EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In Saturday's mailbag, we went heavy on the offensive line -- don't worry there's another OL question in this one -- but today we turn our attention to the defense.
Namely, can a defense entering its second season under Gregg Williams use that experience to start fast and meet expectations. All that and more in this version of our Rams Twitter Mailbag.
As always, you can find me on Twitter @nwagoner. Please use hashtag #RamsMail. Answers every weekend.
@nwagoner: One of the most obvious things during organized team activities (OTAs) was how much further along the Rams were defensively than they were a year ago. It's imperative for them to get off to a fast start and be more consistent but it doesn't seem like there's going to be as many growing pains this time out. In fact, Williams made it a point to say near the end of OTAs that he's been able to both weed out things he doesn't feel work and add things he think will work. Big things are expected of this defense this year and with good reason. But once again, it's their job to finally deliver on a consistent basis.
@nwagoner: Well, the word success isn't necessarily the one I'd go with for that Bears team. Kyle Long and Jordan Mills started as rookies and made it through the season but it's not like they dominated. Long was clearly more effective than Mills and was mostly solid. For what it's worth, Pro Football Focus charged Long with allowing two sacks, nine quarterback hits and 21 quarterback hurries. But Mills struggled mightily, allowing three sacks, 13 hits and 62 hurries. In fact, PFF graded Mills as the third worst tackle in the league in his rookie season. So basically, the Rams had better hope that Rob Havenstein is much better than that. The Bears' duo also had the added advantage of working with a veteran center in Roberto Garza, something the Rams don't have in place. Nobody is writing off the chances of the Rams' offensive line coming together and playing well but it's going to take some time to get going.
@nwagoner: I think ultimately, that's probably what the Rams will do with Akeem Ayers as the third starting linebacker and Jo-Lonn Dunbar as the primary backup across the board. That also doesn't preclude Dunbar from getting snaps. Williams has said he has packages in for all of his defensive players so he might find spots to use Dunbar, particularly on running downs. But based on the money being paid and Ayers' versatility, I'd be a bit surprised if he doesn't win the job.
@nwagoner: Nothing is set in stone right now, especially at center but the Rams seem to like the idea of something like this (from left to right): Greg Robinson, Rodger Saffold, Barrett Jones, Jamon Brown and Rob Havenstein. Jones still has a lot of learning to do; Tim Barnes could get the nod because of experience and it'd be unwise to rule out Demetrius Rhaney. That competition will play out through training camp and the preseason. At right guard, don't be surprised if Garrett Reynolds gets a chance should Brown have any miscues. Reynolds worked at left guard with Saffold sitting out team portions of OTAs and offers a veteran solution if Brown takes a little while to develop.
@nwagoner In what game this season do you expect Gurley to make his first professional carry?— Chris Watkins (@CWat1024) July 9, 2015
@nwagoner: I don't really have any expectation for Todd Gurley since we don't know how far along he is right now. If we use the timetable he gave me before the end of OTAs, he'll be doing individual drills at the start of training camp and then will be able to slowly work his way back into the mix in team drills as camp goes along. I don't think it's out of the question that his first carry will come in Game 1. And I get the sense from the Rams that they don't think he'll miss many games if he does have to sit at the start of the season. They don't want to rush him back but he'll be about 10 months removed from the injury at the start of the season. It's realistic to think he'll be able to contribute at some level when the season starts but we'll have to see where he is when camp begins later this month.