Defense in decline biggest problem for reeling Rams

Posted Sept. 30, 2011 @ 3:32 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Sources on the scene tell us the Rams were as demoralized as they appeared to be after getting totally dominated on both sides of the ball at home by the Ravens in an ugly Week Three rout.

While there have been plenty of problems across the board in the early going, team insiders agree the biggest concern is a defense that has regressed significantly, allowing big chunks of yardage both against the run and pass.

"Aside from (MLB) James Laurinaitis, (FS) Quintin Mikell and Chris Long and the kid (Robert) Quinn off the edges, nobody has played well," one daily team observer said a few days after the nightmare outing against Baltimore.

The most obvious breakdown has been a secondary that really has been struggling without its best cornerback, Ron Bartell, who is out for the year with a neck injury.

Justin King, who actually has proven to be a decent defender in the slot, was woefully overmatched against Ravens rookie WR Torrey Smith, who burned King on three early TDs that quickly took the Rams out of the game. Street free agent Rod Hood, who played under head coach Steve Spagnuolo in Philadelphia, is considered a band-aid at best for the team's crippled CB corps (starter Bradley Fletcher also has been banged up more often than not), and neither Craig Dahl nor Darian Stewart, who replaced Dahl in the starting lineup against Baltimore, has gotten the job done at strong safety.

The secondary certainly hasn't been helped by a defensive front that has offered very little of an inside pass rush.

"Last year, (DT) Fred Robbins was very effective, maybe one of the more underrated guys in the league," the observer said. "But he had back problems this offseason, and at the age of 34, maybe age is catching up to him some this year."

In addition, the Rams had hoped veteran free-agent newcomers Brady Poppinga and Ben Leber would shore up a vulnerable situation at outside linebacker, but neither has provided much impact at all.

However, Spagnuolo is not about to make wholesale changes anytime soon.

"It's not in our nature to hit the panic button and junk what we've been doing," he said. "The system we're running, in my opinion, is proven."