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Thursday, June 9, 2011
Raising concerns over Rams' run defense

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Joe from Phoenix raises concerns about the St. Louis Rams' run defense. He sees other NFC West teams beefing up their ground games while the Rams appear largely unchanged on defense when it comes to stopping the run.

Mike Sando: The free-agent signing period was huge for the Rams in this department last offseason. It could be again. Defensive tackle Fred Robbins' addition from the New York Giants in free agency stands as one of the best moves in the division last offseason. The Rams could have a shot at another Giants lineman if Barry Cofield hits the market.

Cofield has missed only one game in five NFL seasons. He realizes his future with the Giants could be in question after the team used a second-round draft choice for Marvin Austin. Cofield wants a long-term deal. He is 27 years old and would presumably work well with Robbins and fit well within the Rams' defensive scheme. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was the Giants' defensive coordinator for the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Cofield, who entered the NFL in 2006, started 30 games during that two-year span.

The question would be whether the Rams would value Cofield enough to give him what the Giants might not be willing to give him. The Rams' need for a defensive tackle is greater than the Giants' need for one, so that could come into play.

The Scouts Inc. report on Cofield says he "plays with good leverage in the run game" but isn't a dynamic player with any one outstanding attribute.

The Rams could have gone after a defensive tackle in the first round of the draft, but pass-rush help is harder to find. It's tough to fault the team for selecting Robert Quinn in the first round based on the scouting reports.

Shoring up the run defense has to be a priority this offseason.

The Rams allowed 4.48 yards per rushing attempt last season, 22nd in the NFL. They ranked 17th in rushing yards allowed per game. Darren McFadden (145), Michael Turner (131) and Jamaal Charles (126) topped 100 yards rushing against the Rams last season. The Rams allowed 133.6 yards rushing per game in September, 76.2 in October, 118.3 in November and 134.6 after that point.

St. Louis faces Ahmad Bradshaw, Brandon Jacobs, Ray Rice, Peyton Hillis, Rashard Mendenhall and Cedric Benson outside the division in 2011, plus two NFC West dates with Frank Gore. The Cardinals and Seahawks have also taken steps to improve their ground games. It is Seattle's No. 1 priority this offseason.

The chart ranks rushing totals for the Rams' 2010 opponents in descending order.