have struggled this season, allowing QBs to complete 87 percent of their passes targeted at them. Ogletree may put up great stats, but he has allowed the most passing yards and yards after the catch in the NFL.
The safety position has been one of trouble all season as the team has dealt with with T.J. McDonald‘s injury and a lack depth. A passer rating of 102.5 does not bode well for the team, but McDonald will improve with experience. At cornerback, the Rams are wearing thin and playing atrociously. Janoris Jenkins was expected to grow into a shutdown corner in his second season. Instead, he has taken more than one step back.
Cortland Finnegan has been injured and horrible when on the field. It is looking like it was a bad decision to bring him in on a five-year, $50 million contract. Trumaine Johnson has been the top producer at corner this season for the young unit. He might make a few mistakes, but he is one of the young players on defense that is growing into his own.
The Rams’ corners are allowing QBs to complete 67.4 percent of their passes for nearly 1500 yards and 12 TDs. There is a lot of room for this young defensive unit to grow, and it needs to happen fast.
Walton should be held responsible for the performance of the defense. Young or not, this team should be performing much better than it is against the pass with the pass rushers they have. He either has to change the coverage scheme or something else needs to happen. It didn’t really work out in Detroit, and it isn’t working in St. Louis either.
The Rams have to look into targeting corners and safeties early in the draft. There is a lack of talent and depth in the secondary that is hampering the defense’s ability for Walton, but they didn’t perform well even when they were healthy.