St. Louis Rams Progress Report: Where Do Things Stand Heading into Week 17?
With one week left to play in the 2012 season the St. Louis Rams are on the verge of doing something they haven't done since 2003. They have positioned themselves to finish above .500 for the first time since Mike Martz was roaming the sidelines.
Scott Linehan came utterly close in 2005 by finishing 8-8, while Steve Spagnuolo was a mere two games away from the feat. One may not consider a winning record that big of an accomplishment, but after nine long years of not seeing a winning record, you have to start somewhere.
Without question the glory days of the greatest show on turf are gone, but that doesn't mean head coach Jeff Fisher can't change the entire culture of this team. Fisher doesn't have to produce the greatest show on turf to do that, he can do it the same way he did it when he was in Tennessee.
Over the course of one offseason, St. Louis' defense is already leaps and bounds above where it was before. The Rams are currently the 15th best defense in the NFL and if they stay there after Sunday's game, it will mark their highest finish since 2002. That year they finished the season as the 13th best defense in the league under Lovie Smith.
Before we look ahead to Week 17, let's take a look at the good, the bad and everything in between from Week 16.
On a day where the Rams' defense piled up five quarterback sacks, seven quarterback hits, eight quarterback hurries and five turnovers, defensive end Robert Quinn went missing. More specifically, Quinn has been missing for the last six weeks.
The first nine games of the season were awfully friendly to the second-year player out of North Carolina. From Week 1 until Week 10, Quinn managed to rack up 36 total pressures. Nine of those 36 were sacks, seven were hits and 20 were hurries.
Impressive to say the least and by the numbers it was clear that he was possibly on his way to a Pro Bowl appearance in Hawaii. Unfortunately for St. Louis, Quinn's performances since Week 10 have taken an absolute nosedive.
During that span he has managed a measly eight quarterback pressures. Not to mention against the Jets and 49ers he was stonewalled—meaning he didn't record a single sack, hit or hurry. Before those two games that hadn't happened since the Rams 15th game of the 2011 season.
According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, Quinn is actually on pace for a worse season this year in comparison to his rookie season last year. Not worse by the numbers, but worse in terms of consistency. One has to think that the increased snap load has taken a toll on him.
Last season, he averaged a defensive pressure once every 16 snaps—this season that number has fallen to one pressure every 18 snaps. The two snap difference would be enough over the course of the season to count for almost a full games worth of pass-rushing productivity.
After being a rotational defensive lineman in 2012, it's clear that Quinn has entered into some form of a sophomore slump.
On a day where one member of the Rams' young defense didn't bother to show up, another did. Rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins had one of his finest days in coverage.
I will admit that at times this season I have been overly hard on Jenkins because of his inconsistent play. I've said this before, and I will say it again: He needs to manage the way he gambles on certain plays. His ability to take calculated risks can ultimately get better.
At times throughout the season, Jenkins has done a phenomenal job of jumping routes and intercepting passes that most cornerbacks wouldn't. But there are also plenty of non-splash plays that I guarantee he wouldn't mind having back.
It's not a coincidence that his quarterback rating against is 81.7. For as many passes as he has intercepted, he has surrendered more touchdowns. His five touchdowns allowed is the 10th-worst mark in the NFL.
But, that's not the point I'm trying to drive home here.
The point I'm trying to drive home is the fact that, despite the bad coverage numbers that plagued him early on in the season, he is getting better. Since Week 12, Jenkins has intercepted three passes, recovered one fumble and scored four touchdowns.
Those four touchdowns over the course of a five-week span must put No. 21 in the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year. I wrote an article earlier in the season as to why he shouldn't be in the running for rookie of the year after St. Louis' Week 12 game against the Cardinals.
But two more defensive touchdowns has made me have a change of heart and it has probably opened the eyes of a lot of media members who will be voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
To me the most telling statistic is the fact that his four touchdowns puts him in second place for total touchdowns on the Rams. Only wide receiver Brandon Gibson has more touchdowns with five. When a defensive back has the second most touchdowns on the team, I have a hard time thinking he doesn't deserve some kind of honor.
Him and Carolina Panthers LB Luke Kuechly will be batting it out for end of the year honors.
Stock Watch (Week By Week Evaluation)
Rising: Scott Wells
Center Scott Wells managed to do something against the Bucs that he hadn't done at any other time this season: He had a perfect game in pass protection not allowing a single sack, hit or hurry. And the Rams' backfield averaged four yards per carry when running off of his backside.
Falling: Brian Quick
Rookie wide receiver Brian Quick has had a season filled with mostly downs up until this point. Two weeks ago against the Vikings he scored his second touchdown of the year, so many thought he would maybe start to play better in the final two weeks of the season. Not so fast, he went back to receiving one target from Sam Bradford and on that one target he registered a drop.
Rising: Trumaine Johnson
I talked about one rookie cornerback above, but fellow rookie cornerback Trumaine Johnson deserves just as much love. He easily had the most productive game of his young career. He logged 81 defensive snaps, he intercepted one pass and he only allowed three of nine targets to be completed. Josh Freeman's quarterback rating when throwing into his zone was an abysmal 7.4.
Falling: Kendall Langford
Even though defensive tackle Kendall Langford registered a quarterback sack, it wasn't all positive from start to finish. Langford was below average against the run and Doug Martin forced two missed tackles on him. Moreover, he only made one defensive stop in the run game.
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