The Rams have done well in years past finding and developing key contributors in college free agency after the draft.
Ethan Westbrooks is a perfect example.
After getting passed over during the 2014 NFL Draft, Westbrooks has found a consistent role with the team, a role that appears to be growing even more for the 2016 season as he makes a position switch. A versatile defender that started off at DE, Westbrooks quickly found playing time all over the defensive line as a key substitute this past season. This season, the Rams want to get him more playing time at DT. With the loss of DE Robert Quinn last season to injury, Westbrooks saw his defensive snaps jump from 11% in 2014 to 24% in 2015. With the increased playing time, he posted a solid 19 total tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3.0 tackles for loss and 1 forced fumble.
With the departures of veterans DE Chris Long and DE Nick Fairley in free agency and the recent injury to DT Louis Trinca-Pasat, there is an opening for someone to take over DE William Hayes’ old role as the DL Swiss Army knife. DEs Eugene Sims and Quinton Coples figure to spell Hayes and Quinn most often, but Westbrooks also has the ability to do so as well.
With just Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers as proven DTs on the roster, Westbrooks main competition for snaps for the third DT should come from former New England Patriot and newly-signed DT Dominique Easley. Training camp should decide which one earns the lion’s share of snaps as the first backup DT.
The Rams are listing Westbrooks at DT now in part to get him more/maintain snaps with Quinn, Hayes, Sims, and Coples in the fold at DE. Jeff Fisher has stated in the past that when Ethan is on the field, there is no drop off. The Rams are flush with capable bodies for Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams to maximize his defensive line’s versatility and Westbrooks should improve even more in year three.
Westbrooks and the core backups of Sims, Coples, and Easley should ensure the Rams DL remains one of the deepest in the league. Playing on the final year of a very team friendly contract, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him earn himself a more Ethan-friendly contract after this season.
Chances of Making Final Roster (9/10)
Barring an off the field incident, Westbrooks appears to be a virtual lock to make the final roster. With the departure of Fairley and the Rams' history of carrying eight lineman, there doesn’t appear to be too much resistance to winning one of the final two DT positions.
He isn’t flashy, but Ethan Westbrook puts in the dirty work on the field that good teams need to fill out a roster.