The linebackers add Robert Quinn to their corps, and will adopt a new system in hopes of clamping down offenses.
Enter Robert Quinn.
Drafted in the first round in 2011, Quinn came to the Rams a defensive end. He thrived. In three seasons, he amassed 40 sacks, and recorded three in a game to break the team’s single-season sack record. Quinn was everything and more to the Rams’ defense.
For two seasons, Quinn was a shell of his former self. Battling injuries to his back, shoulder, and even concussions, Quinn appeared in 17 games from 2015 to 2016 and recorded nine sacks in that time.
Enter Wade Phillips and a 3-4 defense.
Phillips’ 3-4 is widely viewed as a game-changer for teams. The Houston Texans defense became a different animal under the system and was a large contributor to Houston’s playoff runs. With the Broncos, it helped carry an under-performing Peyton Manning and win them a Super Bowl.
It shut down Cam Newton.
Among it’s laundry list of positives, the Rams are hoping to add one more to the list of to-do’s: bring Robert Quinn back to his former self.
New System, New Positions
If Quinn is going to revamp his career, he won’t be doing it with his hand in the dirt. Instead, he will be standing up as an outside linebacker. The idea is that he can rush the quarterback effectively, and often, despite his age. Just like Demarcus Ware.
Another name in a new position will be Mark Barron. Don’t put too much emphasis in “new” as he’s moving one step inside to become the second inside linebacker, alongside Alec Ogeltree. Barron is a dominant run-stopper and one of the best defenders the Rams have. He flies around the field and takes ball carriers down, despite his smaller stature compared to other linebackers.
Whatever Phillips has in store for Barron, it’s predicted he will not only handle the objectives, but thrive under the new system.
Ogeltree remains the leading pillar in this defense. He recorded a career-high 98 tackles through all 16 games last season. But take those with a grain of salt, as the defense as a whole was not impressive. Ogeltree will lead the charge into Phillips’ new defense and he will look to continue his production amongst a revamped personnel around him.
Connor Barwin makes his return under Phillips, which could be a huge help in translating what the new defense asks of the linebackers. Barwin was his best under Phillips’ 3-4 in Houston. He recorded 41 sacks in 80 games, and was a featured backer among guys like DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.
Once he left for Philly and their 4-3? Things didn’t go well for Barwin. Familiar surroundings will be good for him and in turn, good for Los Angeles.
The Rams seem to have a great first string of linebackers. The bad news? The depth is virtually untested.
Corey Littleton, Josh Forrest, and Bryce Hager return to the Rams in hopes of earning more snaps during the regular season.
Forrest earned some reps last year, but now he’s working to return from an ACL injury last season, and the rest of the depth is made up of special teams guys and newcomers. Draft pick Samson Ebukam comes from Eastern Washington, like offensive darling Cooper Kupp. But don’t expect the high expectations for Ebukam like his former college teammmate has.
Ebukam and the rest of the younger guys are nowhere near as talented as the rest of their veteran teammates. There is a lot to catch up on. Their quickest way to the field is obviously through the injury of the man in front of them.
Hager is the most promising of the bunch, followed by Littleton, and then Forrest. Should Forrest come back from his injury, he could be a rotation contributor along with Hager.
Ejuan Price, Morgan Fox, and Carlos Thompson could be one of the first cuts among this group.