On Monday we took a post-draft look at the projected Day 1 starting lineup for the Rams’ offense in 2014, so today we’ll wrap up our projections by taking a look at the defense. The most glaring change you’ll notice from our March attempt is that I’ve shifted the base formation from a standard 4-3 into the Nickel. You’ll have to keep reading to find out why, but oh hey! Nevermind there’s a huge graphic right there that spills the beans! Let us know if you agree with our lineup in the comment section below.
Defensive Ends – Robert Quinn and Chris Long
Nothing changes here, except the depth that I mentioned in our March edition. In my mock at that time, I’d given the Rams South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney with the second overall pick and Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan at 13. As we now know, neither of those things happened. Even if Clowney had fallen into the Rams’ lap at No. 2, Quinn and Long have more than earned their starting roles in 2014.
Defensive Tackles – Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford
The interior of the defensive line remains unchanged as well. Brockers is well-entrenched as a starter and I’ll give Langford the nod based solely on the experience factor. However, since our last projections, the team has added former Buffalo super-sub Alex Carrington in free agency as well as the highly touted Aaron Donald out of Pitt with the 13th pick in the draft. I expect Carrington to resume an effective spot role with the Rams, but if Donald lives up to his billing he could easily challenge Langford for time as the season progresses.
Linebackers – James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree
One of the big changes from our last projections involves the linbacking corps. Jo-Lonn Dunbar has been re-upped for two more years, but we drop him from the starting lineup as Laurinaitis and Ogletree lead the charge in a Nickel set. This has less to do with Dunbar and more to do with the guy the the Rams added in the second round. More on that in just a moment.
Cornerbacks – Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson, and Lamarcus Joyner
The Rams did as many thought they would and added some nice secondary depth through the draft. The biggest reason for our defensive projections switching from a 4-3 into a Nickel formation is due to just that. In round two, the Rams selected Florida State’s Lamarcus Joyner, a pick I am personally very excited about. Joyner is as athletically gifted as he is smart, and plays much bigger than his relatively miniscule 5’8 frame puts on. There was some initial thought that he’d fill the team’s void at free safety, but head coach Jeff Fisher has stated publicly that he’ll play the Nickel corner role in his rookie season. He joins Jenkins and Johnson in a young group of cornerbacks that will have to get nicknamed sooner or later (Jenkins, Johnson and Joyner – there has to be something there).
Safeties – Rodney Mcleod and T.J. McDonald
In our last projections, I had the Rams taking Stanford safety Ed Reynolds in the third round and slotting him into the free safety position. That obviously didn’t happen. The Rams didn’t make the safety position as high a priority early in the draft as many believed they would, but they did take Utah State’s Mo Alexander in the fourth round and Ohio State’s C.B. Bryant in the seventh. The roles that each will play remain to be seen, so we’ll have to go with incumbent starter Rodney McLeod at free safety. McLeod was solid if unspectacular in manning both the safety and nickel corner position last season, and perhaps the Rams neglecting to make the position a huge offseason priority shows a trust in McLeod that the outside hasn’t yet been privy to. He gets the nod. McDonald is a holdover at starter from our last projections, and that’s where he’ll remain barring unforeseen circumstances.
What do you think of our way-too-early projections? Agree? Disagree? Think the Rams’ secondary will still be too young to make a big impact? Let us know in the comments section below.