Rams D-line in 2009… Dominant?

Back to regularly scheduled programming, after sitting in the Foot Injury Situation Room. In yesterday’s NFC West notes, Sando linked to a report by Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat that quoted Chris Long as saying: “As a defensive front, we have to be dominant, and I just want to fit into that. I think we have the pass rush ability to be dominant.”

Long has looked good at times in camp so far, though most of his “look at me” plays have happened while lined up against second-string linemen. He also cites working against Alex Barron as a big key toward his improvement…. apparently there’s a noticeable difference between lining up against a Pro Bowler and Barron. Who knew?

As much as we can denigrate Orlando Pace and his decline with age — his run blocking almost disappeared, and suddenly holes opened up from the guard spot next to him — he was still a very effective pass blocker. Especially compared to Barron. Witness these stats:

Player Season Games Sacks allowed
Alex Barron 2008 16 7.5
Alex Barron 2006-08 48 19.75
Orlando Pace 2008 14 2
Orlando Pace 2006-08 23 6.5

For points in Long’s favor, though, James Hall has really taken off in camp after leading the team with 6.5 sacks last season, and Leonard Little is showing as much speed as he ever has. Granted, Little will be a rotational player, but he looks as though he will be ready to contribute. And Hall did register a double-digit sack season with Detroit — his monster 2004 season.

For now, it smells like camp optimism. But the D-line’s effectiveness could be a wildcard in the Rams’ improvement this season. Let’s see what happens when our first team defense start taking on Alan Faneca and the Jets’ vaunted offensive line in their first preseason game this Thursday night. (As long as the first half doesn’t end with the Jets up 40-0, it’ll be an improvement over last season 😉 )