The NFC West is basically the SEC of the NFL. Hard hitting, rock solid running and defense. You look at the Seahawks and Niners, who might have the two best defenses in the league, and an EXTREMELY underrated Cardinals defense followed by a developing Rams defense. I'd like to take this time to give my examination of this bend-don't-break, inconsistent at times defense.
Tim Walton was expected to come in and solidify an already nice Rams defense. He was expected to really develop the young DBS, being a former DB coach himself. He was also expected to make this teams 3rd down efforts among the best in the league. Needless to say, after losing his play calling duties about a month ago, he has failed us. Our pass coverage is average, the schemes he wants players to use don't always match their skill set, and he doesn't look like he's done much in development. I understand many people want him gone. Hell, I do too. But who will be his replacement? Only time will tell, but I can tell you now to rule out Lovie Smith, who is looking for and deserves a head coaching position.
With a DPOY candidate, not much more can be said about our D Line that most of the league doesn't already know about. They love to get after the QB and have two of the best edge rushers in the game. Brockers is becoming what we expected as the bully in the middle, and Langford has really come into his own the second half of the season. A lot of TSTers are on the "release Langford" tip, but I strongly disagree. A restructured contract would be the better option as well as drafting for the future (though, keep in mind Langford isn't exactly old). Look for this front four to be fearsome over the next few years.
JL55 is the captain and for what it's worth, he's a poor man's London Fletcher. You can rely on him to be in on every down giving a full effort. Ogletree is forming into a nice OLB as he leads the team in tackles. He's gotten burned a few times and still takes bad angles, but that's what being a rookie is all about. Look for him to go from above average to good next season with a year of experience under his belt. As for the other OLB spot, that's where the question lies. Is Dunbar the OLB of the future or does Fisher believe Ray Ray will become a starter?...or could our committee just draft an OLB like Barr to add to the fearsome pass rush and really balance out the LB core (run stopper, coverage LB and a hybrid)?...
Ah yes. No group has caused us to throw our remotes more than these guys. JJ has been inconsistent in the worst way (when he's bad, he's BAD) but when this guy is focused, the lock down is in progress. Trumaine Johnson is arguably the best press corner on the team and has really filled in nicely for the injured Finnegan. Speaking of Finn, if anyone is getting cut from the defense, he'd be the one to walk. However, with his close relationship with Fisher, expect him to take a pay cut and become a depth guy. It's appears his best days are behind him. McDonald is a rookie who is still learning each week, and aside from the suspect "dick tackle", hasn't been bad. His coverage is still in development, but I fully expect him to become a true presence next year. The odd man out here is my man, Rodney McCleod. He honestly isn't a bad safety in the least bit. Problem is, he's not a ball hawk, and neither is McDonald. They are both better when playing in the box. I'd look for the Rams to pick up a veteran safety or draft one high with ball hawking skills. McCleod more than likely will be put into a nickel back position, or alternating time with McDonald with TJ getting 70% of the snaps.
Next year can't come soon enough. I know we as Rams fans say this yearly, but we haven't had youth with this much talent in a decade. They are the future.