- Nick Wagoner, ESPN Staff Writer
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As new St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams stepped to the dais to meet the media for the first time Thursday afternoon, he quickly joked that the rest of the defensive staff was pleased to get a respite from him while he answered a few questions.
"I know this week as we’ve started meeting as a staff, that they’re probably great and they’re enjoying the fact there’s a little bit of a break in the staff meetings downstairs and I’m here with you instead of with them because we have a lot of work to do," Williams said. "We started early this week and we’ll be working hard and doing that knowing that you all want a winner.”
Soon after a relatively brief news conference, Williams went back to work evaluating the current Rams defensive talent, meeting with his staff and getting the ball rolling for the 2014 season. Between now and the start of the season, that's going to be Williams' primary function, according to coach Jeff Fisher.
Even before the Rams officially hired Williams as defensive coordinator, many began wondering what his addition would mean to the Rams in terms of player evaluations and needs in the NFL draft and free agency.
By all indications, Williams isn't going to spend the next few months poring over tape of college prospects or traveling all over the country to pro days. Instead, Williams will spend his time in a sort of football laboratory, cooking up coverages, blitzes and more in an effort to help the Rams defense take the next step in its development.
"I told Gregg that this time around he’s going to be the mad scientist," Fisher said. "So he’s not going to do a lot of player evaluations. I’m not going to take his time up in evaluating unrestricted free agents and getting ready for the draft. I want him to take this defense and run with it and let us handle that part."
Fisher brought Williams back with the sole intention of helping the Rams move from a top 15 defense to a top 10 or better group. For most of his coaching career, Williams has had a reputation for aggressive, ball hawking defenses which feature aggressive press coverage and exotic blitz packages. Part of his job during this time will be figuring out how those principles mesh with what the Rams already have in place.
For example, the Rams finished third in the NFL in sacks in 2013 and seem to have a knack for generating pressure with just the front four. That would seem to alleviate the need to come with extra pass-rushers as much as Williams might be used to. That could allow him to concoct some different and unique ideas for third-down situations.
That isn't to say Williams is going to abandon what he believes in. Fisher wanted him all along for a reason, because they have similar beliefs on how to attack opposing offenses.
After Williams and Fisher were done speaking Thursday, Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis discussed what Williams' addition means for the defense. He's well aware that Fisher envisions Williams as one of the final pieces toward making the Rams a top 5 or so defense. He understands the expectations.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," Laurinaitis said. "You want to have that expectation way up there, and he has it and we have it. Quite frankly, there's no excuses for this defense not to be there. That comes from myself, from all the guys, talking to them. We're fired up, and I think it's just really an understanding that we have to elevate our game. There's absolutely no excuses. We should be a top 5 defense."
What Dr. Williams cooks up in the lab over the next six-plus months will go a long way in helping them get there.