The St Louis Rams for all their faults on defense this season have shown some positives. One of the most important aspects in winning is the turnover margin. The Rams are currently ranked 10th in giving up the fewest turnovers in the league at 1.3 per game. Conversely the Rams are ranked 11th in takeaways per game at 1.8. The thing I find surprising is that our interception rate as slipped from last year. This year we intercept 2.88% of passes where as last year we were at 3.11%. This is still good enough for being ranked 12th. The biggest change in our turnover statistics is in fumbles, created and lost (or recovered). We rank 1st in the league in fumbles created per game at 1.8, that is up 0.7 over last years number of 1.1. We rank 3rd in the league in opponent fumbles lost at 0.9 and that is also up 0.7 over last season.
A few months ago I wrote about the difference in creating a turnover and forcing a turnover and these numbers support the notion that the Rams are building a great foundation on defense. Interceptions are harder to coach since there are so many variables involved in an interception, but a fumble forced and or recovered can be a fundamental skill taught to the defense. On any given play a team has the ability to force a fumble and this makes the skill that much more important. Over the last year we have seen a huge improvement in how we force turnovers.
I am not sure who is responsible in the coaching staff for the frequency of forced fumbles to increase so dramatically, but I have an idea. Tim Walton spent many years watching the Bears strip the ball away from would be receivers in the NFC North. The Bears defensive backs have been coached up to tackle and take the ball away and they have year in year been a top team in turnover margin. I know that Robert Quinn has had his own impact in this statistic with his 6 forced fumbles, but it seams like its become a more institutional influence then to give the responsibility to one player.
I think that the foundation set by Walton is something worth giving him another year. He is for all intensive purposes a rookie defensive coordinator and will have a better grasp on game planning year two. If we go in a different direction one name I would like to see is Jon Hoke. He has been a successful position coach for over a decade. Last season he coached a pair of pro bowl corners and was only 1 of 2 coaches actually retained by the Bears. He has been in Chicago for 4 years and the short move to St Louis won't be that difficult. I do not think there will be a defensive coaching change, I think the issues of our defense have more to do with too many cooks in the kitchen and hopefully Snead clarifies responsibilities in the off season. I have been in a few business environments where a top position went to a person with less experience then his subordinates and it took a while for the dust to settle and for everyone roles to be defined and delegated. I am sure Walton walked into a tough situation and another off season will do much to help him establish his own persona on this team.