Midseason Review: Linebackers

The Animal takes no prisoners

A lot happened with the linebackers heading into the season. The Rams added Zac Diles, Brady Poppinga and Ben Leber through free agency and Jabara Williams through the draft to try and legitimize the outside. Unfortunately, most of the players listed above are benched, or off the team. Still, while they have had their struggles, the last few weeks have brought improvement to a team that desperately needed some unit to provide a bright spot.

Of course, there is always James Laurinaitis. Hit the jump to check out the midseason review.

Brady Poppinga, OLB

Poppinga joined the Rams this offeseason during the whirlwind free agency period, signing a one year deal. He's been average, give or take, which some would say is a significant improvement over 2010's linebacking effort on the outside. Given the fact that he's never really been a stat-monger, he is definitely on the 'value' side of things. He's been solid, but not without some sloppy play. At least it isn't the other way around.

STATS

G Solo Ast Total Sacks INT FF PD
7 19 6 25 0 0 0 1

 

Grade: C

Chris Chamberlain

Chamberlain was primarily the Rams special teams ace last year, but has seen more and more play on defense as of late. So far, the results have been positive. He was outmatched last year when starting on the outside, but has been a pleasant surprise when playing. He's been an improvement over the disappointing Ben Leber and has really stepped up his game.

G
Solo
Ast
Total
Sacks
INT
FF
PD
8
26
4
30
1
0
1
0

 

Grade: B-

James Laurinaitis

After a slight regression earlier in the ear, Animal Jr. has come on strong for the Rams. A main part of the recent defensive Renaissance is thanks to him and the improving linebacking unit. It's clear he is one of the leaders of the team and is on pace to have a career year statistically. Besides his early struggles, he has been one of the most consistent and well-rounded players on defense, and his play this year has solidified him as one of the best MLB's in the game.

G
Solo
Ast
Total
Sacks
INT
FF
PD
8
45
16
61
1
1
0
4

 

Grade: A-

Josh Hull

Hull filled in well during the preseason, impressing me with his potential. However, when you back up James Laurinaitis, you have to take whatever scraps you can get on defense. At this point, Hull appears to be a project player who's flashed some potential when called upon. With a little more experience, he looks like he could be a good backup.

G
Solo
Ast
Total
Sacks
INT
FF
PD
8
1
0
1
0
0
0
0

 

Grade: C+

Ben Leber

When the Rams signed Leber, we all thought he would be that veteran linebacker you could count on. Oh, how wrong we were. Leber must have watched tape on the Rams previous horrible outside play, as he hasn't done much to distinguish his play. To make matters worse, it appears that Chris Chamberlain has stolen his job. No love for the BLeebz.

G
Solo
Ast
Total
Sacks
INT
FF
PD
6
10
2
12
0
0
0
0

 

Grade: D

Bryan Kehl

Kehl has been fairly lackluster this year, and in general since joining the Rams in 2010. It's clear in his limited play on the defense that he simply isn't anything more than a special teamer. However, he is a veteran of Spagnuolo's system, which has helped him given the fact that many of the linebackers that were brought in didn't stick with the team. He isn't someone I'd count on if Poppinga went down. Sometimes experience makes all the difference. Sorry Jabara.

G
Solo
Ast
Total
Sacks
INT
FF
PD
7
7
1
8
0
0
0
0

 

Grade: C

 

Honorable Mention: Jabara Williams

What, you think I'd leave him out? Jabara was a stud in the preseason and was quite possibly one of the best late round picks the Rams have had in recent years (I know what you are thinking: it's tough to be better than Brooks Foster or Fendi Onobun). I'm still puzzled as to why the Rams scratched him off the roster, as he had some potential. Easily a favorite at TST, it was sad and strange to see him go. Perhaps in another life, where the Rams don't lose every CB on the squad to injury, he would have stayed and made an impact. Who knows.

 

 

While the run defense has been sloppy (see: DeMarco Murray), the linebackers have come together and improved. Last year, we cringed when seeing Tight Ends catch the ball. This year, the Rams are ranked 5th in DVOA against TE's, and have slightly improved against receiving running backs (25 vs. 27). It isn't a top ranked unit, but given the recent performances, it's a start in the right direction.

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