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No turkeys on this D-line

Well, here it is, time to give thanks for our bounty, big or small. That bounty's been pretty small for Rams fans. Still, like some mom in a holiday family movie would say, there's always something to be thankful for.

Today, I'm particularly thankful for the improved run defense this season. Gone it seems are the days of running backs and their back ups piling up bulk yardage against a paper thin Rams defensive front. Hell, nobody's even had a 100 yard day against the Rams, kind of impressive for a team that lost their first eight games and offered opposing teams a chance to run out the clock on several occasions.

Not convinced? Look at the run defense through DVOA. For defenses, per DVOA, recall that a negative number is better because it correlates to the likelihood that the defense is more likely to stop the offense.

So far this season, the Rams rushing defense has a DVOA of 0.0%, 24th in the league. That's roughly average, probably slightly below when you adjust everything for the total offensive output level for the league this season.

Last season, the Rams rushing defense had a DVOA of 11.3%, 30th in the league. That's a significant jump, even if the current levels don't exactly put them among the elite (Minnesota has the best rush defense with a 29.6% DVOA).

Obviously, personnel deserves the lion's share of the credit for a "turnaround" that seemed impossible when Number No Name suddenly had a 100 yard game after relieving their team's backup. Specifically, Adam Carriker and Clifton Ryan. Carriker looks like a future star in the league, even after shuffling between nose tackle, three technique and finally back to his old college position, defensive end, some this week. It speaks volumes of his dedication and determination that he shuffled around with such grace and performed at this level as a rookie.

Effusive praise for Carriker is all over the web in the wake of Sunday's big win.

Here's what the PD's Jim Thomas had to say in his live chat yesterday:

For the last half-dozen games, Carriker's play has improved and he's just getting better and better. He was dominant in the early going in San Francisco at DT, getting penetration and eating up space inside. He holds the point of attack, tying up blockers, which is one reason why LBs Witherspoon and Tinoisamoa are playing so well. I think the future is bright with Carriker and Ryan. Although Ryan's overall tackling stats are still better than Carriker's, I think Carriker is playing better than Ryan at the moment.

Here's some pleasantries from Linehan in his Monday presser:

I think that'll be his best asset - his ability to move around. I think he's more of a three technique and we'll move him to end (sometimes). (Carriker playing) nose guard has been somewhat of a necessity, but it's also because he's very stout and one of the best things he does is play the run and use his hands well, so he's able to do it better than a lot of guys. With the addition of Cliff Ryan, it's allowed us to move him a little bit more in that rotation to the three technique, so between those three guys (Carriker, Ryan and La'Roi Glover) they move around. When you run a 4-3, you need to play three tackles to be effective.

Even the Niners noted his presence (paraphrased from Nolan's presser):

With the defense flowing to the left, Gore cuts back right. The play would have worked beautifully, but rookie defensive end Adam Carriker crashed the edge on right tackle Joe Staley. Carriker inadvertently made the tackle when the tip of his cleat hit Gore's foot and tripped him up, a horrible piece of luck. The next play was a straight blast up the middle to Norris, with Gore faking a pitch to the outside. The line was pushed back on that play, and Norris was stuffed.

Don't let the "bad luck" argument fool you. Had Carriker not beat fellow first round pick Joe Staley, he never would have been in position to stop Gore inadvertently with his foot. Those are two key plays mentioned above and a fabulous illustration of how the Rams defensive line is keeping running backs from being much of a threat on the ground  this season.

So, while you're eating your turkey and watching the lop-sided slate of Thursday games, raise a glass to the Rams defense (after pouring out a little for your homies of course).

And come Christmas time, make a wish for the Rams to build well around Carriker and Ryan so that you'll have even more than 2 wins to be thankful for on future Thanksgivings.


No TG post tomorrow, but we're back on Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving.