Like it or not, the St. Louis Rams have shot themselves back into relevance, sporting their first .500 record since 2006. Since beating the previously undefeated Arizona Cardinals on Thursday Night Football, they have had a couple of extra days to bask in the feeling, hopefully enough to boost their performance so they can stay afloat through a tough mid-season schedule. Up next, the Rams take on the Miami Dolphins, fresh off an upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals, following their loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 4. In preparation for the week, Ramblin’ Fan will take a look at the statistical leaders on the Rams through the first five games of the regular season…
James Laurinaitis has had a relatively up and down season so far in the year. Most fans can remember some notable missed tackles in the opening couple of games, especially the rolling by Bell against Detroit that allowed the Lions their first points of the game. However, Laurinaitis has been solid in recent games, anchoring the middle of the field in running and passing situations, which can be extremely difficult for a middle linebacker on a team that relies so heavily on the nickel package. Laurinaitis has been in the upper tier of tacklers since he entered the league , with 142 tackles in 2011 (8th), 114 in 2010 (21st), 120 in 2009 (14th). How is he doing thus far in the season…
Tackles – Laurinaitis seems to be in on every tackle in recent games, which may be fairly accurate, being as he is averaging 9.8 tackles per game. He is currently tied for 5th in the NFL, alongside the San Francisco 49ers NaVorro Bowamn, with 49 tackles. Laurinaitis is one of only eight players in the Top 20 in tackles that has recorded a sack and leads the NFL in solo tackles, with 39 so far in the season. He is also one of only four players in the Top 10 this year that owned a spot in the rankings at the end of last season, the others being Curtis Lofton, Chad Greenway, and NaVorro Bowman.
Chris Long joked at the beginning of the season that opposing teams should be more worried about his bookend counterpart than himself this year. Long has undoubtedly received the bulk of double teams from offensive linemen, and has played significantly more snaps than Quinn at end so far this season. Quinn is also often rotated with Hayes on obvious rushing down, with Hayes being a much better run defender, but slower player, on the end of the line. After anchoring the bottom tier of the NFL in team sacks, the Rams are now tied for 6th in the league after their monster performance against the Arizona Cardinals, and Quinn was the catalyst behind it all…
Sacks – Robert Quinn is leading the St. Louis Rams with 6 sacks in the young season, which is tied for 3rd in the NFL, trailing only J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews. Quinn is the leader in the NFL among those who play the defensive end position in a traditional, 4-3 base defense, with two outside linebackers (Clay Matthews and Justin Houston), a defensive tackle (Geno Atkins), and a 3-4 defensive end (J.J. Watt) manning the rest of the Top 5 sackers. Among those in the Top 10, he is one of only five player to have forced at least one fumble, with his happening to come as game clinching turnover against the Arizona Cardinals.
Typically, in the world of a cornerback, the less your name is mentioned throughout a game on defense, the better. True shutdown corners don’t get looks from opposing quarterbacks, and when they do get a mistimed throw, they take advantage of it. Janoris Jenkins has played amazing in recent week, making clutch takes on ball carrier short of the first down and diving to break up passes to receivers. Finnegan has dominated in a similar way, but more quietly.
Interceptions - Cortland Finnegan is still tied for 3rd in the NFL with 3 interceptions, each coming in one of the three opening games. Last week against Arizona was the first game that the St. Louis Rams did not have an interceptions, primarily because they simply were not allowing Kevin Kolb to throw the ball before being wrestled to the ground. After five regular season games, only seven players have 3 or more picks. Among the Top 40 players with an interception, Cortland Finnegan leads all players in solo tackles, with 29 take downs, and trails only London Fletcher in total tackles (36 and 43, respectively). Finnegan is one of only nineteen players in the NFL with a pick-6 this season and is a one of only two players in the Top 10 with a sack, which came against Kevin Kolb in the waning minutes of the game last week. Finnegan is also likely the only player to cap off a win with both a sack and a forced unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (no evidence to support that, just a guess).