Wow. That Niner's sure was an emotional roller coaster. In this case, the roller coaster did not end in a steep climb or fall, instead we tied...... The Rams D gave up a combined 280 yards at CandleStick, more notably was the 163 yards on the ground. Niner QB Kaepernick subbed in for concussed QB Alex Smith, as the narrative has gone so far for the Rams, we simply couldn't adjust. Kaepernick shredded us on the ground with eight carries.
In spite of this, credit is due to our defense for holding Gore under 100 yards especially behind that Niner line. The Rams find themselves to be ranked #18 in Run Defense allowing 114.1 yds/game after nine games. Every Ram fan should be in agreement that this is certainly NOT good enough, especially in the NFC West Division.
With that being said, let's take a look at three players that play key roles in our Front Seven, the core of our Run Defense.
In my opinion, Langford had been holding his own. Without question, there is still improvement to be made. Langford is in his first year of playing the DT position in a 4-3 scheme while rookie Brockers was a quick plug&chug. Langford was originally an outstanding 5-technique DE for the Miami Dolphin's 3-4 scheme. This is why he commanded a good chunk of money. Langford was brought in to be a dominant run stuffer. I do not believe he has met all fan's expectations, but he certainly has not been terrible. The depth behind Brockers and Langford is a bit sketchy. I've seen a good number of games where our D-line starts off the game well, but as the game goes on, they get tired and slowly disappear. This leaves the question as to if we should draft another DT and in what round? I believe Langford has shown his versatility by making this transition of schemes, which is something you want in any D-line. Versatility.
Robert Quinn stepped his pass rushing game immensely this year. He could be in for a huge payday if he keeps racking up numbers. On the other hand, you have his play of the run, which isn't so spectacular. Opponents have hit the Quinn/Langford gap hard this year with huge dividends. Consistency is a big key for Quinn and the rest of the line. Once our pass rushers disappear,our safeties and linebackers who are inept with coverage skills get exposed. This has been the story for Quinn and his partner in crime Long, who after a big extension has at times been completely taken off entire games. I think Quinn has the potential and tools to be MUCH more than an elite pass rushing DE..... You know what I'm saying
Notice the lack of name for this position. I think we'll have a new starting linebacker at this spot next year. (That linebacker may be on the roster already.) McIntosh and Haggan have been sub-par. Jo-Lunn Dunbarr has been a nice surprise thus far. His sideline to sideline speed and ferocity has been very entertaining to watch. Then you have Laurinaitis, who I thought would step his game up to the next level after signing his extension. The linebacker unit as a whole are not very good at covering tight ends or anybody for that matter. We are a bit undersized at the position and are not very threatening as far as rushing the QB goes. Our linebackers cannot make up for the inconsistencies of the line. This unit could use a tall and fast presence that can keep up with the athletic tight ends of the league and shed off blocks to stop the run.
All of this begs the question...
How can our Front Seven be improved in 2013?
Short Answer: 6'4" Star Lotulelei DT
I along with a few others believe that drafting another DT, whether it be the first round or second is not off the table. So why would we draft a guy like Star Lotulelie in the first round? We already have Langford and Brockers right?
That is where I start saying WHAT IF.....
What if we moved Quinn to a OLB/DE role. You would have Langford return to playing a RDE while Quinn would take on the challenge of playing Sam linebacker. Then you plug in a pass rushing DT prospect (unlike Brockers) like Lotulelei to fill in the second spot. When we switch to nickel packages you put Quinn back at RDE and interchange DTs between Langford, Brockers, and Lotulelie.
This would result in
- A strong rotation of DTs to keep them fresh.
-The ability to have Langford-Lotulelei-Brockers-Long (Wow) to stuff the run.
-Meanwhile Fisher has the option of letting Quinn rush the passer from the linebacker position or drop back to cover tight ends.
The fact of the matter is that both Quinn and Long can be game planned easily....Elite quarterbacks in this league are just too good to let simple four man fronts get to them. Just look at the Packers and Patriots game for example.
Too often, have teams just negated our pass rush by running right through our line. Or take advantage of our linebackers who struggle covering tight ends and slot receivers. Having Quinn play OLB and Langford at RDE (which I am sure he is capable of doing) would give our defense a new look and flexibility to be prepared for Run or Pass. This would not take Quinn out of the equation, he would just be rushing the passer from two different positions.
I don't think a prospect like Star Lotulelei is the only solution. But, I think Fisher would draft him over an offensive lineman if he is still on the board. What do you guys think?