Entering 2013, the Rams already had more than a fairly good idea of what they had in
In just his second full NFL season, Quinn had already posted a breakout season, piling up 10.5 sacks in 2012 to form half of a formidable pair of bookends along the Rams’ defensive front, along with veteran
Quinn’s ascension in his third year saw him move from a quality pass-rusher to a centerpiece of the Rams’ defensive unit, as he turned in one of the most dominant seasons by a defensive end in franchise history. With a team-record 19 sacks, Quinn established himself as one of the league’s premier pass-rushers, en route to being named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
While much of the credit Rams’ success will deservedly be directed toward Quinn, he was far from the only Ram to post a promising 2013.
Quinn’s season was complemented well by the rest of the Rams’ front four, which was among the league’s most productive. Defensive tackles
The year was also highlighted by the emergence of rookie linebacker
“He’s always going to be productive,” Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said prior to the Rams’ home finale against Tampa Bay. “That’s the thing about him, he’s always around the football. He gets his hands on balls, and that’s what you want.”
The Rams’ front seven, which included Ogletree, Laurinatis, and veteran
“That’s where it all starts with us,” Walton said in his final regular season press conference. “When we stop the run early and teams can’t run the ball and they have to drop back and throw it, that really plays into the strength of our guys that can rush and then get our hands on balls and force the quarterback to make errant throws. So, it all starts with that.”
The Rams’ defense also underwent a season of transition in the secondary, where second-year corner
The loss of Finnegan’s veteran presence meant the Rams’ secondary would be among the most youthful in the league, as Johnson joined second-year corner
While 2013 was a year of emergence for Quinn and Ogletree, and a season of transition among the team’s secondary, the leadership of the unit once again was provided by Laurinaitis, whose 144 tackles ranked second on the team. He also figured prominently against the pass, contributing a pair of interceptions and establishing a new career-best by notching 3.5 sacks. For a player who has seen the personnel surrounding him change significantly since being installed as the team’s starting middle linebacker in 2009, the Rams’ step forward defensively in 2013 bodes well.
Playing in a division that has produced both members of the NFC title game as well as three of the top six defensive units in the league, standing out among the members of the NFC West remains a significant challenge, though 2013 offered progress toward that end.
“I think we’re closing the gap,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said following the Rams’ season finale in Seattle. “We’re not there yet but I think with a year of improvement we’ll be much closer. Anything can happen. All three teams play really good defense, and we’ve got to play better offense and score more points to compete with them. I think defensively we can compete with these teams.”