After tallying 105 sacks over the last two seasons, the St. Louis Rams' defense is garnering a lot of attention nationally.
Nicknames like "Sack City" have popped up on the Internet in describing the Rams, but defensive end Chris Long cautions that kind of preseason notoriety is simply hype.
"You can have fun with a nickname, but we really have to earn stuff like that," Long said. "We have to play it out on the field. We're confident that we can play it out on the field and be one of those well-known units, but we have to do it year-in and year-out."
The Rams tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks in 2012. They had 53 sacks last season, which ranked third in the league.
"We can get a lot better than last year," Long said. "We just have to keep grinding away at it."
Leading the Rams' sack attack is Robert Quinn, whose 19 sacks last season ranked second in the NFL behind Robert Mathis' 19.5 sacks for the Indianapolis Colts.
"A super hero deserves a bobblehead," Long said of Quinn having a bobblehead in his likeness being given out before the team's Oct. 19 home game against the Seattle Seahawks. "Robert Quinn has a size 9 hat, like those 'New Era' hats, so I'd like to see that bobblehead. He's like a human bobblehead."
They Rams also have Long, who had 8.5 sacks last season, Michael Brockers, who had 5.5 sacks last season, and William Hayes and Kendall Langford, who each had five sacks season, back on their defensive line.
The Rams signed defensive tackle Alex Carrington as a free agent from the Buffalo Bills this winter and drafted defensive tackle Aaron Donald put of the University of Pittsburgh in the first-round of the 2013 NFL draft in May.
Defensive end Michael Sam, a pass-rushing specialist out of the University of Missouri, also was added in the seventh round.
"And, just everybody who has been here is getting better every year," Long said of the Rams' young defensive line improving as matures. "We can be as good as we want to be. We just have to keep grinding away and not take enough for granted.
"There is a lot of talk out there about our unit, and we take pride in that. But at the same time, I tell the guys, 'Don't believe that hype. You have to go make it happen."'
Long said new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' attacking style fits well with the Rams' young pass rushers.
"He's getting the most out of everybody, and that's what we want," Long said. "And, we're a young team and we need it."
Though there is no actual sacking of the quarterback allowed, the Rams' starting defense has gotten consistent pressure against the Rams' starting offense during the first two days of training camp.
"I think our defense is going to be extremely good this year," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "They were really good for us last year. I think they're even more talented this year than they were last year.
"I think going against that group every day is going to make us as an offense better. There's nothing easy against those guys, especially up front. That front seven is really, really tough. I think it's a great challenge for us to come out and go against them every day."
Long, who is entering his seventh season, is the longest-tenured Ram on the roster.
He has never played in a playoff game, but he's hopeful that could change this season.
"Every year you think this could be the year for you personally, it could be the year for you as a team," Long said. "It could be the year for you to make a difference on this team to try to get us over the hump. Everyone has that attitude, I think.
"That's the excitement of it. Every team in the NFL has hopes and we are all undefeated right now, but quickly you have move from excitement to intense focus because everybody has the same amount of opportunities to practice and get better and we have to make the most of them."
The Rams dodged the heat bullet again Saturday as cloudy skies and a gentle breeze made temperatures in the upper 90s during practice bearable. "We're eventually going to get some weather," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "We need some heat because we're going down in Week 2 to Tampa Bay. We'll get it." ... Bradford practiced on back-to-back days for the first time since suffering his season-ending knee last October. His surgically repaired knee doesn't seem to be an issue. ... Sam, who has gotten a lot of media attention as the first openly gay player in the NFL, dominated in one-on-one pass-rushing drills against backup offensive linemen. He also pressured quarterback Shaun Hill on a pass that was intercepted by rookie defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. ... Stedman Bailey had a couple of impressive catches, including hauling in a deep pass from Brandon McGee in the back of the end zone.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.