THOUSAND OAKS — It’s not time to worry about the Rams’ defense. Give that another couple days.
Thus far, the scheme of new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has underwhelmed. The Rams rank 26th in the NFL in points allowed per game (25.0) and 22nd in yards allowed (343.7), and last week the Rams ended up in a shootout against a San Francisco team that previously hadn’t scored a touchdown.
The challenge doesn’t get easier this Sunday, as the Rams travel to face a balanced Dallas offense that includes quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Jason Witten.
“We look at it as a big challenge,” Phillips said after Thursday’s practice at Cal Lutheran. “I think we’ll see a lot about our team this week, as far as where we are, to match up against that premier offense.”
The Rams clearly are having some issues. After their dominating season-opening game against an Indianapolis team that lacked its quarterback and center, the Rams allowed 27 points and 385 yards in a loss to Washington, then 39 points and 421 yards in a way-too-close victory over the 49ers.
Run defense remains an issue, cornerbacks have been beat on big plays and, last week, the 49ers converted on nine of their 18 third-down attempts.
On the other hand, Phillips pointed out that special-teams miscues sent the Rams’ defense onto the field in unusual circumstances multiple times, and Phillips said the unit would get a boost from the expected return of starting cornerback Kayvon Webster, who missed two games with a shoulder injury.
Phillips also hinted that the Rams might move Michael Brockers, who has been one of the most productive players up front, away from nose tackle and to a defensive tackle role.
“A premier challenge,” Phillips said of Dallas. “When you’re playing a really good offensive team, that’s when you have to step up and be a good defensive team. I think we’ll get better in some of the areas we need to, but we’ll find out. That’s why we play the games, to see what happens. But I like our group.”
Phillips’ recent history shows that early-season struggles, when he takes over and transitions a team from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 front, are not uncommon.
In 2011, Phillips took over an awful Houston defense. In the third game of that season, the Texans allowed 40 points and 454 yards in a loss to New Orleans. Houston finished that season ranked fourth in points allowed (17.4 per game) and second in yards (285.7).