The St. Louis Rams head into the 2014 NFL season flying somewhat under the radar nationally, but are undoubtedly a dark horse candidate to make the postseason despite playing in a tough NFC West. The Rams’ offense needs time to gel as a cohesive unit, but their defense will be stellar in 2014, led by the disruptive DE Robert Quinn.
The former University Of North Carolina standout had his breakout season for the Rams in 2013 with 19.5 sacks, 50 tackles and seven forced fumbles. He won the PFWA Defensive Player of the Year vote, but Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers took home the official AP award, while Quinn finished fourth in the voting. Quinn also received All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors, and established himself as one of the top five defensive players in the league.
Heading into the 2014 campaign, St. Louis projects to have one of the most punishing defensive units in the game. The Rams’ secondary is young but very talented with the likes of T.J. McDonald and Janoris Jenkins in coverage, and their front seven is blossoming into a force to be reckoned with, led by Quinn’s overpowering presence.
New defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a history of being incredibly aggressive. His exotic blitz packages will make it very difficult for opposing offenses, who will already have a tough enough time blocking Quinn and DE Chris Long when they only send four after the quarterback. Plus, an improved secondary should lead to plenty of coverage sacks, further increasing the front seven’s chances of exposing offensive lines.
Using the zone blitz will also be an incredibly effective strategy and will help Quinn indirectly. Sending pressure from a myriad of angles makes it very difficult for an offense to focus on a particular gap or edge, since they just do not know where to expect the majority of the pressure to come from.
This means when opponents game plan, they cannot automatically designate double coverage to the edge on a regular basis because it will expose the line up the middle. Less double-teams will equal more sacks for Quinn, who should eclipse 20 if he stays healthy.
It’s unlikely Quinn will see much playing time during the preseason since St. Louis already knows what to expect from the top DE, but he looked good in the Rams’ preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints in limited duty. It can be set in stone: Quinn is your 2014 DPOY if he remains on the field all season.