ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams believe they have the personnel to be a top-10 defense.
The man to lead them to that goal is defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Williams said Friday after practice he is anxious to see his players on the field.
"Coaches don't like talking about potential. Coaches like talking about performance and production," said Williams, who has reunited with coach Jeff Fisher for a second stint as his defensive coordinator.
"These guys have done very well in all of their stops on the road in their careers. The fact that this is a young football team ... I think it's very moldable.
"Now we need to make sure that we're getting a chance to play and stay healthy and play our way. This is going to be a good test for us."
The Rams will open their season by hosting the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
The game represents a comeback of sorts for the 55-year-old Williams.
Williams was suspended indefinitely by commissioner Roger Goodell in March 2012 as part of the New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate" scandal after the 2011 season.
After sitting out a year, the former defensive coordinator and head coach of the Buffalo Bills was reinstated and returned to the league in 2013 as a senior assistant on the Tennessee Titans' staff. The Titans are Fisher's former team.
His impact was felt as Tennessee's defense jumped from 27th in the league with yards per game allowed to 14th.
Williams is coming into a team that was 15th in the league in total defense and ranked third in sacks in 2013.
His track record as a defensive coordinator or head coach in 15 seasons is impressive.
Williams helped win a Super Bowl with the Saints. Williams has presided over five top-five defenses during his career.
Tennessee was No. 1 in 2000. Buffalo was No. 3 in 2001 and No. 2 in 2004. Washington was No. 3 in 2005 and New Orleans was No. 4 in 2010.
Fisher is hoping to see the Rams defense develop like that under Williams in St. Louis.
"We have the ability to do from week to week whatever we want to do," Fisher said. "The guys have a really good feel for situations. Gregg brings a lot of energy. He's very well prepared. He's been in every situation."
St. Louis' defense has some top talent. All-Pro defensive end Robert Quinn had a NFC-high 19 sacks last season.
Quinn likes what he's seen from Williams.
"He's challenging everybody on the defense. He wants us to excel and to be dominant," Quinn said. "He wants us to understand all the ins and outs of the playbook. He wants us to know the offense so well that we can predict what they're going to do. That's the kind of coach he is.
"He wants you to be so far ahead of the opponent. It makes the game a lot easier."
Williams' trademark is his constant chatter. Players are getting familiar with his high-decibel leadership.
Outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar played for Williams at New Orleans. While noting Williams is subdued compared to his time with the Saints, Dunbar said he had made his presence known.
"He wasn't so calm in New Orleans but these guys, it's their first time having to deal with him," Dunbar said. "It's kind of a shock to them. I've dealt with him before. He's vocal, but he's not as wild as he used to be."
Williams' chirping took some getting used to, second-year linebacker Alec Ogletree said.
"Every day on the field and in the locker room and in the meeting room, every time you see him you definitely know he's there," Ogletree said. "He says a lot of stuff. One day he kept going 'beep-beep' and nobody knows what he was talking about."
Overall, the Rams defense is young. It's the type of group Williams has worked with in the past and succeeded.
His goal is to do it again.
"Young is no excuse any more. It's about producing," Williams said. "It's about doing things the way we want done."
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