Behind Enemy Lines: Rams Edition

Rams publisher Nate Latsch talks all things of the team he covers, from Austin Davis' rise, to the struggles of the defense.

Do you believe that Austin Davis has potential to be a long-term starter at quarterback, or is there some sort of disqualifier about him that would make you hesitate?

Austin Davis has certainly surprised everyone. He came into training camp looking like the fourth quarterback behind Sam Bradford, Shaun Hill and rookie sixth-round pick Garrett Gilbert, but then he beat out Gilbert to become the backup after Bradford went down with an ACL injury. We’re talking about a guy who was out of the NFL at this time a year ago, so he’s come a long way in a short amount of time and gives me pause about what his future could be. He’s put up some good numbers, especially his 72.3 completion percentage, but has also made some of the mistakes you’d expect a young quarterback to make.

While the pass distribution with the Rams looks pretty even, especially deep throws, is Brian Quick establishing himself as the team's absolute number-one?

Brian Quick has emerged as the go-to guy, though he and tight end Jared Cook are close in terms of targets and receptions through three games. I wrote about Quick recently — he’s a guy who seems to be putting everything together this season. I don’t know if this Rams offensive scheme will ever really feature one guy but if Quick continues to perform like he has early this season he’ll certainly state his case to be that guy.

How much has Chris Long's absence truly affected Robert Quinn's play?

Robert Quinn hasn’t put up numbers yet this season, but he’s been close. He leads the Rams in quarterback hits and quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, and is their highest-graded pass rusher, according to the website. The Rams only have one sack in three games, which I don’t think anyone would have believed before the season. So I think the lack of effectiveness with the pass rush up front is more of an overall system failure than the Rams’ best player, Quinn, struggling because of the loss of Chris Long. Even though St. Louis has good depth along the defensive line, Long being out hurts the defense overall because of his ability to rush the passer, stop the run and just be one of the team’s anchors out there with his veteran presence and leadership.

Besides Long being on short-term IR, what has been the main cause of the run defense playing so poorly this season?

The defense has been a big disappointment so far. There was a lot of optimism going into the season that new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams would be the veteran voice to make a difference with this group after having young, inexperienced coaches leading the D the previous two years. The run defense has been gouged by Cordarrelle Patterson, Bobby Rainey and DeMarco Murray so far this season and obviously LeSean McCoy will be a big challenge for them this week. One of the issues has been poor tackling. Another issue may be that the Rams are starting two rookies in the secondary, E.J. Gaines at cornerback (in place of injured Trumaine Johnson) and undersized second-rounder Lamarcus Joyner inside at nickel corner.

Did sixth-round cornerback E.J. Gaines have a realistic chance of earning his way into the line-up on skill and impression alone, or was Trumaine Johnson's injury the primary reason that the rookie was pressed in?

Gaines earned the starting job after Johnson went down with a knee injury in the preseason. Johnson, who is in his third season, gives the Rams a bigger, more physical option on the perimeter. The Rams secondary is just young overall. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Rodney McLeod are in their third seasons. The other starting safety, T.J. McDonald, is in his second year. After Johnson got hurt, Gaines was competing with second-year player Brandon McGee for that starting spot but McGee couldn’t stay healthy enough to really challenge for it. Gaines has mostly held his own, considering the circumstances, but he has given up a couple touchdowns.

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