Breaking Down What Vernon Gholston Brings to Rams Defense
According to Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
The team announced after practice it has signed defensive end Vernon Gholston to a contract. Both Gholston and Andre Carter auditioned at Rams Park on Wednesday morning.
Take it for what it's worth—which isn't a whole lot—because the Rams made a no-risk move, and the defensive front can use help as well.
Gholston barely produced for the New York Jets from 2008 through 2010 with only 42 tackles and no sacks in 45 games played. So he definitely has his work cut out to prove that he has NFL ability, especially since he didn't play in 2011.
Still, after last season, the Rams have nowhere else to go but up. The NFC West is a strong defensive division, and St. Louis needs youth with potential. Gholston is only 26 years old, so he's a low-risk/high-reward addition, and here's how he fits in.
Stop the Run is Key in the West
How much does Gholston help the Rams? (1 = Least, 5 = Most
Every team in the NFC West has a stud running back that's difficult to stop. Facing Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Beanie Wells won't be any easier in 2012, and if St. Louis wants any shot to compete, finding a way to stop the run has to be the main priority.
Last season the Rams ranked No. 31 against the run and allowed an average of 4.8 yards per carry (tied for ranked No. 27). Well, because Gholston failed to apply any quarterback pressure whatsoever in the Big Apple, defending against the run has been his NFL strength.
Now he is slightly undersized for a defensive end, but this allows him to be quicker off the edge. He's never going to get double-teamed either since Chris Long is by far the more established defender and linebacker James Laurinaitis possesses excellent instincts to sniff plays out.
So, Gholston will have a one-on-one blocking opportunity each down. Lest we forget about rookie Michael Brockers who, although young, has shown promise in the preseason.
St. Louis provides Gholston with enough solid front seven talent around him to produce in favorable situations. Robert Quinn is definitely the better of the two lineman, but the Rams need Gholston to minimally develop for depth purposes along the line.
Any Kind of Quarterback Pressure Will Do
The bar is flat on the ground for Gholston's expectancy as a pass-rusher.
Having yet to record an NFL sack, there's literally nowhere else to go but up. Optimistically speaking, the Jets never had a pass-rusher like Chris Long when Gholston was lining up. This is also because he was anticipated to be that guy.
In any event, there's no pressure on Gholston, and we know Long will perform to his elite ability. When he sees one-on-one blocks he'll only need to perform one or two techniques. Whether it's a quick swim move to get outside or rip underneath, Gholston has to really execute these hand techniques.
A bull rush won't be nearly as effective simply because he's undersized, but he can get a tackle off balance by bursting off the edge and then slipping inside as the quarterback steps up in the pocket.
St. Louis did record 39 sacks in 2011, but one-third of that total came from Long. Even if Gholston is only given the opportunity to contribute in passing situations, becoming a stronger pass rush presence simply takes pressure off those in coverage.
They are ways away from the "Fearsome Foursome," but the potential for St. Louis' front four is higher than its given credit.
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