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Season In Review: Quinn Leads Record-setting Defense

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by News Bot, Jan 15, 2014.

  1. News Bot Well-Known Member

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    Jonathan Webb
    http://www.stlouisrams.com/news-and...-Defense/63f42476-b2d8-451a-bc22-58c527604ec8

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    Entering 2013, the Rams already had more than a fairly good idea of what they had inRobert Quinn[​IMG].
    In just his second full NFL season, Quinn had already posted a breakout season, piling up 10.5 sacks in 2012 to form half of a formidable pair of bookends along the Rams’ defensive front, along with veteran Chris Long[​IMG].

    Quinn’s ascension in his third year saw him move from a quality pass-rusher to a centerpiece of the Rams’ defensive unit, as he turned in one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive end in franchise history. With a team-record 19 sacks, Quinn established himself as one of the league’s premier pass-rushers, en route to being named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.

    While much of the credit Rams’ success will deservedly be directed toward Quinn, he was far from the only Ram to post a promising 2013.

    Quinn’s season was complemented well by the rest of the Rams’ front four, which was among the league’s most productive. Defensive tackles Michael Brockers[​IMG] and Kendall Langford[​IMG] combined to form a dependable interior, as they combined for 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Rams defensive linemen combined for 46 of the Rams’ 53 sacks, which ranked third-most in the NFL.

    The year was also highlighted by the emergence of rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree[​IMG], who established a Rams rookie record with 155 tackles, becoming the first player not named James Laurinaitis[​IMG] to lead the Rams in that category since 2008. Ogletree, a first-round selection out of the University of Georgia, quickly supplied the Rams with the quality outside backer they anticipated they had.

    “He’s always going to be productive,” Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said prior to the Rams’ home finale against Tampa Bay. “That’s the thing about him, he’s always around the football. He gets his hands on balls, and that’s what you want.”

    The Rams’ front seven, which included Ogletree, Laurinatis, and veteran Jo-Lonn Dunbar[​IMG] in the Rams’ 4-3 base defense, posted the league’s seventh-best run defense, the team’s highest ranking in that area since 2001. While the team’s run defense was not without its setbacks, including a challenging two-game stretch against San Francisco and Dallas in the season’s first quarter, the unit did not allow a single opposing back to eclipse 100 yards on the ground over the final seven games.

    “That’s where it all starts with us,” Walton said in his final regular season press conference. “When we stop the run early and teams can’t run the ball and they have to drop back and throw it, that really plays into the strength of our guys that can rush and then get our hands on balls and force the quarterback to make errant throws. So, it all starts with that.”

    The Rams’ defense also underwent a season of transition in the secondary, where second-year cornerTrumaine Johnson[​IMG] saw his role increase significantly in replacing veteran Cortland Finnegan[​IMG], who appeared in just seven games, including five starts, before being placed on injured reserve with an eye injury.

    The loss of Finnegan’s veteran presence meant the Rams’ secondary would be among the most youthful in the league, as Johnson joined second-year corner Janoris Jenkins[​IMG], second-year free safetyRodney McLeod[​IMG], and rookie safety T. J. McDonald. Johnson thrived in his new role, as the second-year corner paced the Rams with three interceptions and finished second among the team’s defensive backs with seven passes defensed. McDonald, who missed six games with a broken leg, returned to start the final six games of the regular season to give the Rams’ brass a glimpse of what to look for in the coming years. McDonald collected 29 tackles and his first NFL interception from the strong safety position following his return.

    While 2013 was a year of emergence for Quinn and Ogletree, and a season of transition among the team’s secondary, the leadership of the unit once again was provided by Laurinaitis, whose 144 tackles ranked second on the team. He also figured prominently against the pass, contributing a pair of interceptions and establishing a new career-best by notching 3.5 sacks. For a player who has seen the personnel surrounding him change significantly since being installed as the team’s starting middle linebacker in 2009, the Rams’ step forward defensively in 2013 bodes well.

    Playing in a division that has produced both members of the NFC title game as well as three of the top six defensive units in the league, standing out among the members of the NFC West remains a significant challenge, though 2013 offered progress toward that end.

    “I think we’re closing the gap,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said following the Rams’ season finale in Seattle. “We’re not there yet but I think with a year of improvement we’ll be much closer. Anything can happen. All three teams play really good defense, and we’ve got to play better offense and score more points to compete with them. I think defensively we can compete with these teams.”
     
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