Earlier this week CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson reported that former St Louis Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan labelled last year’s defensive coordinator Tim Walton “atrocious”. Various other comments followed about how inept Walton was, and how much better the scheme is at his new franchise, Miami. These comments could be perceived as a number of things. Justified criticism of a poor coordinator? A cheap shot at the team that sent him packing? A way of endearing himself to a new fan base? Or is it an attempt to cover up for his own poor performances?
It is beyond doubt that Finnegan took a real downturn in form in 2013. Due to injury, he was only involved in seven regular season games – a bad stat in itself. Multiplying up the numbers he did post, Finnegan was only on course to reach a career-low 62 tackles. He only managed one interception, and that against Jake Locker, the quarterback for the league’s 21st ranked passing offense in Tennessee.
Heading into the 2012 season it was clear that part of Finnegan’s role, on and off the field, was to provide a veteran presence to mentor and support the talented but potentially wayward rookie, Janoris Jenkins. In that season, it worked well. Fast forward to this season, opposing offenses averaged 8.1 yards per attempted pass against St Louis, the highest in the entire league, suggesting others knew that deeper passes into the Rams secondary would be productive. According to Pro Football Focus, passes thrown against Finnegan’s coverage were caught by opposition receivers at a staggering completion rate of 76.5% in 2013. Compare this to divisional rivals – Arizona’s Patrick Peterson (54.4%), Seattle’s Richard Sherman (51.7%) and San Francisco’s Tramaine Brock (55.4%) were all streets ahead.
So does Finnegan have a point about Tim Walton? Well, despite problems in the secondary the Rams were in the top half of the league in total defense, ranking 15th. With a very solid front four, St Louis ranked 9th in run defense. The team was 13th in terms of points allowed. Admittedly these are not top tier positions, but they are certainly not ‘atrocious’ as Finnegan would have us believe. Make no mistake, I am far happier with Gregg Williams in post as defensive co-ordinator going into 2014. However, most would agree that last season the Rams had far more headaches on offense than on defense.
Overall then, it would seem poor performances in 2013 were more to do with Finnegan himself than the Rams organization. As such, he is not really justified in taking a parting shot at his former team. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the AFC East next season against the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Eric Decker and Sammy Watkins. From the Rams perspective, gratitude remains for Finnegan’s 2012 performance. However, with the former Tennessee man’s declining numbers and a new exciting defensive back on the Rams roster in the form of Lamarcus Joyner, it is probably fair to say that Finnegan won’t be missed.