Do the Rams have the personnel to run the 3-4 Defense?
With Rob Ryan now officially the new DC in St. Louis (I think... I mean, he IS now, right? ...well, let's just assume he is) the inevitable question is; "Are the Rams switching to the 3-4 defense, full time?". Well, I can all but assure you the answer to that question is an emphatic "NO". Jeff Fisher has only begun to put his stamp on this team and Jeff Fisher is a 4-3 guy. The Rams base defense will not change. However...
Think of all the possibilities that having Rob Ryan affords us. Think of the devastation a defense could wreak, by switching it up on the fly, when needed. Think about opposing offenses preparing all week for the Rams and their 4-3 defense, only to come to the line to stare down the barrel of a 3-4 on a quarter of the snaps.
Of course, it's not simply a matter of telling guys to stand in different places, pre-snap. The switch of a defensive philosophy comes down to two things... a well versed coach, who knows how to teach/run it... and personnel. Do the Rams have them? Well, I would contend that, on a situational basis, the answer is yes.
Obviously, the lynch pin is Rob Ryan. He knows the 3-4 inside and out. So, that part is covered. But, what about the guys between the lines? Last season, they ran the 4-3 about as effectively as anyone can and seemed to only get better as the year went along. But, with a little bit of shuffling, I could see the 3-4 going down a bit like this (now, I can't take FULL credit for this, as another writer, who goes by the moniker of "ksudodgers" is the one who got me thinking about this, in the first place):
NT- Michael Brockers: Brockers is the kind of enormous, quick-footed space-eater that a 3-4 requires. He can both absorb blocks and get penetration, if called upon.
DE- Kendall Langford: Langford already has experience in the 3-4, having played this same position in Miami for 4 years and wouldn't require too much coaching up to occupy the strongside.
DE- Chris Long: A bit smallish for the position, but, like Langford, already has a background in the the 3-4, as this was his natural position in his college days, at Virginia. Downside is, he would be asked to stop the run, more often than not. Which is clearly not his strong suit.
ILB- James Laurinaitis: We all know "Li'l Animal" is a tackling machine. He has the quickness and decision making to be a true sideline-to-sideline MLB. Again... he might be a bit "small" as well. But, he's decent in coverage, as well, which is important for a 3-4 ILB. On a temporary basis, I think he could handle the load quite nicely.
ILB- Rocky McIntosh: This is where it gets a bit dicey. McIntosh may very well not even be a Ram next year, but I'm figuring in current personnel, so bear with me. McIntosh isn't exactly great at shedding blocks, but with his size, if it's going to happen, he's the most logical fit.
WOLB- Robert Quinn: Quinn is also the product of the 3-4 and clearly has the speed to be a premier edge rusher. This would almost be a natural fit.
SOLB- Jo-Lonn Dunbar: Dunbar has shown excellent speed and penetration abilities. He's stout against the run and better than Quinn at shedding blocks and traversing double-teams. This makes him better suited for the strong side than Quinn.
Of course, there's always the factor of the draft, free agency, etc. Like I said, McIntosh may very well be gone next year. Maybe Fisher brings in another, more versatile LB, down the road. OLB is a draft need, after all.
That being said... do I think the rams should make the switch? Well.. No. I'm of the mind that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". But, with the current personnel, the possibilities are potentially endless. The thought of a sort of a "hybrid" defense that's difficult for opponents to prepare for, is very appealing to me.
...and that's not even getting into the 4-6 defense, that Rob Ryan knows, inside and out, as well. ;)