NFL Draft Preview: Outside Linebacker
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
By Nick Wagoner
For most of his NFL career, Pisa Tinoisamoa has been one of the few things you can count on when it comes to the Rams’ defense.
No matter what injury or how many injuries or other extraneous factors, Tinoisamoa always found a way on to the field and was always productive.
Finally last season, for as tough as Tinoisamoa has been, he was unable to overcome the numerous injuries sustained to his shoulders, his elbows, his forearm, etc. Those injuries limited him to 11 games and he went on injured reserve for the first time in his career.
With Brandon Chillar handling the strong side position, the Rams turned to veteran Dexter Coakley in Tinoisamoa’s place. This offseason, the Rams have stayed fairly static at linebacker as Tinoisamoa recovers.
Heading into the NFL Draft, it isn’t likely the Rams will be searching for help at any of the outside linebacker positions, but they might be in the market for some additional depth on the roster.
Chillar and Tinoisamoa are expected to return at their usual positions and the Rams made a few moves to bolster the depth in free agency. At the top of that list was the signing of Carolina’s Chris Draft.
Draft brings the experience and versatility to play any of the three linebacker positions and is talented enough to compete for a starting job at either of the outside positions.
The Rams also have a pair of outside linebackers expected to compete for the role of “Buck” end. That player is used on third downs as a pass rusher lining up near the line of scrimmage.
Raonall Smith and Jon Alston will battle it out for that position. The team re-signed Smith earlier in the week, but he will be asked to compete for a roster spot. Alston came on late last season after getting a late start because of Stanford’s quarter system.
This year’s draft has a number of solid outside linebacker options, including probable first rounders in Florida State’s Lawrence Timmons, Penn State’s Paul Posluszny and Miami’s Jon Beason.
Should the Rams choose to add another linebacker in the draft, it will probably come late on the first day or the final four rounds. Hampton’s Justin Durant, Penn State’s Tim Shaw and Florida’s Earl Everett could be potential fits in the later rounds.