This preview will cover five players who can impact 2013s success both in a negative and positive way depending on their play. Certain players are excluded, for example there will be no rookies. This series will be about players that has at least one year of experience and can either take a step forward or backwards. The entire offseason is based on judging and labeling rookies that have yet to play a down. I will not continue, lets lay it to rest and focus on the other guys with camp so close. The players that at least have something to base their preview off of. Another player to be excluded will be Sam Bradford. He has received enough coverage and I think we all get the point.
Links To Top Five Covered:
Already at 4 out of 5. The next guy up is James Laurinaitis.
James Laurinaitis does one thing GREAT! His cerebral approach is a beautiful thing to watch. He is so vocal pre-snap. He plays a chess match with opposing quarterbacks. People want to know why we played so well within our division last year, well the answer is #55. If our division QBs were more cerebral than physical, with the teams they all have, we probably would have had a much harder time. But because they are not the pre-snap monsters that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc, are, James was able to get into their heads a lot easier pre-snap. The result, all six games in the division saw the opposing QBs struggle in a way they did not in any other game.
I remember two seasons ago, week 2, Monday night football vs the Giants, he and Eli had one of the better first half chess matches you will ever see. For every single call one guy would make, the other had an audible call to retaliate with.
Laurinaitis has been a model of consistency. I think we as Rams fans sometimes take for granted what he has meant to this team. Only one Ram has played as consistent as Laurinaitis since he entered the league, and his name is not Chris Long. Steven Jackson is the only other player the last four seasons to be a true consistent player. And no player on the entire rams roster has started more consecutive games.
Year Team GP GS Comb Solo Ast TFL Sack PDef INT FF FR Hurr BK TD 2009 STL 16 16 120 107 13 4 2 5 2 1 1 6 0 0 2010 STL 16 16 114 98 16 8 3 5 1 0 1 7 0 0 2011 STL 16 16 142 105 37 8 3 7 2 0 1 5 0 0 2012 STL 16 16 142 117 25 4 .5 4 2 0 1 2 0 0 Career 64 64 518 427 91 24 8.5 21 7 1 4 20 0 0
Other than his mental approach to the game, he really is not that great in any aspect of the game. But he also is not bad in any aspect. He literally is just simply "good" at everything. Meaning he is not a wow player, but he is still good enough to be viewed as an All-Pro. He just lacks the notoriety.
I personally feel that we have the sixth best MLB in all of football. And it just goes to show athletic ability is not everything. If I had to guess, and I am just estimating here, I would say maybe a little more than 85% of all middle linebackers are better athletes than Laurinaitis. Of that 85%+, I can only think of five who I would say is better.
These were Laurinaitis' results from the combine
Ht Wt 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BP Wonderlic 6 ft 1⅞ in 244 lb 4.82 s 1.79 s 2.92 s 4.78 s 6.91 s 31 in 9 ft 7 in 17 reps 21
Based on physical attributes alone, Laurinaitis is without question a well below average starting middle linebacker. But his production, is up there with the elites. That's because his mental approach is that good, and puts himself in position to succeed.
These are my top six MLBs
1 Patrick Willis 49ers
2 Luke Kuechly Panthers
3 Daryl Washington Cardinals 4 Jerrod Mayo Patriots 5 Navarro Bowman 49ers 6 James Laurinaitis Rams
I would say two of those guys (Daryl Washington and Narrow Bowman) rely more on athletic ability than mental preparation. Meaning if something happened that would hamper them athletically, James would enter the top five conversation.
He impacts the game the way the MLB is suppose to. He is the QB of the defense, and he makes the unit go. He is the chain link that connects all the links.
In the last Top Five Preview, I called Michael Brockers the most important player to our defense's success, and ability to take the next step to top 10. What I didn't mention was he shares that title with James Laurinaitis. This defense can not function correctly with either player missing.
I believe you can remove any other player from our defense, and we can still be top 10, take away either Laurinaitis or Brockers, and it suddenly gets to be a lot harder to be top 12.
Laurinaitis enters his fifth season as one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL since entering the league. If the team can live up to any of these expectations this season, Laurinaitis will finally get the national recognition he deserves, and everyone else will get to find out what we already know. James Laurinaitis is one of the best "defensive" players in all of football. And with this defense growing and another year in this system, he could easily be staring at a 160 TT, 10 TFL, 2 SACK, 3 INT season, and it will happen in the season when the Rams will have their most Primetime exposure in about seven years.
Welcome to the spotlight Mr. Laurinaitis.