Again, this is a tough one. James Laurinaitis has the makings of a top-tier inside linebacker. His play has suffered because of the lack of talent around him since his rookie season in 2009. St. Louis did a major overhaul of its defensive tackle rotation, bringing in young, tough starters like Kendall Langford and Michael Brockers. Improvements at corner should help as well, especially since the team could be using the nickel package for half its snaps.
But what about the linebackers as a unit? How do they rank?
Here's where I put the Rams:
28. St. Louis Rams
The Rams' inability to provide middle linebacker James Laurinaitis with any help is criminal. This season they will try again, under a new coaching staff, with veterans Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan.
As with most units on the team this year, the potential is there, but we have to see the results to match. JL's most noticeable improvement last season was in coverage, but his run defense numbers, per Pro Football Focus, were down. Obviously, that has plenty to do with the players around him as he's handling far more work to make up for weak spots.
Plenty of people are freaking out about the outside linebacker situation. I don't mean to minimize the concern, but I'm not losing any sleep over it. This coaching staff and the improvements elsewhere should be able to get more value than what you see on the surface at this point. Still, it's hard to rank that much higher until we see what exactly the Rams can do with what they have.
These rankings lists are a beast to put together, and the linebackers were the toughest yet. I could reorder the list every time I look at it. I'd be interested to hear your take on the overall rankings, so head over to SB Nation with your two cents.