The Rams have had problems on defense in the last couple of years, the only part of this team that many beleive are keeping them from winning this division. I will now preview the two parts of this defense that need help the most, the line and the linebackers.
*Defensive Line-This is one of the big questions looming on defense, will the line be able to show some youth this year? Well, the team drafted defensive end Adam Carriker out of Nebraska to add some more youth to this line. Carriker is a solid lineman with hard working ability. He is also durable and flexible in that he can play more then just the end position and the Rams showed that by putting him at nose tackle. Another great thing about Carriker is his instincts. As a lineman, it sounds weird but it’s very important to know where the ball is and Carriker has an excellent sense of location.
Aside from the rookie, there are veterans Leonard Little and La’Roi Glover. Little is in his tenth year out of Tennessee. He is 32 years old and I seriously think he can still perform well. The guy had 57 solo tackles last season at the left end position. That’s really not that bad if you think about it. Another important priority as a defensive line man is to have a good sense of where the ball is so you can change direction, similar to location. Little, through the years has vastly improved his rushing technique to allow him to force more fumbles on the quarterback.
Glover is the other tackle that will play next to Carriker on the line. He seems to be another question as he is 33 years old and is entering his thriteenth year in the league. Draft pick Cliff Ryan should be waiting in the wings to take over that job as an explosive lineman out of Michigan with big play potential. At right end is where I believe the Rams have the biggest potential in 2007. James Hall was signed out of free agency to the team and he takes over the starting right end job. Hall is 30 years old and is an active, consistent player. I look for him to have the biggest year out of these linemen. Adam Carriker, to me is also in for a great rookie season.
*Linebackers- This is a tough spot for the Rams heading into 2007. Our strong side linebacker right now is Brandon Chillar. Chillar was a draft pick for St. Louis back in 2004, and he is 24 years old heading into this year. The fact that all but one of his 57 total tackles was unassisted, shows me that this guy can perform all on his own. He is the perfect guy to have at this position. Will Witherspoon plays the middle linebacker position for us right now and he is one of the best players on this unit. He is only 27 years of age. They say when it comes to size, Witherspoon isn’t quite the natural but the fact that managed to gain 102 solo tackles last year shows me that he is a reliability for this team. A key to playing the linebacker position is making the right routes to get to the ball. Witherspoon knows the best way to get to the ball and has aggressiveness in his hits.
The team signed 31-year-old weak side linebacker Chris Draft this past offseason to backup Pisa Tinoisamoa in case he gets hurt. That was a smart move by the team even though I still have a lot of confidence in Pisa. The guy is 26 years old, which makes this starting linebacking squad an average age of 25. That’s amazingly young! Tinoisamoa needs to stay healthy to have a productive year as he missed alot of last year with two broken hands. He can be a great linebacker but he needs to stay healthy and coming into the ’07 season, he will be healthy.
Coming up in the next few days, I will preview the Rams secondary.