Last January, St. Louis thought it had a new defensive coordinator.
Rob Ryan “committed” to the Rams and had everybody thinking his next job would be under the Arch in St. Louis. He attended a Blues game, was given a key to the Rams facility in Earth City and was present during an offseason staff meeting, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Suddenly, Ryan had a change of heart. Rather than joining a staff responsible for the NFL’s youngest roster, Ryan bolted for New Orleans.
“He made a commitment to us, but he didn’t sign a contract or anything,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “But he made a commitment to us.”
Ryan’s vow was nothing more than word of mouth.
With the Saints, Ryan has resurrected the league’s worst defense from a year ago into one of the most rugged units this season.
In 2012, the Saints defense ranked last in total yards allowed per game, rushing yards allowed, was 31st in points allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game, and were in the bottom tier with just 30 sacks.
This season, the Saints (10-3) rank in the top echelon of virtually every defensive category.
“He has done a great job,” Fisher said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “He is an outstanding coach. He has them playing well, and he has the pieces now. There are no holes in the defense. Everyone is playing well together.”
If such a hole existed, statistic point to the Saints run defense, which ranks 17th in the league, allowing over 114 yards per contest.
However, statistics are often misleading. On Nov. 10 against Dallas, the Saints held the Cowboys to just 89 yards rushing. A week later, they held San Francisco to just 81 yards on the ground.
Lacking physicality and edge a year ago, the Saints no longer need a boost in that department. They flock to the ball and wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks.
Defensive end Jordan Cameron heads the Saints defense with 11.5 sacks on the year, second in the NFC behind the Rams’ Robert Quinn.
On the other hand, the Rams have regressed from a year ago. They rank 19th in yards allowed per game, 23rd in pass defense and 14th in run defense this season.
To say the Saints will be an easy matchup come Sunday afternoon would be a drastic understatement.
“They’re talented everywhere,” quarterback Kellen Clemens said, according to the Post-Dispatch. “They get after the quarterback. Rob does a nice job of mixing coverages and pressures, and he does a really good job of making them look the same.
“So, sometimes it looks like they’re pressuring and they bail into coverage. Or it looks like they’re going to cover and they bring a lot of pressure. … They’re talented across the board. It’s going to be a great matchup for us.”