EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Last Friday, St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams dropped a hint that recently-acquired safety Mark Barron would get his first chance to contribute to the Rams' defense.
“He’s done very, very well," Williams said. "I’ve been extremely impressed with the things that he’s done above and beyond the call of duty. He’s been putting coaching hours in. He’s been in here really late at night doing a lot of studying, a lot of catching up.
"He had to get quickly into the language, but the other thing it’s been fun for me to see him and his eyes light up seeing how aggressive we play. Him wanting to play in that real aggressive fashion. Hopefully, you guys will get a chance to see him play some this week. He’s done a very good job and has earned the right to play in some packages.”
We certainly did get a chance to see him play against Arizona on Sunday, perhaps even a little more than Williams or coach Jeff Fisher had initially presumed. With so many moving pieces on the back end because of injuries, Barron ended up playing 33 snaps on defense only a week after debuting as a Ram by playing seven snaps, all on special teams.
"We played him a little bit more than we anticipated with Mark in the package," Fisher said. "Now Mark’s packages will continue to increase. You can see what he does. He’s a good football player, and he made some big plays for us."
Indeed, Barron wasted little time making his presence felt, coming up with a big hit on Cardinals receiver Michael Floyd early in the game. From there, he only looked more comfortable as he finished with five tackles and a sack.
As for his usage, Barron did indeed spend most of his day near the line of scrimmage. In essence, he was a de facto third linebacker as the Rams delved into their sub packages. And with linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar playing 23 snaps, Barron offered the versatility to help fill that role with Dunbar off the field while also offering better coverage skills when the Cardinals used extra receivers.
According to Pro Football Focus, Barron had nine snaps defending the run, 15 rushing the passer and just nine in coverage. Clearly, the Rams prefer to have Barron's hard-charging style as close to the line of scrimmage as possible and working in tandem with starting safeties T.J. McDonald and Rodney McLeod.
"I think you get a sense for his physical stature out there," Fisher said. "There was a screen pass and the guard was out in space and he took the guard on. Most DBs would be tumbling or go low. He took the guard on high bounced off and got an assist. He’s a physical player.”
"I think one would assume we would expand the safety package with Mark,” Fisher said.