It’s no exaggeration to state that the Los Angeles Rams have a stacked defense after several moves in the offseason. However, the narrative regarding the defensive now seems to orbit around the idea that the linebackers, save for ILB Mark Barron, aren’t exactly household names especially with the EDGE rushers. The expected starters are second-year EDGE Samson Ebukam (roster preview), a fourth round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, and third-year EDGE Matt Longacre. Somehow, Rams fans are pretty cool about this given their strong play last year and their newly acquired supporting cast.
Hailing from Omaha, Nebraska, Longacre is a classic meat-and-potatoes guy signing with the Rams as an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 NFL Draft. He is coming off a back injury that placed him on the IR at the end of last season, but it looks to be a non-factor going into 2018. Given his back injury, the Rams were able to sign him to a one-year tender at a relatively low cost.
Serving as a glorified backup last year, Longacre surprised fans with a strong showing to start the season leading the team with 4 sacks in the first 7 games and ending with 5.5 sacks and 16 tackles. Pro Football Focus gives Longacre a 73.8 grade which is a far cry from elite but definitely serviceable. He has the length to contain the quarterback in the pocket by setting the edge and shows a talent for finding the quarterback in stunts that work with the defensive lineman. I also admire that he’s a workhorse with a constant motor never giving up on plays.
I would also nominate Longacre to be the team’s BBQ master.
Just look at the guy — I bet the house that he knows how to cook a brisket.
With the ACL injury to LB Morgan Fox that will keep him out all season, the depth at the EDGE rusher position is rather thin and definitely Matt Longacre’s job to lose as of right now. Unless OLB Connor Barwin is signed back to the team as a late addition, the other challengers in camp will be LB Ejuan Price (roster preview), rookie LB Justin Lawler (roster preview) and LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (roster preview) who is coming off of surgery after breaking his foot in the offseason program.
There’ll be some hand wringing when the Rams break camp and it becomes clear that Longacre, clearly not a dominant edge rusher, will be starting on a Super Bowl-caliber team. I expect him to meet the demands of the job though, similar to what Barwin accomplished last year.
Chances of making the final roster (9.5/10)
It’s safe to buy your Longacre jersey and wear it proudly in Irvine during training camp. With such a star-studded D-line and a vicious secondary, the Rams can’t afford a superstar EDGE rusher this season. Longacre should suffice.
However, don’t expect that Longacre jersey to be current the following year...