Missing: Defensive Leaders

I don’t live in St. Louis but I have to assume by now someone has filed a missing persons report for what were supposed to be the young leaders on this Rams defense. 

Fans shouldn’t be surprised to see names and pictures of guys like Chris Long and James Laurinaitis plastered on milk cartons, players who have regressed or aren’t making enough of an impact week-to-week.

Long, it seems, has been poised for a break out season for at least two years now, but is sitting after five Rams losses with only three sacks and 11 tackles.

Some of that is attributed to a lack of talent around him, but his performance has plummeted in October with no sacks and only five tackles.

He earned a -2.5 rating by Pro Football Focus against the Cowboys last week after he was consistently washed out by tight ends and was part of a Rams front that let DeMarco Murray rush for a mind boggling 253 yards.

Long is ranked 41st in sack leaders in the NFL and don’t look now Rams fans, but he is also 1.5 quarterback takedowns behind 16th ranked Adam Carriker.

Amongst a rambling assemblage of blown assignments and missed tackles, Laurinaitis may deserve even more blame as the “quarterback” of the defense.  

He has 47 tackles to lead the team, but is often victimized while trying to cover tight ends and is alarmingly non-disruptive, forcing only five turnovers in his entire career in St. Louis.

For their first few seasons in St. Louis, Laurinaitis and Long have gotten by through sound tackling, good instincts and solid play but this season has exposed them to a degree. 

As players like Bradley Fletcher and Ron Bartell have gone down, Laurinaitis and Long have failed to pick up the leadership and playmaking slack. If fundamentals have failed this team, a lack of disruptive plays has been even worse especially from players who perennially are supposed to take a step forward instead of several leaps back.

The Rams have to expect more of them this season to turn the tide of the game for a St. Louis team that ranks in the bottom of the league with only seven turnovers.

This season has been ravaged by injuries, penalties and inept coaching but some accountability should be shifted towards talented players like Long and Laurinaitis who are expected to elevate the defense.