June 12, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams tight end Lance Kendrick (88) goes for the ball as linebacker James Laurinaitis (55) and safety Darian Stewart (20) defend during minicamp at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Safety dance, safety dance ... ugh, you get where I'm going with that. I ranked all 32 NFL teams at the safety position this week for SB Nation, and found myself at something of a dilemma with where to place the St. Louis Rams.
Let me explain.
Admittedly, the rankings are my own opinion, but I used a combination of past performance and talent on the current roster to place teams on the list. And therein lies my issue with the Rams.
Last season, the Rams signed one the league's top safeties, or a very good one at least, with Quintin Mikell. Prior to joining the Rams, Mikell was one of the best safeties in the league for the 2010 season. In fact, he was Pro Football Focus' top-ranked safety in 2010, which helped him get a four-year, $27 million deal.
He had a rough year with the Rams. He graded well against the run, above average anyway, but his play doubtlessly suffered with all the problems the rest of the defense had. His biggest issue was in coverage, where he graded out below average for the first time in a long time. Some of that, much of that, you can attribute to the street free agents filling in at cornerback as well as the learning curve for Darian Stewart.
Mikell should be able to rebound with a better defense around him, especially with Cortland Finnegan in the mix inside on nickel packages. He does turn 32 in September, getting up there in years. Fortunately, safeties seem to have one of the longer shelf lives of any position.
Stewart showed real potential, trailing only Troy Polamalu in passes defensed. Unfortunately, he also ranked second among all safeties in missed tackles with 20.
The prior coaching staff had a solid track record with defensive backs, but the current staff, including Jeff Fisher and Chuck Cecil, are long-time experts.
So where did I rank the Rams' safeties?
19. St. Louis Rams
Quintin Mikell was arguably the league's best safety in 2010. Then he signed a $27 million deal with the Rams. Like the rest of the team, his play suffered. Of course, a team forced to use street free agents as their starting corners makes life tougher on the safeties. If he can rebound, the Rams have a talented youngster in Darian Stewart, who led all safeties with nine passes defensed. Unfortunately, he also had the second-most missed tackles among safeties.
Too generous? Not giving them enough credit? What do you think?