Rams: Add to a strength with Fairley
Considering the production the Rams enjoyed from defensive tackle Aaron Donald in his rookie season, as well as the pass rushing threat posed by defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive line might not have seemed an immediate concern in St. Louis. However DT Michael Brockers, a former first round selection, hasn’t developed beyond average after three seasons in the league, and depth in the middle was a worry after the departure of Kendall Langford. The addition of Nick Fairley addresses any such concerns and could help give the Rams one of the most imposing defensive lines in the league.
Fairley has been frustratingly inconsistent for much of his young career, however, when at his best he can take over a game. After three seasons in the league Fairley had a cumulative +3.2 grade in run defense and +29.1 grade as a pass rusher, good marks that could have been so much better had Fairley not also had 10 games of -1.0 or worse in that same period.
Through the first eight weeks of the 2014 season (prior to suffering a season-ending injury), Fairley had begun to complement his impressive pass rushing skills with an improved stoutness against the run. At the time of his injury Fairley had a +5.7 run defense grade; he also had 22 total pressures, tied for fourth-most among tackles, and was third-best with a 10.0 Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP) score. Fairley’s career-low PRP score (6.4) came back in 2010, his rookie season. That compares favorably to Michael Brockers career-high PRP of 4.7.Michael Brockers should feature in the rotation on early downs, before giving way so that Donald and Fairley can be unleashed from the inside to wreak havoc on passing downs.