The St. Louis Rams are off to a 3-2 start this season and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to the true diehard fans that follow the NFL. Before the season, I predicted (and I’ve been known to be wrong) that St. Louis would finish in 2nd place in the NFC West (and possibly fight for a wild card spot).
And there was a very good reason for it. Shortly after the 2011 season had ended, the Rams hired Jeff Fisher. Fisher compiled a record of 142 wins and 120 losses in 17 seasons with the Houston Oliers/Tennessee Titans from 1994-2010. A winning percentage of 54% usually wouldn’t be much to brag about, but coaching for Bud Adams couldn’t be easy. The Titans aren’t a franchise like the Washington Redskins that just opens up the old checkbook and signs key free agents to win. Or retains players that have breakout years and bolt for the free agent cash that is thrown at them. The best example I can come up with is Albert Haynesworth. He was a beast for the Titans (14.5 sacks combined in 2007 and 2008 as a defensive tackle), but was never heard from again in terms of being an elite player.
Coaching the Titans is a process of drafting wisely and making shrewd decisions by signing bargain free agents. And coaching your ass off.
Last year, the Rams were 7th against the pass, but they were 19th in ypa. That stat is often a bit more telling of how good the defense is against the pass. St. Louis had a need for an experienced player in the secondary and they also needed a little bit of swagger.
Throughout Courtland Finnegan’s career, he has been known as a boisterous and rambunctious player, some might even say….a dirty player. But, Fisher didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on bringing in his former player. Fisher was hired in January and Finnegan signed a 5 year, $50 million contract on March 13th.
They also took a bit of gamble in the draft on Janoris Jenkins in the 2nd round. It has nothing to do with his talent, because many scouts said he had the ability to be taken in the 1st round. He had his off the field issues (resisting arrest and misdemeanor marijuana possession) and he was dismissed from the Florida Gators for his drug issues. He ended up playing for North Alabama before being drafted. But, the off the field issues had some wondering if he was being taken too high in the 2nd round.
Finnegan and Jenkins have given the Rams secondary an infusion of talent, as well as confidence and even the aforementioned swagg. Finnegan has 3 interceptions and 7 passes defended through 5 games, not to mention a sack and a TD. Jenkins has just 1 INT, but he has also recorded 7 passes defended. Combined, they account for 14 of STL’s 25 PD.
They have helped (along with Robert Quinn who has 6 sacks) the Rams defense improve from the 26th scoring defense into the 8th ranked scoring defense so far this season.
Will it last? Who knows, but they have a head coach whose forte is defense. And the Rams made a smart decision in hiring him.
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