ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 30: Darian Stewart #20 of the St. Louis Rams intercepts a pass against the New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome on October 30, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams beat the Saints 31-21. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
St. Louis Rams safety Darian Stewart joined the ranks of the college graduates during the offseason. Stewart went back to school and finished up his degree at South Carolina, graduating in May. With so much talk lately about post-career players, Stewart is smart to finish up his education.
The Rams excused him from some of the offseason workouts so that he could finish, something the organization deserves credit for as well. He started taking classes as soon as the season ended, and did not have to miss much time at Rams Park this spring.
As La'Roi Glover explained to me, more and more organizations are doing these types of things for players to help them keep an eye on life after football.
As for Stewart's current job, the Rams' free safety showed real potential on the field as the team's starter last season.
His biggest liability last year was as a run defender, where he drew a -11.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. His coverage numbers were fairly neutral overall, with a few notable ups and down canceling each other out over the season. One trend that really stands out in Stewart's stats is the first versus the second half of the season.
Judging the Rams' secondary individually is difficult since the unit itself was riddled with injuries and limited in what they could do. Stewart's numbers drop noticeably in the second half of the season by which point the Rams were rotating guys off the street at cornerback. That makes life especially difficult for a free safety, who gets the additional task of helping out weaker corners.
The most alarming number from Stewart's 2011 campaign is 20 missed tackles, according to PFF. That is the second-most missed tackles among safeties and third most of anyone in the league last year.
A more positive note was that Stewart had nine passes defended, the second-highest number of any safety in the league.
With a renewed emphasis on the basics and Chuck Cecil's touch as the secondary coach, Stewart could take a step forward this season.