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  • Young LBs get an early test

    Young LBs get an early test

    SEATTLE — Limping on a sore knee while searching for a bandage to cover a bloody scrape on his arm before pulling on his white dress shirt, Rams rookie middle linebacker James Laurinaitis dressed slowly Sunday.

    Laurinaitis, the Rams' second-round draft choice, had a busy afternoon in his NFL debut. So did strongside linebacker David Vobora, a second-year pro making just his second start.

    Together, the two combined for 22 tackles, according to the unofficial press-box statistics, in the Rams' 28-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

    Laurinaitis was credited with a game-high 14 and also recovered a fumble. Vobora was listed with eight tackles.

    "I think they did well," said Will Witherspoon, an eight-year veteran who lines up at weakside linebacker. "There were a few bumps here and there, but that's the ebb and flow of the game. Every play, every snap means one more notch in their belts.

    "They learned some things, they got to see some things, and that's what's great about it. You can't ask them to do any more than that."

    Laurinaitis wasn't so sure about that.

    "There were some ups and downs," he conceded. "They say the best improvement is from Week 1 to Week 2. It's important for us to keep our heads up, to learn from this, and keep that feeling of a loss right there and really work that much harder this week in practice."

    Laurinaitis, 22, had been with the first-team defense since about midway through training camp. Vobora, 23, had gotten some reps with the starters, but the last overall selection in the 2008 draft didn't land a spot in the lineup until Thursday, when veteran Chris Draft was released.

    "It's frustrating," Vobora said. "Defensively, I know we did a lot of good things. But there were definitely some breakdowns."

    As for his own performance, Vobora demurred. "We'll wait till we see the film. It's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think," he said. "There's definitely some stuff that we can correct."

    Coverage responsibilities might fit into that category. On the Seahawks' first touchdown, Laurinaitis bit on a play fake by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and tight end John Carlson was open in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard score.

    "I was being overly aggressive," Laurinaitis acknowledged. "You're down there on the 1-yard line and you're thinking, 'Let's go after it.' ... I'm definitely at fault for that."

    Early in the third quarter, Carlson raced past Vobora before hauling in a pass for a 38-yard gain. The Seahawks scored on the next play, making it 21-0.

    "We were in Cover 2, he ran a great route, and Hasselbeck put it on the money," said Vobora, who added that he wasn't sure where the breakdown occurred.

    Still, Witherspoon said the young linebackers earned a positive review, and a strong nod to the future.

    "They did some good things," he said. "I think we're going to be a great core group that's going to get things done throughout the course of the year."

Related Topics


  • r8rh8rmike
    For Starters: Young Linebackers Settle In
    by r8rh8rmike
    For Starters: Young Linebackers Settle In
    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As the self-described “old man” of the defense, end Leonard Little is quick to crack a joke about his age.

    These days, when he looks around at the players who join him on the field on Sundays, he can’t help but notice a collection of young players looking to make a mark. Nowhere is that more evident than just behind Little at linebacker.

    In last week’s game against Seattle, the Rams introduced two new full time starters with just one start of experience between them in the form of linebackers David Vobora and James Laurinaitis.

    By the end of the day, Little was impressed with how that duo performed and excited about the possibilities they present for the future.

    “They did pretty good,” Little said. “For being so young, coming into this league and not having taken a lot of snaps, they are going pretty good. Guys like that are going to get better and better every week.”

    Headlining the list was the guy who was selected the higher of the two, second-round pick Laurinaitis.

    Laurinaitis won the starting middle linebacker job early in training camp and once he stepped into the role, he never relented.

    In his college career at Ohio State, Laurinaitis was a tackling machine who won numerous awards for his performance as a three-year starter.

    “It’s not easy to go in there and basically be the quarterback of the defense as a rookie in your first NFL game,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “He made some mistakes he would be the first one to tell you. I think there things that are easily corrected.”

    By the end of his first NFL contest, Laurinaitis had racked up a team-leading 14 tackles with nine of those solo efforts. He was all over the field and after film review was credited with forcing the fumble that everyone knew he recovered when it happened early in the game.

    Despite any butterflies he might have had going into his first NFL game, Laurinaitis showed the poise of an NFL veteran.

    “Overall he played a real productive game,” Spagnuolo said. “That’s what he is. He’s a productive guy. If he continues to have that production, it’s going to help the defense.”

    While Laurinaitis was extremely active in Sunday’s game, playing nearly every defensive snap and making all of the defensive calls, he wasn’t without flaw, either.

    Laurinaitis took the blame for a 1-yard touchdown pass to Seattle tight end John Carlson early in the game when he says he missed a read.

    Despite those types of easily correctable errors, Laurinaitis’ natural instincts are part of what makes his future so bright. Even on that touchdown, Laurinaitis was a few inches from getting a hand on the pass.

    And while Laurinaitis...
    -09-17-2009, 07:55 PM
  • MauiRam
    Vobora works to regain spot, clear name ..
    by MauiRam

    To say the Rams' David Vobora has had an eventful year would be akin to saying the Gulf of Mexico has a small oil problem. Since training camp last year, Vobora:

    — Earned a starting job at strongside linebacker to begin his second NFL season.

    — Was suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances, costing him $90,588 in salary.

    — Regained his first-team assignment after being reinstated.
    Click here to find out more!

    — Filed a suit in federal court against the company that provided the tainted workout supplement.

    — Was demoted after the Rams signed free-agent linebacker Na'il Diggs and assigned him to the top strongside spot.

    Throughout it all, Vobora has remained resolutely philosophical.

    "My whole football career, from high school on into the pros, I kind of feel like I've sort of been behind the 8-ball. It's been an uphill battle," he said. "But I wouldn't want it any other way. That's what I'm all about, proving people wrong. And that's what I've got to do again."

    In the courtroom, Vobora wants to prove that he wasn't at fault. His agent said that before taking the tainted supplement, Vobora called an NFL hot line, read off the ingredients, and was told that none would produce a positive test.

    Although he's seeking compensation for the salary he forfeited, Vobora stressed that money isn't the motivating factor. Clearing his name is.

    "Vindication's the No. 1 thing," he said. "Lost wages is lost wages."

    On the field, Vobora wants to prove that he's still worthy of a starting role, regardless of the competition from Diggs or anyone else. "My approach stays the same: no matter who that guy is, beat him," he said.

    Vobora has overcome long odds before. He was the 2008 draft's "Mr. Irrelevant" — the last player among 252 selected. The University of Idaho product stuck with the club, on the practice squad at first.

    He moved up to the 53-man active roster in October and wound up playing in eight games, with one start. He won a first-team spot in training camp last year and was among the Rams' leaders in tackles after the first three games.

    Then came the suspension, keeping him out of action until mid-November. Now, he's battling again to carve out a role for himself. He's been working mostly at middle linebacker this spring, behind James Laurinaitis.

    "He's settled in and kind of concentrated just at 'mike' linebacker," coach Steve Spagnuolo noted. "But I think any of the so-called backup linebackers have to be able to play more than one (position). So somewhere along the way you'll see him play some outside linebacker, too."...
    -06-17-2010, 08:32 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Rams Scramble At Linebacker
    by r8rh8rmike
    Rams scramble at linebacker

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    The Rams have had a revolving door at the weakside linebacker position since the Carolina game on Halloween. Beginning with that 20-10 victory over the Panthers, four Rams players started at the position over a five-game span.

    Bryan Kehl started against Carolina, followed by Chris Chamberlain the next two games, then back to Larry Grant (who had started the first seven games of the season), and then David Vobora this past Sunday in Arizona.

    That chaos was partly an indication of good competition but mainly a reflection of the fact that coach Steve Spagnuolo and defensive coordinator Ken Flajole were searching for answers at the position.

    Now there could be double the chaos. Following the season-ending torn pectoral muscle suffered by strongside linebacker Na'il Diggs against Arizona, the Rams must find starters at both outside linebacker positions. Only the middle linebacker spot, manned by James Laurinaitis, remains a rock of stability.

    In Diggs, the Rams are not only losing a starter, they're losing experience. Lots of it. Diggs, who's scheduled to undergo surgery Friday, is a veteran of 139 NFL starts.

    "It's real hard to recover from losing a guy like Diggs," Grant said. " 'Diggsy' meant a lot to us in our linebacker room. He was basically our heart and soul. Him being the crafty vet that he is, he knows all the right things to tell us to get us ready for the game.

    "During pregame and preparing for the game, when everybody needs something to talk about or needs some help doing anything, they just go to 'Diggsy' because he always had the answer."

    In Chamberlain, Grant, Kehl, and Vobora — plus David Nixon, who was promoted from the practice squad to fill Diggs' roster spot — the Rams have five outside linebackers with a combined 24 NFL starts.

    All are young in the league, and none has much pedigree. Kehl was a fourth-round draft pick, but Chamberlain, Grant and Vobora were seventh-rounders, and Nixon was undrafted. Nixon entered the league in 2009; the four others came in in 2008.

    They must grow up in a hurry. The Rams are 6-6, in the middle of a playoff race, and travel to New Orleans this week to face the defending Super Bowl champions and their high-octane offense.

    "We don't have any time to feel sorry for ourselves or anything," Vobora said. "We've got to keep going and pick it up where (Diggs) left off and not miss a beat. So that's what I'm concentrating on."

    So are the rest of the outside linebackers.

    "We're all competitors," Grant said. "And we know that every day we come out here you've got to compete if you want to play. With Diggs going down everybody knows if you want to be out there on the field,...
    -12-09-2010, 08:26 PM
  • RamFan_Til_I_Die
    Vobora now seen as relevant for Rams
    by RamFan_Til_I_Die
    By Bill Coats

    A year ago at this time, Rams linebacker David Vobora was irrelevant, as in "Mr. Irrelevant," the last player taken in the draft. On the afternoon of April 26, Vobora relinquished that title to former South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop, a Kansas City Chiefs selection in the final spot this year.

    Vobora acknowledged experiencing mixed feelings: He's not unhappy to jettison what some might regard as an ignominious label, but he conceded that he "had a blast" during the Irrelevant Week festivities last June in Newport Beach, Calif.

    "And you know what? (The distinction helped) get me here," Vobora said. "So, I'm proud to have been Mr. Irrelevant."

    Vobora and Chris Chamberlain came to town last year under nearly identical circumstances: Both were linebackers, both were seventh-round draft picks (Chamberlain at No. 228 overall, Vobora at No. 252), both were assigned to the same room at the team hotel during spring workouts, and both faced stiff odds of landing roster spots.

    "We definitely got close through that, helping each other learn the defense and sticking together as seventh-rounders," Vobora said this week during organized team activities at Rams Park.

    "It was fun, helping each other study, quizzing each other, asking each other questions," Chamberlain added. "It was pretty special for us both to be able to make the team and contribute last year."

    Chamberlain, a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from the University of Tulsa, and Vobora, a 6-1, 238-pound Idaho product, no longer room together — Chamberlain married Amy Wilcox, his high school sweetheart from tiny Bethany, Okla., in March. "But I still try to sneak over there and get some dinner at their house — when she's cooking," Vobora quipped.

    And yet their circumstances haven't changed all that much: Both of them are battling to keep the jobs they earned last year.

    "This year, it's a whole new deal. I'm out here fighting for my spot, like everyone else is," Chamberlain said. "Whether it be on special teams or being able to help on defense, I just want to contribute and hopefully earn one of those 53 jobs."

    During the offseason, the Rams lost two linebackers — Pisa Tinoisamoa was released and Gary Stills wasn't re-signed — and gained second-round draft pick James Laurinaitis. They also brought in undrafted rookies Dominic Douglas and K.C. Asiodu.

    Will Witherspoon moves to weakside linebacker, with Laurinaitis expected to take over in the middle, at Witherspoon's former spot. Versatile veteran Chris Draft is penciled in on the strong side, but the Rams like having him available to back up all three positions.

    So the competition for the third starting job "is a wide-open...
    -05-29-2009, 08:05 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Vobora Steps Into Starting Role
    by r8rh8rmike
    Vobora Steps Into Starting Role
    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Officially, linebacker David Vobora’s reign as Mr. Irrelevant ended this year when the Kansas City Chiefs selected kicker Ryan Succop with the final pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.

    Vobora probably erased any doubt when he made the start at middle linebacker on Nov. 30 of last season against Miami. But any lingering suspicion was erased Thursday afternoon when Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo named Vobora the team’s starting strong side linebacker for this week’s opener in Seattle.

    “We hope this year in 2009, he’s Mr. Relevant,” defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “Only time will tell but again he’s done a good job. I am pleased he is getting an opportunity to show what he can do. I’m sure he is too. Hopefully he will just take it and run.”

    Vobora’s promotion comes on the same day the Rams parted ways with incumbent Chris Draft. The Rams released Draft earlier on Thursday morning but the opportunity for Vobora to make his impression has long since been in the making.

    Way back in the organized team activities and minicamps in the spring, Vobora was part of a combination with fellow linebacker Larry Grant working at the strong side position.

    As rookie James Laurinaitis got acclimated with the NFL game and worked with the second team in the middle, Draft worked with the starters and Vobora took turns with Grant on the outside, literally trading days working with the first team.

    While Laurinaitis earned the starting job early in camp, Vobora continued to make a strong impression on the coaches.

    “David has really been doing a heck of a job,” Spagnuolo said. “He had stepped up there; there was a chance that would happen anyway. David will step right in there and hopefully we won’t skip a beat.”

    Upon his arrival as head coach in St. Louis, Spagnuolo had talked about how there were plenty of opportunities for young players to prove themselves.

    And one way to catch the coach’s eye was evident from the very beginning. Any player with the versatility to play multiple positions would be given a long look by the coaching staff.

    “He’s one of those guys and I have said this about a lot of guys with the versatility, he’s played some MIC and he’s been out there playing outside linebacker,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s picked both up pretty good, he’s understanding the system and he’s made plays. So you slide him over there to SAM and hopefully he’ll continue to make plays.”

    Vobora spent most of his time at the University of Idaho playing weak side linebacker but also made starts in the middle. When he arrived in St. Louis last year, Vobora spent his time bouncing among the three positions.

    When injuries struck during the season, Vobora’s role on special...
    -09-10-2009, 07:56 PM