On February 12, 2014, the St. Louis Rams announced they had hired Gregg Williams to take over at defensive coordinator for the recently dismissed Tim Walton. A mere 10 days after Super Bowl 48 was dominated by a top defense, the Rams were sending a message to the rest of the NFL. Hiring one of the most creative, and aggressive, defensive coordinators of the Super Bowl era sent a clear message regarding the Rams intended return path to Super Bowl glory.
A defensive line loaded with first round talent, anchored by the best edge rusher in the NFL, and a solid linebacking corps likely provide Williams with the best front 7 he's ever coached. A talented but inexperienced, and often undisciplined, secondary offers Williams the biggest opportunity to "coach up" the defense and put them squarely into the upper echelon of the NFL.
The Rams also added exciting young defensive pieces through the draft. Aaron Donald has generated as much training camp buzz as any rookie in the NFL. Young defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and EJ Gaines have both flashed impact player ability. Since taking over the roster in 2012 Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have managed to transform the most talent deficient rosters in the NFL into one of the richest. With a lack of talent no longer the problem in St. Louis, it is time for the Rams to take a step forward into playoff and title contention.
Much has been written and said about the Rams defensive potential under the guidance of Gregg Williams since February. One of the best takes on Williams' defensive philosophy and how it impacts the Rams was provided by Matt Bowen, former NFL safety who played for Williams during his time with the Washington Redskins. One of the things Williams' defenses are known for is their aggressive blitzes and knack for generating turnovers. Bowen discusses in some detail just how much additional stress Williams' blitz schemes put on the defensive secondary, and in particular he discussed how second-round draft choice Lamarcus Joyner fits within that scheme.
As exciting as it is to envision the pressure this Rams team will generate in 2014, its hard to ignore the feeling of dread associated with the secondary. The defense's weakest (and most inexperienced) unit will be tasked with more difficult assignments, which will undoubtedly lead to big plays by the opposition. I do believe Williams will cater his defensive schemes to the personnel he has available, and perhaps the young secondary is up to the challenge, but there will surely be growing pains along the way.
With the type of pressure the Rams' front four can generate, it is possible Williams uses his defensive genius to disguise coverages and confuse offenses. I surely hope the percentage of plays where the Rams bring an extra defender are significantly lower than the average for a Williams defense. There is no doubt his blitz packages have been effective in the past, and if used judiciously they could be devastatingly effective when matched with the pressure Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, and Aaron Donald can apply.
I'm still excited about the potential impact the addition of Williams has on the Rams defense. I'm also very aware of the bumps that will occur along the way.
Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!