Rams rebuild defensive line through draft

In the weeks leading up to the kickoff the 2008 NFL Season, I’ll take a look at position groups that could potentially lift teams to new heights, or bury them and their postseason hopes. Today I take a look at how the St. Louis Rams have rebuilt their defensive line through the past two drafts.

The St. Louis Rams were faced with a major decision heading into the 2008 NFL Draft. The team was desperate to add a pass-rushing force to their defensive line, but should they take defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey of LSU or Virginia defensive end Chris Long?

Either way, the Rams were going to wind up with a highly touted prospect, but they arguably made the decision that made the most sense by taking Long with the second overall pick.

One year before, St. Louis selected former Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker with the 13th overall pick in the 2007 draft. Enamored with his size, the team moved Carriker to defensive tackle so that he could help in run support.

Had the Rams chosen Dorsey, they might have been forced to move Carriker back to end, the position he played in college. Obviously some players are used to changing positions, but asking a second year player to learn an entirely new position in the NFL is tough. Thus the selection of Long made sense because Carriker could stay inside and play a position he’s been learning for over a year.

Teamed with explosive edge rusher Leonard Little, Long now gives the Rams a viable pass rush. One of the reasons Long was high on many team’s draft boards was because of his high intensity and relentless style of play. Even as a rookie he should make an impact in pass-rushing situations and now opposing offenses have to be aware of both end positions on St. Louis’s d-line.

With Little and Long expected to give the Rams a fierce pass rush from the outside, Carriker and veteran La’Roi Glover can concentrate on stopping the run and keep linemen off of Will Witherspoon, a versatile linebacker that can play sideline to sideline. And even though he’s lost a step, end James Hall is a decent backup in pass-rushing situations.

There’s no doubt the Rams’ success depends on Steven Jackson’s contract situation and the health of Marc Bulger, but the team has dramatically upgraded their defensive line in the past two drafts. And now that he has help, Little should be even more effective assuming age and injuries don’t wear him down.

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