(FootballStL) -- Ask anyone who knows anything about defense in football and they’ll tell you the same thing. If you dominate up front along the line and with the linebackers, you can get away with average talent in the secondary.
Now, that’s not to say you don’t need good players at cornerback and safety - not everyone does their job on every single play - but that theory still holds to be true.
Against the run, if the linemen and linebackers are solid at the point of attack, there’s no room for a running back to go anywhere. If pass rushers use their speed and get to the quarterback within a couple seconds, the QB won’t have time to get a pass off. Both of those things mitigate the need for a secondary.
For the Rams in 2013, the strength of the defense unquestionably will be along the front seven. Defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn form one of the best duos in the league by combining for 22 sacks last season.
Former first rounder Michael Brockers appears ready to explode as the nose tackle. Coaches say he put on another five pounds and is stronger and quicker than ever.
At linebacker, James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar were both terrific last year but got little help with the third spot. Enter Alec Ogletree who has about as much athletic ability as anyone in the rookie draft class. His ability to run sideline to sideline and make tackles is going to suit this defense extraordinarily well.
The potential is there to have such a good front seven that the Rams could be among the best defenses in the league. Many would point to the weakness that might be the safety position this season.
Rookie TJ McDonald is coming off a subpar season in COLLEGE (Southern California) while Darian Stewart wasn’t even good enough to replace Craig Dahl last season. It’s an issue, for sure.
If the Rams don’t get much of a pass rush on a particular play and the opposing team tries to take a shot deep down the field, it could leave these safeties in a vulnerable position.
However, if there’s on spot to have anything resembling a weakness, to me it’s safety. As long as you’re getting top notch production from the front seven to blow up the offensive line at the point of attack, there’s a realistic chance you won’t be asking those particular safeties to have to do much on those plays. The play will already have been made.
Time will tell if the guys who are expected to increase their production from a year ago (Brockers, Quinn) will do so while joining those that will be expected to maintain their current level of production (Long, Laurinaitis, Dunbar). It’s a question we won’t be able to answer for quite a while.
However if those answers come back in the affirmative, regardless of what happens with the safeties, this could be a special defense in 2013.