Yesterday on Ramblin’ Fan, we ranked the top graded players on the St. Louis Rams offense, courtesy of the figures at Pro Football Focus. Now, we are going to focus on the defensive side of the football, where speed and depth were the keys to success this season. Depending on the metric you use for ranking your defenses, the Rams likely finished the season somewhere in the middle-tier of teams. So, who were the best at their individual positions this season?
1. Robert Quinn (+77.2; 1st overall)
2. William Hayes (+11.5; 11th overall)
3. Kendall Langford (+2.6; 39th overall)
Not only was Robert Quinn the highest graded player on the St. Louis Rams, he topped all 4-3 defensive ends in the NFL, and finished the year with the 2nd-highest overall grade at any position. The rest of the defensive line graded out relatively high as well, especially if their “role” on the team is taken into consideration. For example, Kendall Langford ranked 11th overall among defensive tackles against the run, while Chris Long ranked 7th overall among 4-3 defensive ends as a pass rusher. The Rams rotated their entire defensive line more than any other team in the NFL, so it is impressive to see such high marks from a variety of positions.
1. Alec Ogletree (-4.2; 13th overall)
2. James Laurinaitis (-8.7; 20th overall)
3. Jo-Lonn Dunbar (-9.5; did not meet snap requirement)
If there is one bias in Pro Football Focus’ grading, it is against the 4-3, traditional linebackers. In fact, there are only three 4-3 outside linebackers that 1) played 50+% of the teams snaps and 2) were graded +10.0 on the season (Lavonte David, Thomas Davis, and Vontaze Burfict), all of which are in the Pro Bowl, got snubbed from the Pro Bowl, and/or a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Alec Ogletree was as productive as any outside linebacker this season, and was one of only 12 outside linebackers that were on the field on, at least, 75% of their team’s total defensive snaps. Moreover, “the Tree” was the definition of playmaker on the defensive side of the football, finishing the season 3rd overall in forced fumbles and returning his lone interception for a 98-yard touchdown. James Laurinaitis also had a productive season, finishing Top 10 among inside linebackers in solo tackles and pass deflections, recording a career-high four sacks, and was one of only two players in the NFL to play 75% of snaps and not allow a touchdown in coverage all season.
1. Janoris Jenkins (-0.9; 26th overall
2. Darian Stewart (-1.0; did not meet snap requirement)
3. Trumaine Johnson (-3.0; 30th overall)
The St. Louis Rams’ secondary continued to be the lone “weakpoint” in the defense, marred by extreme youth, lack of depth on the outside, and a handful of notable injuries throughout the season. However, the less-than-stellar grading of both corners is not surprising, especially given the “soft zone” issue that St. Louis dealt with for much of the year. When in man-to-man coverage, the two corners truly shined, including some monster “lock downs” against several of the top receiving corps in the NFL. Against the Bear, the duo allowed only four catches for 32 yards to Brandon Marshall and one catch for 10 yards to Alshon Jeffery. Against Arizona (Week 1), they allowed only three catches for 21 yards to Larry Fitzgerald, and gave up only eight more yards in the their Week 14 bout. The real questions still resides in the “deep” secondary, with Rodney McLeod and Darian Stewart likely not showing enough to maintain a starting role opposite T.J. McDonald in 2014.