By John Turney
The Second-teamers were not honored at all, other than Jake Long in 2013 as an honorable mention All-Pro. Gandy was a solid player and in 1996 he had the fewest sacks (5.5) and holding penalties (1) of his Ram career. Joe Barksdale's 2013 season is an honorable mention.
Ernie Conwell was a Second-team All-Pro in 2001 and yes, we had to go with Jared Cook as the Second-team pick. His numbers were the best of any St. Louis-era Ram tight end (51-671-13.2-5). For the blocking backs we went with James Hodgins, 2000, and Madison Hedgecock, 2006. Hodgins blocked for Faulk's MVP season of 2000 and Hedgecock led Rams in special teams tackles and was the lead blocker for Steven Jackson's best season.
Speaking of which Faulk's 2000 (253-1359-5.4-18 and 81-830-10.2-8) and Jackson's 2006 (346-1528-4.4-13 and 90-806-9.0-3) are the top picks running back and the backups are Todd Gurley, 2015, and Zac Stacy, 2013. Faulk was a consensus MVP and Jackson, on a better team, might have been a league MVP. Gurley had a top rookie season in 2015.
Amp Lee, 1997 ( 61 catches for 825 yards), is the First-team third-down back and Benny Cunningham, 2014 (45 receptions), is next in line at that position.
Kurt Warner, 1999 (MVP, 41 TD passes), and Marc Bulger, 2006 (Pro Bowl, 92.9 passer rating).
The third receiver (slot) position is very deep. We chose Az-Zahir Hakim, 1999 as the First-teamer and Danny Amendola, 2010, as the Second-team selection Honorable mentions are Ricky Proehl, 2001, Kevin Curtis, 2006, Todd Kinchen, 1995. We could have even chosen fourth receivers in
Shaun McDonald, 2004, and/or Dane Looker in 2003.
The starting receivers are also easy: Isaac Bruce, 1995, and Torry Holt, 2003, are the top two. Following them are Eddie Kennison, 1996, and Kevin Curtis, 2005. Curtis, due to injuries had to fill in as a starter.
Jeff "Money" Wilkins, 2003, and Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein, 2013, are the First- and Second-team kickers respectively. Johnny Hekker, 2013, is the top punting season and next is Donnie Jones, 2009.
The punt returners were close but in the end we went with Eddie Kennison, 1996 over Az-Zahir Hakim, 2000, for the First-team. The honorable mention is Tavon Austin, 2014
Tony Horne, 1999 is a clear #1 for kickoff return seasons and he's backed up by Benny Cunningham, 2015. Horne was All-Pro as a kick returner in 1999 and average 29.7 yard per return and two of his returns went for touchdowns.
Special teams players were plentiful. We settled on Chris Chamberlain, 2010 for the First-team and Antonio Goss, 1996, for the Second-team. Goss blocked two punts that season, the most since Nolan Cromwell blocked three in 1987. Goss also forced a key fumble on special teams.
Honorable mentions are Fletcher, 1998, who had 30 tackles. Keith Crawford, 1996, (15 tackles and a forced fumble). Cedrick Figaro, 1995 (24 tackles, 1 ff, 2 fr), Billy Jenkins, 1997 (23 tackles),
Chris Thomas, 2000 (18 tackles and credited with 95 blocks) and Madison Hedgecock, 2005 (19 tackles which led team)
The starting secondary is composed of corners Aeneas Williams, 2001 (All-Pro, 72 tackles, 18 PDs, 4 picks, 2 pick 6s, 4 FF), Todd Lyght, 1999 (All-Pro 66 tackles, 13 PDs, 6 INTs, one for a TD), and safeties Toby Wright, 1995 (115 tackles, 5 stuffs, a sack, 12 passes defensed, 6 INTs and a scoop and score), and Keith Lyle, 1997 (84 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 9 picks and 3 FF).
Our Second-team unit is Jackrabbit Jenkins, 2012 (73 tackles and 4 defensive touchdowns—a Rams season record), Trumaine Johnson, 2015 (71 tackles, 17 PDs, 7 picks), at corner and Adam Archuleta, 2003 (79 tackles 4.5 stuffs, 5 sacks, 7 passes defensed, one INT and a scoop and score, and O.J. Atogwe, 2008 (83 tackles, 5 PD, 5 INT, 6 FF and a FR for a TD), at safety. O.J. Atogwe's 2007 season drew strong consideration (75 tackles and 8 picks) but the combination of 5 picks and 6 forced fumbles (actually Rams coaches credit him with 8 and film review shows they are correct) was more impressive.
Some honorable mentions are Ryan McNeil 1997 (71 tackles, 20 passes defensed, 9 INTs and one pick-six), Travis Fisher, 2003 (61 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 4 INTs, two for TDs), Anthony Parker, 1996 (60 tackles, 13 PDs, 4 INTs, 2 returned for scores), and Dexter McCleon, 2000 (54 tackles, 19 PDs and 9 picks).
Our First-team nickel back is Dre Bly, 2001 (six INTs, two returned for touchdowns). The Second-team pick is Corey Ivy, 2005 (69 tackles, 6.0 stuffs, 2.0 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 1 pick and 1 forced fumble). Bly was extremely effective for the Rams from 1999-01. Ivy was always making plays, a stuff, a sack, a key tackle. He didn't get much notice at the time but he was very good in his role. It seems though, the Ravens noticed as he filled that role for then for the next few years.
Our two honorable mentions are Lamarcus Joyner, 2015 (72 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 stuffs), and Ronald Bartell, 2006 (25 tackles, 3 stuffs, 6 passes defensed, 3 picks, one returned for a TD).
London Fletcher, 2000 is the number one season at MLB and James Laurinaitis, 2011, is his backup. Fletcher's 2001 season was right up there with 2000 but given that the defense was so poor in 2000 and Fletcher played so well, it seems he did more with less in 2000 and that season gets the nod. In 2000 Fletcher had 133 tackles, 9.5 stuffs, 5.5 sacks, 8 passes defensed, and 4 INTs. And no, Fletcher didn't get a Pro Bowl invite. Back then, he never did. James Laurinaitis, in 2011, had 142 tackles, 9.0 stuffs, 3.0 sacks, 7 passes defensed and 2 INTs.
Roman Phifer, 1995, is the WILL and Mike Jones, 1999, is the SAM. They are backed by Mark Barron, 2015 (WILL), Alec Ogletree, 2013 (SAM).
Phifer had a Pro Bowl-type season in 1995 but didn't get the votes to make the team. He made 125 tackles, 3 sacks, 10 stuffs, 13 passes defensed, 3 INTs, and a forced fumble. His backup on our team, as a WILL, is Mark Barron and he had 113 tackles 18.5 stuffs, 1 sack, 4 forced fumbles, 5 passes defensed and one INT.
Mike Jones not only had "The Tackle" in Super Bowl XXXIV he also had a great 1999 season. He had 67 tackles on a top defense, but also had 11 passes defensed, 4 INTs, 2 returned for touchdowns, forced two fumbles, recovered two and returned one of those for a touchdown. He was a rare SAM who played every down and was an impact player on the 1999 Championship Rams.
Ogletree was perhaps in the odd position of SAM (strong-side linebacker) when his skills seemed to be suited for WILL (weak-side linebacker). However, Jo-Lonn Dunbar was at WILL so Ogletree had to play on the strong side. In 2013 he had 118 tackles with 11 of them stuffs, had 1.5 sacks, 9 passes defensed, picked off a pass that he returned for a touchdown and he also forced six fumbles.
Tommy Polley, 2003. Dunbar was all over the field in 2012 totaling 112 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 12 stuffs, 4 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and 2 picks.
Polley was a pass coverage specialist and in 2003 had 68 (6.5 were stuffs), 12 passes defensed and four INTs. Tinoisamoa, who had other fine years, totaled 76 tackles, 7.0 stuffs, 2.0 sacks, 7 passes defenses, 3 INTs and 4 forced fumbles in 2003.
As our designated pass rusher position First-team is Leonard Little, 2001, and the Second-team spot goes to William Hayes, 2012. The honorable mentions are Tyoka Jackson, 2003, James Hall, 2008, and Robert Quinn, 2011.
Little had 33 tackles and 14.5 sacks in 2001 and forced a pair of fumbles. Hayes had 35 tackles 7 sacks and 7 stuffs usually playing as a left defensive tackle in sub defenses (nickel and dime). Jackson had 24 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 pick, and 2 forced fumbles and got a special mention from Sports Illustrated as a nickel rusher. James Hall had 44 tackles and 6.5 sacks playing inside and outside in sub defenses.
The First-team shade or nose tackle is Ryan "Grease" Pickett, 2005, and the close Second-teamer is Michael Brockers, 2015. The honorable mentions are Jimmie Jones, 1996, Ray Agnew, 1998, and Jeff Zgonina, 2001.
Pickett had a fine career, never any honors and the Rams made a mistake letting him go and trying to use Jimmy Kennedy as a nose tackle. In 2005 Pickett made 65 tackles and 2 sacks but the key was his 12 run stuffs the most of any Ram defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald. Michael Brockers didn't technically move to shade tackle until 2014 but in 2012-2013 he often was over the center when the Rams over-shifted the line when the tight end was on the offense's right. However, we went with 2015 for Brockers when he was the nose tackle and had 44 tackles, 6 stuffs and 3 sacks. But his 2012 and 2013 would certainly fit our criteria here.
Jimmie Jones's 1996 season was composed of 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 4 stuffs, Ray Agnew's 1998 season line was 64 tackles, 5 sacks and 6 stuffs. In 2001 Jeff Zgonina had 38 tackles and no sacks (he was removed on passing downs) but did have 7 stuffs.
At three-technique the top spot goes to Aaron Donald, 2015 chosen by a hair over D'Marco Farr, 1995. Donald's 2015 was an All-Pro season and he totaled 69 tackles, 11 sacks, and 13.5 stuffs. Farr's 1995 season got him chosen to the Dallas Morning News All-Pro team with his 50 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 11.5 stuffs, and 5 forced fumbles.
At defensive end, the top two slots go to All-Pros Robert Quinn, 2013, and Kevin Carter, 1999. The Second-team slots go to Leonard Little, 2003, and Chris Long, 2011.
Robert Quinn was the Pro Football Writers of America Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and his stats were as follows: 57 tackles, 10.5 stuffs, 19.0 sacks, 7 forced fumbles, and one defensive score. Kevin Carter was the Dallas Morning News Defensive Player of the Year as he led the NFL in sacks with 17 and totaled 34 tackles and four forced fumbles.
In 2003 Leonard Little was All-Pro even though he missed four games. He had 12.5 sacks, 47 tackles and six forced fumbles. Chris Long's 2011 season was his best even though he tweaked his ankle late in the year. He was voted the NFL Alumni Defensive Lineman of the Year and was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl and according to a couple organizations had a pile of hurries. Long had 37 tackles and 13 sacks on the year.