The Rams have names but lack true playmakers and difference-makers on the back end of the secondary. Craig Dahl has youth and is extremely competitive, football smart and brings production on defense and special teams. While I like James Butler’s football instincts to put him in position, age has depleted his speed and his injury history the last few years has taken a toll.
The departure of Oshiomogho Atogwe to the Washington Redskins leaves a hole as a front-line starter and knocks the depth down a notch. Second-year player Darian Stewart is more of a box safety. He will have to show he can cover with range despite downhill skills with collision tackling ability in place and will develop into a core special teams player.
Safety Nick Collins earned a Super Bowl ring, and Green Bay has taken him off the market. He will return to the Packers. The following safeties would fit the Steve Spagnuolo defense because they are smart, competitive and tough, too. They all play the game with a passion both as tacklers and cover men.
Eric Weddle, S, Chargers. Age: 26 (four accrued seasons)
This jack of all trades has developed into a master of opportunistic production. Football instincts put him into position to make plays. While coverage skills are adequate and he is not a thumper safety, you can’t argue with his overall production.
Dawan Landry, SS, Ravens. Age: 28 (five accrued seasons)
Has an excellent combination of size and speed. A downhill safety with collision tackling skills in both open and tight space. While coverage skills need improvement, he brings aggression to a secondary that lacks thumpers.
Gerald Sensabaugh, SS, Cowboys. Age 28 (six accrued seasons)
I liked this player’s athletic skills and ability to cover since he was a collegiate player at North Carolina. He tracks balls in flight and has strong tackling skills in space. This player will upgrade the starting position and help as a core player on special teams.
Danieal Manning, SS, Bears. Age 29 (five accrued seasons)
This versatile player that aligns at strong safety not only is productive as a defender, he contributes on special teams as a kickoff man with production. He is the kind of returner the Rams are looking for, who looks to hit the crease on returns.
Quintin Mikell, SS, Eagles. Age 30 (eight accrued seasons)
A safety that has lost a step despite Pro-Bowl accolades. Might be the most complete safety on my board. He excels both in run support and pass coverage. Good tackler in both open and tight space with collision tackling skills and production. His football instincts put him in position with good coverage skills and he still has range to help corners on edge. His age knocks him down a notch.
Dashon Goldson, FS, 49ers. Age 26 (four accrued seasons)/p>
This former Washington Husky has played in the back end of the 49ers’ defense as a starter since he was a rookie. A true free safety with range, coverage skills and a good tackler in space and on the blitz.
While the Rams still have holes to fill on both sides of the ball, replacing Atogwe won’t be an easy chore. The Rams will need to add a playmaker and leader in the secondary for the 2011 season.