49ers, Seahawks tough on Rams' Williams

New coordinator Gregg Williams inherits a St. Louis Rams defense that ranked seventh in sacks per pass attempt this season.

That ranking seems high for a team that finished with a 2-14 record.

But with Chris Long and Robert Quinn, the Rams do have two young defensive ends with strong pass-rush potential. Long had a career-high 13 sacks during the 2011 season. Quinn, a rookie, had five sacks while playing about half the defensive snaps.

Smith/Hasselbeck vs. N.O. Pass Rushers

Williams was known for sending added pressure more frequently than any other coordinator during his three seasons with New Orleans. The Saints ranked only 28th in sacks per pass attempt in 2011. Unlike the Rams, New Orleans relied heavily upon five or more rushers to generate pressure.

The chart, provided by John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information, shows what can happen when a team relies heavily on added pressure.

The Saints exited the last two postseasons after Matt Hasselbeck, then with Seattle, and more recently Alex Smith combined for seven touchdowns and one interception against them. New Orleans got sacks and limited completion percentage only when sending five-plus rushers, but Hasselbeck and Smith still made big plays, including four completions of 30-plus yards.

On the surface, we might expect better results for Williams in St. Louis because the Rams have good pass-rush potential at defensive end. The Saints spread their 33 sacks across 15 players. The Rams had 39 sacks by 11 players. That suggests the Rams have higher-quality rushers. It might also reflect Williams' preference for sending lots of players from lots of angles.

But the pass-rush potential in St. Louis still appears stronger. In 2011, the Rams collected sacks at 2.3 times the rate New Orleans did when sending four or fewer rushers and 1.4 times the rate when sending five or more.

The teams ranking ahead of St. Louis in sacks per pass attempt -- Philadelphia, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston and the New York Giants -- posted mixed results overall.