The Rams’ defense carried this young team throughout the 2012 season, keeping them in each and every game with the exception of that unfortunate trip across the pond. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, of course, had their way with the NFL neophytes from the Show-Me State. Down the stretch, however, rookies and veterans alike grew more comfortable in the scheme and formed a truly stout unit.

In 2013, Tim Walton is tasked with pushing the limits of what the aforementioned side of the football can do for an encore. Plucked off the Detroit Lions’ staff by Jeff Fisher and universally regarded as a bright, young football mind, Walton now assumes full responsibility of an ascending defense. Disgraced would-be coordinator Gregg Williams, currently a consultant with the Tennessee Titans, and son Blake are but increasingly distant memories in St. Louis.

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Walton has only served as an assistant at the professional level, but he was a D-coordinator in college. Sources at both Memphis and LSU, where Walton worked, confirm that he is a tireless worker who gets total respect from staff members and players. Though young, he is a good communicator when teaching X’s and O’s, is strategically ahead of the game and shows innovation in his approach every day he is on the job. At the same time, Walton was hired to fit into the present staff and not make drastic changes to a Fisher defense that mirrors what Walton helped build in the Motor City.

“We’re keeping a mixed bag of stuff,” Walton said on Tuesday. “Some of the stuff we kept the same and then we have some things we’re tweaking a little bit. Offenses are ever-evolving, so you have to do the same thing on defense. A lot of stuff will be a lot of carryover, and you’ll just tweak some things here or there to fit some of the personnel we’ve got and then some of the teams that we’ll play.”

The Rams’ D finished the 2012 season ranked 14th, allowing 348 points and 5,482 yards. They tied the Denver Broncos for the league lead in sacks with 52, an area that promises to receive much attention again.

“That’ll be big and we expect the same type of results,” Walton said about the Rams’ front seven. “We’re going to try to do the same thing. That’s the strength of our defense. Those guys up front, who have depth up there, and we’re going to try to do things to complement them because, obviously, offenses are going to try to not let them repeat that. We’re going to keep it going. Obviously, those guys play hard. They chase the ball. That’s the thing we do. They play with great effort. We have 11 guys that chase the ball around here, so they’ll help add to making that job easier for those guys to try to get to the quarterback.”

Quietly, the Rams are preparing defensively even more for the versatility of Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, not to mention pocket passer and division newcomer Carson Palmer. Squeezing and applying pressure on the quarterback drop zone will again be the key to success. Of course, when you go 4-1-1 in the division, the rest of the NFC West is also working on a package to defeat you.