Alec Ogletree: Strongside linebacker?

Joe Robbins

At what position will the Rams play Alec Ogletree?

The Rams are already a few days into rookie minicamp. Reports have come out that Tavon Austin is doing well and Stedman Bailey also looks comfortable. Take it with a huge grain of salt. They are playing against other rookies. They were high draft picks. They should look good, or else there is a huge problem.

While reading through all the rest of the useless minicamp chatter, I found one very interesting note from the St. Louis Rams website; Alec Ogletree is practicing at strong side linebacker.

Ogletree looked like the athlete everyone expected and it appears he's going to get his first look at this level at SLB.

Coming out of the draft, I was not a fan of the Ogletree pick. By and large it was because Ogletree hesitates to take on blockers. He is an agressive player and a very physical tackler, but he does not seem comfortable engaging blockers, shedding blocks, and then getting to the ball carrier.

Ogletree is a tremendous athlete and has the ability to cover sideline to sideline. He is best used in open space, which to me says he should be a weak side linebacker, and be used at the other middle linebacker, along with James Laurinaitis, in nickel formations.

Just as a quick refresher, and for those who don't know, the weak side is the side of the defense with the least amount of offense players and the strong side has the most. For the most part, the strong side, or the play side, is the side of the field where the tight end lines up. More often than not this is the right side of the offense, so it would be the left side of the defense.

On running plays, the tight ends job is to block the strong side linebacker and take him out of the play. Consequently, the strong side linebacker's job is to fight off the tight end's block and get to the ball carrier. Meanwhile a weak side linebacker has a lot more coverage responsibilities and plays in more open space. Their job is to seek and destroy on running plays.

[Note by Ryan Van Bibber, 05/14/13 2:34 PM EDT ] I'm going to chime in on this. The strongside linebacker tends to pick up more coverage duty than you realize. In a base 4-3, it's the SLB that often gets tasked with covering tight ends and running backs in the flat. The SLB's role in coverage is far more important than it used to be because of changes in the game. That's important because Ogletree, a former safety, excelled in coverage as a college linebacker. In the running game, the SLB's duty is inseparable from what the other two linebackers are doing. Ogletree may be responsible for the first man through, with Laurinaitis or Dunbar assigned to pick up the next guy, the one with the ball. Factor the safeties into the equation there too.

Now Ogletree isn't very willing to take on blockers, or at least that was the case at Georgia, so this experiment to play Ogletree on the strong side is intriguing.

Maybe the Rams do not want to flip Jo-Lonn Dunbar over to the strong side, after he had a very successful season playing the weak side. He also is not the best at engaging blockers, so maybe Ogletree just might be the best option on the strong side?

Or it could be that this is the first week of rookie minicamp, and the Rams are simply playing Ogletree at different positions to see how he looks? It's most likely this, but it will be something to keep an eye on going into training camp later this summer.

Ogletree could very well be used as the strong side linebacker in the Rams defense, but it's way too early in the process to tell.

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