To anyone who suffered through the Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, Steve Spagnuolo or Jeff Fisher-led versions of the St. Louis and/or Los Angeles Rams, what’s happening now makes no sense. The team is actively engaged in improving itself. They’re not just grabbing expensive free agents out of a piñata; they’re making moves that fit together.
That’s four trades for the Rams, and the league year doesn’t even start until Wednesday.
The most impressive part of this is the secondary, where most of the effort has been focused. At corner, they dealt for Marcus Peters from the Chiefs, and then got Aqib Talib from the Broncos on Thursday night.
Sandwiched between those two moves the team applied the franchise tag to Lamarcus Joyner, a player who had lost his passion for the game playing corner under Fisher (hey, been there too) but rediscovered it with a move to safety last year. He was one of the game’s top safeties last season.
Lamarcus Joyner was franchise tagged by the Rams today! pic.twitter.com/2N3eVO3zH6— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 6, 2018
It’s an astonishing collection of talent.
Peters is one of the top playmakers at the position. He leads the NFL with 19 interceptions over the last three years. He’s third in pass breakups during that time. Talib is getting up there, at 32, but he was still one of the game’s top cover corners last season, ranked 15th best by Pro Football Focus.
Joyner wasn’t the only productive safety the team had last year. John Johnson was a member of the 2017 All Rookie Team.
Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is a free agent, but the Rams would be smart to bring him back to play the slot, where he thrived last year.
Pro Football Focus had 35 defensive backs with overall grades of 85 or above. All four of these players were on that list.
That’s one hell of a secondary. But that’s what Wade Phillips does with his defenses. It’s the same model he ran in Denver when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 — a shutdown secondary that let the pass rushers run wild all over opponents.
This is not a team that’s going to be trifled with this year. Hell, it might be the only thing this guy can’t smile about when he sees them twice a season.