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Why physical play from Rams defensive backs matters

Since the Rams hired Spagnuolo we've talked ad nauseum about the defense's new, more aggressive playbook. Besides the pass rush that made Spags famous, one group of players whose duties will be a little different this year are the defensive backs. Under Spag and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole, the cornerbacks will play more physical, jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage along with more press coverage and a tougher interpretation of man-to-man. 

That change in cornerback philosophy was a big reason the Rams surprised a number of draft pundits by picking Iowa CB Bradley Fletcher in the third round. Fletcher was one of the larger CBs picked in the draft, in terms of size and weight, and still with enough speed to stick to speedy receivers trucking down the field.

Whether or not Fletcher earns a starting job as the second CB behind Ron Bartell or in the third/nickel role - he does have a legitimate shot - remains to be seen. However, the physical style of play demanded of Rams corners this year will not change. 

All of this is a long-winded segue into just exactly why that rough and tumble play from the d-backs is important. Why? Because that's the best way to contain a guy like the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald, arguably the league's best WR at present. Don't take my word for it, listen to former Cardinals CB Rod Hood describe the best way to contain Fitzgerald (as related by ESPN's Mike Sando):

Jam him at the line of scrimmage, buying time to see the ball in the air.

"Because if I jump up blindly or if I let him catch the ball and try to break it out of his hands there is almost a 90 percent chance he is going to catch the ball."

Fitzgerald has has been tough on the Rams. In his five-year career, against the Rams the Cardinal receiver has 64 receptions, 864 yards, 9 TDs, and 50 first downs. A physical style of play combined with a strong pass rush is the only way to contain a guy like that.