Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, Puka Nacua, has been stealing the spotlight from other impressive performers from the rookie class. That’s happened for good reason as Nacua is breaking records and should absolutely get recognized. 35 targets and 25 catches through two games is ridiculous for any player, let alone a rookie.
With that said, this Rams rookie class is getting standout performances at other spots as well that have seemingly been flying under the radar. One of those players is defensive lineman, Kobie Turner.
I was impressed w/ rookie DT Kobie Turner vs. the 49ers— Mike Renner (@mikerenner_) September 19, 2023
Quite the butt-kicker for a 289-pound DT. Some shades of Grady Jarrett to his game pic.twitter.com/vbE1NrJkx4
Over the offseason, the Rams lost both Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson on the defensive line. It was uncertain exactly how the Rams were going to replace one of those players, let alone both of them. Turner has done that and then some through two weeks, contributing immediately as a rookie.
On Friday, Aaron Donald said about Turner,
“He’s a smart guy. He understands football, understands what he needs to do. So when he’s out there, you comfortable knowing he is going to know everything. At times, he helps me set where I need to be. So having a guy that you can trust like that and obviously, we’ve been making some plays out there, looking good in the rush game at times.”
The Rams drafted Turner in the third-round of the NFL Draft back in April and was someone that Les Snead pounded the table for when the Rams were on the clock. There was a feeling that he could be someone that would be able to come in and contribute immediately and that’s exactly what he’s been able to do.
Through two weeks, per @PFF:— Jon Macri (@PFF_Macri) September 19, 2023
Highest-graded rookie defenders (min. 20% of snaps)
1. DI Jalen Carter, PHI: 90.2
2. LB Ivan Pace Jr! MIN: 85.2
3. CB Christian Gonzalez, NE: 82.6
4. DI Kobie Turner, LAR: 78.5
5. ED Will Anderson Jr. HST: 72.1 https://t.co/uFDpRh1iys
Through two weeks, Turner is the fourth-highest graded rookie defender according to Pro Football Focus among players with at least 25 snaps. He’s the second-highest graded defensive lineman behind only Jalen Carter who was selected inside the top-10.
One of Turner’s biggest knocks in the pre-draft process was his size. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote that Turner, “lacks the weight, mass and length typical of the position.” Bleacher Report wrote that Turner was, “slightly undersized for an NFL defensive tackle and has a pretty full frame already.” In case you haven’t gotten the point already, Pro Football Network’s Jason Katz wrote about Turner, “undersized and is easily controlled at the point by a single blocker or turned from the action.”
This isn’t to say that any of those statement were necessarily wrong. Not that Turner is Aaron Donald, but many of those statements, the Rams are familiar with. And Despite being a smaller player on the defensive line at just 289-pounds, Turner has the second-highest run defense grade among rookie defenders behind only Carter, who again, was selected ninth overall.
It’s worth noting that Turner also ranks eighth among all defensive linemen against the run this season.
Would like to see Kobie Turner start to get more of a run on early downs. He's small, but haven't seen him get pushed around.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 20, 2023
Nice stop in the run game here. pic.twitter.com/W1edRMvDY8
This is something that Snead and co. have lacked in the draft over the past few years. Without having a first-round pick, you have to be able to find underrated value in the middle rounds. The Rams are getting almost just as much out of Turner and the Philadelphia Eagles are with Carter, but found him in the third-round.
Turner has been a cog in the middle of the Rams defensive line. Los Angeles currently ranks fifth in the NFL in ESPN’s run-stop win-rate.
Still, it’s understandable why Turner has only been on the field for 17 run plays this season given his size. As seen in the preseason, the Rams smaller defensive line consistently got pushed around. However, through two weeks of the regular season, Turner has held his own.
Raheem Morris spoke about the rookie on Friday and praised his intelligence on the field. Morris said,
“He’s super smart, super intelligent. Not that most of the guys are not, but he’s able to apply it on the field with the intelligence...He’s been able to jump right into that role, do a lot of really good things from a base standpoint, from a nickel standpoint, all across the board to be able to play opposite of AD, some of those things that are really special and has actually added to some of his production as well because of that. It’s only going to get better for him as it will for Aaron because of how well he’s playing.”
I love Kobie Turner's game. He's absolutely relentless on the defensive line. pic.twitter.com/oK43NiQ3Fs— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 20, 2023
His ability against the run was supposed to be a weak part of his game and instead, that’s an area where he’s thriving. However, he’s also having success on passing downs which is where the Rams have tried to play him the most.
Among rookie defensive linemen, Turner is one of just six with multiple quarterback pressures. His ability to win quickly off of the line because of his speed is very noticeable. Again, his pass-rush grade ranks second behind only Carter.
If not for Nacua breaking records on offense, more would certainly be talking about Turner. He’s been a fantastic complementary player to Donald on the defensive line and should only continue to improve. Morris also talked about how Turner allows him to be flexible at the second and third levels of the defense. The Rams defensive coordinator said,
“It’s really special because he knows what the looks are supposed to look like, what’s going on behind him, but I have him turn around and see it. When the picture changes in front of him he knows how the picture changes behind him. All those things are really important. Warren Sapp was one of the smartest interior D-lineman that I’ve been around in my life. Just his ability to know things almost to a fault of his teammates because he could actually call out a play or know who had the fit and ask in the most sarcastic way ever. With Kobie, he knows what’s going on enough to get up to know who to celebrate with and some of those type of things to be the best version of himself on the grass. It is pretty unique, pretty special for the guys that I’ve been around playing like that.”
Byron Young's spin move here is smoooooth!— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) September 20, 2023
Kobie Turner wins off of the snap. Young spins off of his block and gets his first career solo sack.
These two have a bright future. pic.twitter.com/5G2PRmB6J3
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Turner’s role continue to develop as he gets more comfortable in the Rams defense. Through two weeks, it’s easy to argue that he’s been the most impressive rookie for the Rams outside of Nacua. Turner and Byron Young could end up being an impressive duo over the next few years as they grow together.
Coming into the season, there was a lot of discussion about how bad the Rams defense was going to be. A lot of that talk came from a place of unknown because there was so much unproven talent in that unit. However, players like Turner continue to prove themselves and become more known commodities. Players like Turner are why the Rams defense has a bright future.