Young LBs Making Progress
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
By Brett Grassmuck
As their first training camp winds to a close, rookie linebackers Chris Chamberlain and David Vobora are starting to settle in to life in the NFL.
While they’re not superstars by any means, both Chamberlain and Vobora have an opportunity to land on the Rams final 53-man roster when it’s all said and done.
“It’s going well,” Vobora said. “Both Chamberlain and myself have had a lot of opportunities to step in and get a lot of reps at linebacker. Things are starting to slow down a little bit and we’re getting a feel for things.”
The Rams used the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft to bolster their depth at linebacker. They selected Chamberlain at 228th overall and Vobora at 252nd overall, the final selection of the draft.
Their timing couldn’t have been better in terms of landing a final roster spot. As it stands, they are two of nine players vying for six, maybe seven linebacker positions on the final roster.
The nine linebackers includes starters Will Witherspoon, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Chris Draft and Quinton Culberson who has split starting time with Draft. Those four are all but assured roster spots, so that leaves at maximum three spots open for Chamberlain, Vobora, second-year linebacker Tim McGarigle and rookies Marc Magro, out of West Virginia, and Marcus Riley, out of Fresno State.
“It’s a perfect opportunity,” Vobora said. “You couldn’t ask for a better fit whether you were drafted in the second round or the seventh round.”
Chamberlain’s play has been noticed by the coaching staff more than once during training camp, most recently during the Rams preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.
Rams coach Scott Linehan noted Chamberlains pass coverage skills and ability to play in space, comparing him to Tinoisamoa.
“I feel like that is one of my strong points is that I’m athletic enough to cover the backs out and those slot receivers and do stuff like that,” Chamberlain said. “It’s great for me and the defense we run is essentially man to man so I feel like that has really helped me.”
Chamberlain has primarily been playing the weakside, or WIL, linebacker position, which is a good fit for the rookie. The WIL linebacker does a lot of things similar to the safety position, which will allow Chamberlain to utilize his pass coverage skills.
“He’s getting to be a pretty good space player,” Linehan said. “He matches up well in those regular personnel groupings that teams like (the Titans) do, where you have to get a linebacker out (to cover) a tight end or (receiver).”
The 4-3 defensive scheme that the Rams run is completely new to Chamberlain as Tulsa ran a 3-3-5 defense. The Rams 4-3 scheme utilizes four defensive lineman and four defensive backs, where the 3-3-5 uses an extra defensive back and three down linemen.
The linebacker position is one that can be utilized several different ways depending on the defensive formation. Linebackers can be asked to play the run, drop into pass coverage or line up on the edge of the defensive line and rush the passer.
Chamberlain is adjusting to the new defensive system quickly, but he’s not quite to the point where he can react to a play instead of thinking about his assignment.
“I want to work on gaining a better knowledge of the system, how all of the moving parts around me go and all of my run fits,” Chamberlain said. “That way I can play with 100 percent confidence and not be out there thinking.”
Vobora is taking the Chris Draft approach to the linebacker position. He has played all three linebacker spots since arriving at training camp, playing mostly at middle, or MIC, linebacker.
“(He's) is a real smart football player and very adaptable; he's catching our eye,” linebackers coach Rick Venturi said. “He's got a football mentality, instinctive, almost a throwback-type guy.”
Vobora is becoming a solid, all-around linebacker, much like Draft. The Rams brought Draft in for his versatility prior to the 2007 season, and Vobora has leaned heavily on the veteran for advice.
“You will see me over here with my arm around him and talking to him,” Vobora said. “He’s the perfect resource. He’s like a dictionary of how you learn plays and the formations of the defenses. That’s what Coach Venturi told me. He said ‘You’re going to have a career like Draft because he’s smart and he can know all the spots.’”
Vobora had a stigma attached to him before he even walked through the doors of the Russell Training Center. He was the final selection of the NFL Draft, thus making him Mr. Irrelevant. Each time the rookie steps on the field, he is out to prove he is anything but.
“I haven’t looked at it as a negative thing at all,” Vobora said. “I have taken it and run with it. It’s a perfect opportunity for me. I got drafted into a place where I can step right in and play. I think he’s a little harder on me because of it, but I wouldn’t expect it any other way.”
Vobora wasn’t quite as polished as Chamberlain Saturday night against the Titans, but he did play extensively after the first unit was finished for the evening. He has a little ground to make up before the roster is finalized, and he has three more games to showcase his talent and intelligence.
“Although (playing all three spots carries) a lot of weight for a rookie, they are being patient with me and taking me step by step through it,” Vobora said. “I’m a heady player but also a player that relies on his motor and will always be around the football.”
The way both rookies perform as linebackers is extremely important for the Rams depth at the position, but their special teams play is vital to them ending up on the Rams final 53.
“When coach Linehan called me on draft day, he said ‘Hey, we are drafting you for a purpose,’” Vobora said. “’We want you to step up and make a big impact on special teams but we also know you are a smart kid that can learn the system and be there for us and be versatile.’ I knew I was drafted for a reason but special teams are going to be a big part of why I make this team.”
Chamberlain and Vobora are almost finished with their rookie training camp, and the coaching staff will certainly have its eyes on numbers 57 and 58 for the remainder of the preseason.
Re: Young LBs Making Progress
Quote[While they’re not superstars by any means, both Chamberlain and Vobora have an opportunity to land on the Rams final 53-man roster when it’s all said and done.QUOTE
I like what these guys are doing I hope they make the 53 man roster.