Scouting the Rams: Defense

The matchups favor the Colts pretty heavily, but do the Rams have an ace up their sleeves? Brad Keller takes a look.

Defensive Line:

Even against one of the worst defenses in the league, Charlie Johnson does not get the week off as far as tough matchups are concerned.  He draws right end Chris Long on Sunday and, while Long has not yet lived up to his draft status — he was selected second overall in 2008 — he will still present a challenge to Johnson, since he is a very active defender, is athletic enough to turn the corner, and has several different pass rushing moves that he uses effectively.

The key for Johnson and the Colts will be to run right at Long, who is undersized at 263 pounds.  This will allow Johnson to engulf and overpower long, which is the biggest advantage he holds in this matchup.

Also, St. Louis has given up an average of 5.02 yards per attempt — on 49 attempts behind the offensive left tackle and around the offensive left end — so Long is not as skilled a run defender as he is a pass rusher.

On the other side of the field, the venerable Leonard Little might be the best defensive lineman the Rams have, as he leads the team in sacks (four) and forced fumbles (two).

But, this is still a unit that struggles to stop the run and Little is no exception, with offenses averaging 4.99 yards per carry on 47 attempts to his side of the field.  Ryan Diem, who is quietly having a solid season, should be able to handle Little without any help.

Since the matchups favor the Colts pretty heavily in the passing game and they have not been successful running the ball regardless of play direction — especially up the middle, which is the one area where the Rams have been semi-effective and the one area where Indianapolis has not been at all successful — the most likely result will be that the Colts build an early lead by throwing the ball and close the game out by running it.

Former Colt La Juan Ramsey and Clifton Ryan are not household names at defensive tackle, but they have done well enough — at least in the running game — to keep the young linebackers for St. Louis clean and give them a fairly clear path to the ball carrier.

Jeff Saturday, Ryan Lilja, and Mike Pollak have yet put together a solid game in terms of run blocking for 60 minutes, but have been more than adequate in pass protection and have, at times, been dominant at the point of attack.  The key for this game will be to monitor how they perform in the second half.

Hopefully, by that point, the outcome will already have been decided and it will be interesting to track how the interior of the offensive line performs when the opponent knows what's coming.

Linebackers:

The Rams lost their biggest name and arguably their most talented player on defense when they traded Will Witherspoon to the Eagles before Tuesday's trade deadline.  At this point, rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is probably the best playmaker in the front seven, but he is still learning the nuances of the pro game and has often been caught out of position — though St. Louis has been decent up the middle in the running game having faced the most rushing attempts of any team in the league in that direction, they have been torn apart in the short middle in the passing game, giving up 8.77 yards per attempt in that area of the field.

Outside linebackers Witherspoon and Larry Grant are partly to blame for the subpar numbers off right and left end, but the Rams have actually been fairly stalwart — relatively speaking — defending the pass to the short right and short left areas of the field, allowing only 6.3 yards per attempt to those areas.

With eight-year veteran Paris Lenon stepping into the weakside linebacker role, there will be a dropoff in production, but it will not be as severe as it would if a younger, less experienced player took over for Witherspoon.

Expect the Colts to test Lenon early, though, both in the running game, sending Donald Brown and Joseph Addai to the left side of the formation, straight at Long and Lenon, and expect Peyton Manning to target Austin Collie frequently, especially in the early going. Indianapolis may also line up Dallas Clark on the weak side of the formation and see if the Rams are foolish enough to try to cover him with a linebacker.

St. Louis does have a tendency to blitz more frequently than most teams, given the defensive proclivities of their head coach, but they have dialed back the blitzes to a large degree and do not blitz nearly as much as the New York Giants, Spagnuolo's old team.

The primary reason for this is that they don't have the talent in the secondary to take risks in the front seven, though they don't send safeties and cornerbacks on blitzes more often than most teams.  Seven different Rams players have sacks, so they will bring pressure from different directions and different personnel groupings.

The issue, though, is that Manning has proven time and time again that the worst strategy for a defense to employ against him is to blitz, so look for St. Louis to play mostly vanilla on defense, make Manning earn the passes he completes, and only blitz in order to mix things up.

It's not likely to make a difference, however, since the matchups in the secondary heavily favor Clark and the Indianapolis receivers.

Secondary:

Most defensive backfields do not match up favorably against the Colts receivers, but Sunday offers a special case.  The cornerbacks and safeties for the Rams match up horribly against Collie, Clark, Reggie Wayne, and Pierre Garcon.

Bradley Fletcher, the man who will guard Wayne, has a tendency to give receivers a large cushion, but overcommit to coming up and making the tackle when the receiver catches the ball in front of him.  While he usually makes the play when his man makes the catch, this tendency leaves him open to the the hitch-and-go, slant-and-go, and out-and-up patterns that Wayne runs so effectively.

In addition, strong safety Craig Dahl does not backpedal well and is not very effective over-the-top, so he will not be able to cover any checks that Fletcher can't cash.

On the other side, Ron Bartell is a talented athlete, but has trouble jamming receivers at the line and turning his hips to run with his man in the short area of the field.  He is also susceptible to the double move, so Garcon is a bad, bad draw for him and a very fortunate matchup for the Colts.

Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was one of the only players on the field that played to the bitter end against the Jaguars last week, totaling ten tackles and covering as much of the field as possible.  He is a solid tackler and a high effort player, but his coverage skills are lacking.

Basically, Collie and Clark will eat them up underneath, Garcon will make them pay after the catch — though Clark and Collie will get their fair share of chances with the ball in their hands — and Wayne will gash them deep.

It is a dream matchup for a Colts offense that didn't need a dream matchup to put up big numbers and a nightmare matchup for a Rams secondary that didn't need more bad news.  The plan, no doubt, will be to jump on St. Louis early and use the running game and precision passes to salt the game away.  That sounds like an excellent — and very plausible — strategy, given the matchups in play.


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Colts Blitz Top Stories

\r\n","mobileBody":"Defensive Line:

Even against one of the worst defenses in the league, Charlie Johnson does not get the week off as far as tough matchups are concerned.  He draws right end Chris Long on Sunday and, while Long has not yet lived up to his draft status — he was selected second overall in 2008 — he will still present a challenge to Johnson, since he is a very active defender, is athletic enough to turn the corner, and has several different pass rushing moves that he uses effectively.

The key for Johnson and the Colts will be to run right at Long, who is undersized at 263 pounds.  This will allow Johnson to engulf and overpower long, which is the biggest advantage he holds in this matchup.

Also, St. Louis has given up an average of 5.02 yards per attempt — on 49 attempts behind the offensive left tackle and around the offensive left end — so Long is not as skilled a run defender as he is a pass rusher.

On the other side of the field, the venerable Leonard Little might be the best defensive lineman the Rams have, as he leads the team in sacks (four) and forced fumbles (two).

But, this is still a unit that struggles to stop the run and Little is no exception, with offenses averaging 4.99 yards per carry on 47 attempts to his side of the field.  Ryan Diem, who is quietly having a solid season, should be able to handle Little without any help.

Since the matchups favor the Colts pretty heavily in the passing game and they have not been successful running the ball regardless of play direction — especially up the middle, which is the one area where the Rams have been semi-effective and the one area where Indianapolis has not been at all successful — the most likely result will be that the Colts build an early lead by throwing the ball and close the game out by running it.

Former Colt La Juan Ramsey and Clifton Ryan are not household names at defensive tackle, but they have done well enough — at least in the running game — to keep the young linebackers for St. Louis clean and give them a fairly clear path to the ball carrier.

Jeff Saturday, Ryan Lilja, and Mike Pollak have yet put together a solid game in terms of run blocking for 60 minutes, but have been more than adequate in pass protection and have, at times, been dominant at the point of attack.  The key for this game will be to monitor how they perform in the second half.

Hopefully, by that point, the outcome will already have been decided and it will be interesting to track how the interior of the offensive line performs when the opponent knows what's coming.

Linebackers:

The Rams lost their biggest name and arguably their most talented player on defense when they traded Will Witherspoon to the Eagles before Tuesday's trade deadline.  At this point, rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is probably the best playmaker in the front seven, but he is still learning the nuances of the pro game and has often been caught out of position — though St. Louis has been decent up the middle in the running game having faced the most rushing attempts of any team in the league in that direction, they have been torn apart in the short middle in the passing game, giving up 8.77 yards per attempt in that area of the field.

Outside linebackers Witherspoon and Larry Grant are partly to blame for the subpar numbers off right and left end, but the Rams have actually been fairly stalwart — relatively speaking — defending the pass to the short right and short left areas of the field, allowing only 6.3 yards per attempt to those areas.

With eight-year veteran Paris Lenon stepping into the weakside linebacker role, there will be a dropoff in production, but it will not be as severe as it would if a younger, less experienced player took over for Witherspoon.

Expect the Colts to test Lenon early, though, both in the running game, sending Donald Brown and Joseph Addai to the left side of the formation, straight at Long and Lenon, and expect Peyton Manning to target Austin Collie frequently, especially in the early going. Indianapolis may also line up Dallas Clark on the weak side of the formation and see if the Rams are foolish enough to try to cover him with a linebacker.

St. Louis does have a tendency to blitz more frequently than most teams, given the defensive proclivities of their head coach, but they have dialed back the blitzes to a large degree and do not blitz nearly as much as the New York Giants, Spagnuolo's old team.

The primary reason for this is that they don't have the talent in the secondary to take risks in the front seven, though they don't send safeties and cornerbacks on blitzes more often than most teams.  Seven different Rams players have sacks, so they will bring pressure from different directions and different personnel groupings.

The issue, though, is that Manning has proven time and time again that the worst strategy for a defense to employ against him is to blitz, so look for St. Louis to play mostly vanilla on defense, make Manning earn the passes he completes, and only blitz in order to mix things up.

It's not likely to make a difference, however, since the matchups in the secondary heavily favor Clark and the Indianapolis receivers.

Secondary:

Most defensive backfields do not match up favorably against the Colts receivers, but Sunday offers a special case.  The cornerbacks and safeties for the Rams match up horribly against Collie, Clark, Reggie Wayne, and Pierre Garcon.

Bradley Fletcher, the man who will guard Wayne, has a tendency to give receivers a large cushion, but overcommit to coming up and making the tackle when the receiver catches the ball in front of him.  While he usually makes the play when his man makes the catch, this tendency leaves him open to the the hitch-and-go, slant-and-go, and out-and-up patterns that Wayne runs so effectively.

In addition, strong safety Craig Dahl does not backpedal well and is not very effective over-the-top, so he will not be able to cover any checks that Fletcher can't cash.

On the other side, Ron Bartell is a talented athlete, but has trouble jamming receivers at the line and turning his hips to run with his man in the short area of the field.  He is also susceptible to the double move, so Garcon is a bad, bad draw for him and a very fortunate matchup for the Colts.

Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe was one of the only players on the field that played to the bitter end against the Jaguars last week, totaling ten tackles and covering as much of the field as possible.  He is a solid tackler and a high effort player, but his coverage skills are lacking.

Basically, Collie and Clark will eat them up underneath, Garcon will make them pay after the catch — though Clark and Collie will get their fair share of chances with the ball in their hands — and Wayne will gash them deep.

It is a dream matchup for a Colts offense that didn't need a dream matchup to put up big numbers and a nightmare matchup for a Rams secondary that didn't need more bad news.  The plan, no doubt, will be to jump on St. Louis early and use the running game and precision passes to salt the game away.  That sounds like an excellent — and very plausible — strategy, given the matchups in play.


Talk about it in our Insider's Forum!

Follow ColtPower's updates on Twitter!

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