The Rams’ defense is loaded with superstar talent, but, like most good units, they have a stable of versatile role players, as well.
Among them is Mark Barron.
You might recall the name. He was drafted No. 7 overall by the Buccaneers in 2012, a product of Alabama that was supposed to be an impact safety at the next level. He was a playmaker for the Crimson Tide, and when he came out scouts and pundits saw few flaws in his game.
Apparently, there were.
Barron spent three seasons in Tampa Bay, playing more like an undrafted free agent than a top-1o selection. He was regularly beaten in coverage, seemingly always out of position. Despite his track record, he rarely forced a turnover — just four across 37 games.
The Bucs finally gave up on Barron last October, trading him to the Rams for fourth- and sixth-round picks. He immediately carved out a role in St. Louis under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who used the 6-foot-2, 213-pound Barron as a hybrid safety/linebacker. He finished 2014 with 23 tackles, three sacks and one pass defensed.
This season, Barron has continued to settle in. His multifaceted skill-set complements the Rams’ dominant defense, and is drawing compliments from his coordinator.
“Wow. Not only can he play the safety position, he can play the linebacker position,” Williams told reporters on Friday, via TurfShowTimes.com. “You’ll see, we call it a fancy term, but he basically plays like a linebacker because he has the size and the strength and the burst to do that too. And then he does a lot of the things that a nickel and a safety does. But, I thought he played very, very well and I’m challenged each and every week to make sure I give him enough reps. As you’ll see, he’ll play quite a bit this week too.”
The well-traveled Williams, who’s made his bones for the last three decades, has coached talent from all walks of life. But, he says, Barron reminds him of one particular player: the late Sean Taylor.
“I’ll tell you what and I don’t want to throw this name out because we’re heading up there right now, but there’s some similarities on what he can do that Sean Taylor could do,” Williams said. “Sean did some other things in the back end that Mark is not as strong on. But, around the line of scrimmage, there’s some similarities of some of the things I used to do with Sean down and around the line of scrimmage. I know that that’s somebody that he has looked at too and there’s kind of a smile on my face when he and I talk about Sean Taylor.”
That’s quite the comparison, one likely nobody has ever vocalized until now. Let’s be clear: Barron probably never will become the game-changer that Taylor was. They don’t come around too often. But Barron is certainly in good hands in the Gateway City, with full support from his coaches who have put him in the best position to succeed.
He couldn’t say the same a few years ago.
(Photo credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)