Theme Week post time.
This week, we’ve been charged at looking at the best defensive linemen in the NFL that nobody’s talking about, those underrated linemen that don’t soak up headlines or statistics but make all the difference in the trenches. It’s perhaps the easiest theme week idea we’ve done so far as a Los Angeles Rams fan.
When you’ve got Aaron Donald on your defensive line, everyone is going to notice Aaron Donald. Everyone is going to talk about Aaron Donald. Which is a crying shame for Michael Brockers.
I’ve always admired Brock’s combination of power and discipline on the line. He’s a space eater who can win power battles consistently. He lacks the quickness of Donald and the perhaps conventional athleticism of some of his peers...but the dude just wins in the dirt.
Just two simple examples.
This was the first play after the long touchdown from RB Todd Gurley that gave the Rams a slim two-point lead in Week 4 against the Dallas Cowboys. Here, he’s going to just dominate the early power clench with his former teammate at LSU, Cowboys OL La’el Collins and kill a first down run that would ultimately propel a three-and-out from the Cowboys O:
The tackle’s not even important. It’s his explosion through Collins that snuffs out the A gap and forces the jump cut from RB Ezekiel Elliott. Brock’s power and penetration just kills the play.
But I mentioned discipline too. Here’s the first play from the Jacksonville Jaguars on their second possession of the game in Week 6. In their first possession which spanned a single snap, RB Leonard Fournette housed a 75-yard run. Now tied at 7, the Rams need to set some kind of defensive tone in the ground game to force the Jaguars to employ QB Blake Bortles.
Look at Brockers’ feet:
Brock does a great job not getting washed out in the fracas up the middle. Set up a bit inside the 5-technique, Brockers holds off Jags RT Jermey Parnell with just his left arm and walls off Fournette.
Brockers isn’t the flashiest. His numbers don’t pop off the page. He’s not going to win the football beauty contests for the sexiest play.
But he’s a damn fine defensive lineman. And he deserves more credit for doing what he does than what he generally gets.