Don't rush: Rams d-line is second to none - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Don't rush: Rams d-line is second to none

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by Jason Salas

Guam - Good things often happen in fours. You've probably heard about The Beatles. Millions flock each year to stare at Mount Rushmore in utter amazement. The Gang of Four was a powerful Chinese political faction in the mid-1960's. Notre Dame affectionately had the Four Horsemen. Metallica - a Fab Four in their own right - even wrote a song about them (the Biblical ones, not the Fighting Irish). And so on.

In the microcosm of the sports universe that is the Miller Football League, we've got a similar quad that demands ultimate attention and respect. If not, the Cars Plus Rams starting defensive line doesn't care - they're taking your will whether you like it or not.

And fewer dominating statements can be made.

As we plunge deeper into the 2011 MFL season and inch towards the playoffs, numerous subplots have begun to escalate. Teams are playing with razor sharp precision. Injuries begin to matter more. Statistics are piling up. Pride, for better or worse, is a major motivational factor for many who suit up each weekend.

As I write this on the morning of the Rams' biggest game of the season - the rematch against their most-hated rivals, the Shell Hal's Angels - the Cars Plus d-line as a unit has allowed a measly 42 yards rushing per game. (Not per tailback, mind you - in the aggregate.) That's completely insane. And, that's against top-notch talent with impressive speed, of considerable strength and following monstrous linemen. The Rams simply remove the opposition's running game from the equation. 42 yards.

(Comparatively, I walk approximately 67 yards from KUAM's broadcast booth at the UOG Field to the Big Dogs stand for a footlong and a bottle of water at halftime.)

Simply stated (and with apologies to Shawne Merriman), the Ram 4-3 scheme is truly lights-out. Multisport star "Baby Joe" Taimanglo, despite being a diminutive 5'4", currently leads the league in sacks with 6 as the starting left defensive end. Drawing from the year-round training he undertakes for his mixed martial arts career, he blows by opposing tackles and whips right into quarterbacks. Former Guam High School two-way star Ashton Adams is having a stellar season as a run-stopper, with all of his tackles being solo jobs. Roque Martinez, the heavyweight champion for Pacific eXtreme Combat, is deceptively quick in the interior, eliminating any holes runners might want to exploit and blowing anyone up who dares to try. And bookending the quartet, right defensive end Leonard Kaae functions as a human danger sign, alerting would-be rushers "Enter here at your own risk".

No tailback's even come close to approaching 100 yards against the Rams all season. The biggest rushing play they've given up went for 19 yards, and that's when a tight end lined up as a fullback for added oomph (hint hint, opposing coaches). And it's not been uncommon to see so much penetration from the Rams frontline that three or even all four defensive linemen wind up meeting in the backfield in a mountain of humanity, with some poor soul from the other team mercilessly at the base.

In the big picture, the strength of their line naturally creates opportunities throughout the Rams' defense, with the other Cars Plus defenders being the beneficiaries of their frontline's absolute dominance. The linebacking corps led by Chris Sgro and Frank Arriola can freely roam, drop back into zone coverage or join the party up front and blitz the gaps created so liberally by Messrs. Martinez and Adams. Free safety Chris "Dancing Machine" Santos is having his best year, leading the MFL with an eye-popping 7 interceptions in three games, many off passes thrown in haste by QBs under intense pressure.

Even the Ram cornerbacks, which defensive coordinator Joey Calvo said were the team's largest concern coming into the season, are capitalizing, being able to play their assignments tougher at the line or baiting them into taking midrange routes, knowing that waiting in the wings is Santos coming over the top.

So while their accomplishments at midseason have been second to none, it'll be interesting to see if such a pace can be maintained as the season goes longer. The d-line is the league's successful because they've played together. The quartet has been just that - inseparably tight-knit, always talking, always focused. The group's been blessed with athleticism, health, and a little bit of luck.

But the big story of today's game is that it pits the strength of the Rams against the sheer size and determination of the intimidating frontline of the Angels. And having lost the season opener in triple-overtime, Shell has a definite chip on its shoulder and looks to disprove the theory about the Rams defensive front being the best there is.

In just a few hours, we may have a new Fab Four (or Five) to gush about at the final whistle. Game on.

 

Jason Salas writes his weekly column "MFL Rocks" each Sunday morning after uncurling from the fetal position, recalling the hit that a safety put on him in 9th grade that ended his dreams of being the next Jerry Rice and led to volleyball tryouts. Just don't get him started on the BCS.

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