(St. Louis) With all signs pointing to the St. Louis Rams having hired Gregg Williams to be their Defensive Coordinator, many Rams fans are up in arms. Some are outraged, saying that the Rams don’t have the personnel to run the kind of defense that he would likely want to install. Others complain that his defenses have been dismantled by NFC West teams in two consecutive postseasons, more specifically by offenses run by Charlie Whitehurst and Alex Smith. I won’t say there isn’t validation to those complaints, however before you can talk about a new defensive look, or fix personnel problems, Williams has to teach one thing: tackling.
The Rams defensive unit missed 105 tackles last year, which is 31 more than they missed in 2010. That’s an average of 6.5 a game. Defensive backs were the worst offenders, as they were responsible for 66 of those tackles missed.
Those missed tackles contributed to the Rams having the 2nd-worst rushing defense in the NFL and the 21st ranked unit against the pass. Sure you can say the Rams defense was decimated by injuries, especially the secondary with 6 DB’s ending the year on IR. But injuries are NOT an excuse for not being able to tackle. Tackling is one of the most basic skills that you are taught as a player from pee-wee all the way to the NFL.
So again I will say, injuries are NOT an excuse for poor tackling. I’m not sure if former Defensive Coordinator Ken Flajole didn’t teach the proper techniques or if he encouraged players to take poor angles when attempting tackles, but something obviously wasn’t right. Now this issue could fall onto the shoulders of scouts and coaches who pull guys off of the practice squad to fill the void created by injuries. Maybe those guys weren’t coached up enough or ready to be a starting player in the NFL. But we’re way beyond time to play the blame game for last season’s failures. It’s time to look forward to 2012.
The Rams as a defense have to become a tighter unit. The number of missed tackles has to decline and the unit as a whole has to be more disciplined. Williams has a few young players to build around. Chris Long is emerging as a solid pass rusher. Robert Quinn could be another great young defensive end and could play opposite of Long. James Laurinaitis is a true force in the linebacking core. So he’s not up a creek without a paddle here. He has a few tools to work with.
But before putting a new blitz package together, making a depth chart or installing a new defensive scheme, Williams will have to go back to basics and teach the proper tackling techniques. Like a child learning to crawl before they can walk, the Rams defense must learn to tackle before they can learn to disguise blitz packages.
Thanks for reading.