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Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

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  • Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

    Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?
    By Roger Hensley


    QUESTION: There wasn’t a whole lot to like about Sunday’s game in Seattle. One bright spot, however, was the play of rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis, who was credited with 14 tackles. What’s your long- term prognosis on Laurinaitis? Have the Rams found the player to man the middle of the defense for years to come?

    Laurinaitis certainly looks like a keeper, but one game doesn’t make a career. And for all the good things he did in run defense against Seattle, he made a couple of costly mistakes in pass coverage. If he wants to be an effective every down player in the NFL, Laurinaitis must learn to play the pass as well as the run.

    There’s been a tendency among some STL media members to all but nominate Laurinaitis for enshrinement to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but obviously he has the potential to be a very good MLB in the NFL. He has the athleticism. He’s instinctive. He’s tough. He works hard to be a student of the game. That said, he doesn’t have top-end speed, and his methodical change-of-direction will get him left behind on some plays. Obviously, his pass coverage skills need work; that’s a rookie thing. He will come along. He’s a nice fit for what Steve Spagnuolo is trying to do with his defense. He should be a fixture. In a few years we’ll know whether the Rams made the right call in taking Laurinaitis over USC’s Rey Maualuga.

    At the least, he will be a very solid middle linebacker for years to come. He just has a knack for being around the ball in run support.
    His days in the Big Ten didn’t prepare him for pass coverage, but that should come. But . . . will he ever but a real game changer, ala Aaron Curry? That remains to be seen.

    Laurinaitis certainly looks like the real deal. He’s a true middle linebacker, something the Rams have lacked for quite a while. He has a nose for the ball, and perhaps just as important, he’s a smart, confident guy who’s not at all intimidated by the responsibility of making the defensive calls.

    He’s off to a good start statistically, with 14 tackles and a fumble recovery. But, really, will anyone care if the unit continues to get steamrolled? Even on a 20-yard run, someone eventually makes the tackle, unless the play ends up in the endzone. So, the stats are moot if the defense as a whole doesn’t play better.

  • #2
    Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

    Here at the Clan we're ahead of this article. ;) [I think writers come here for ideas to write about]

    We had already discussed this question right after the game on Sunday. And the general response: yes, of course he's a keeper! Absolutely. // Laurinaitis may have missed a couple of key and costly assignments in his debut but it's not hard to see that JL is for real. Hussle, presence, tackles. Leadership in the making.

    :helmet: A real MLB.
    Last edited by RealRam; -09-15-2009, 04:14 PM. Reason: Tyop


    • #3
      Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

      I'm really excited about JL but one game does not make a career. However, if he keeps doing what he's doing then everything will be ok. Will he be a game changer like Curry? Well, is Curry a game changer right now? He may have been against the likes of Duke but will he be against say the Cardinals? Too early to tell on both.


      • #4
        Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

        He will continue to struggle in pass coverage until the game starts to slow down for him. Being MLB and calling/setting the defense is a lot to ask of a rookie. He did pretty well overall but reacting in pass coverage after takes time to react. One step behind and it's all over in the NFL !!!

        He'll be fine, it takes time

        Maineram -


        • #5
          Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

          Am I the only one who is sick of people who feel the need to mention Maualuga every time Laurinaitis is mentioned? The Rams could select one of those two guys, and they chose JL. At this point, there is no objective basis to assert that they made the wrong choice.


          • #6
            Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

            This reminds me of an article I saw the other day about London Fletcher. The point they made was that the top 3 or 4 middle linebackers leading the league in tackles last week were all on losing teams. Laurinaitis' performance on Sunday was encouraging in terms of what he is capable of, but it's also discouraging because when he's getting that many tackles, it may mean that he's having to bring down guys that the defensive line should have already stopped.


            • #7
              Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

              Yes, I believe I am a keeper.


              • #8
                Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

                This was actually a question on "The Water Cooler" after ONE NFL game? I guess they had absolutely nothing at all to discuss.

                If JL had gone out and missed every tackle Sunday, he'd still be a "keeper" for a while. No one makes it to the HOF after one game and high draft picks aren't totally discarded after their first game in the NFL. Sheesh.


                • #9
                  Re: Man in the middle: Is Laurinaitis a keeper?

                  Ehh, Singletary sucked in coverage too.
                  The more things change, the more they stay the same.


                  Related Topics


                  • r8rh8rmike
                    Success In The Details For Laurinaitis
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    Success in the Details for Laurinaitis
                    By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

                    Posted 2 hours ago

                    As the focal point of the Ohio State defense in his four years as a Buckeye, linebacker James Laurinaitis made plenty of big plays that would be cause for celebration.

                    But in Columbus, any type of signature move was frowned upon by the coaching staff.

                    “In college, the whole celebrating thing was kind of frowned upon,” Laurinaitis said. “Our linebacker coach wanted you to act like you had been there before.”

                    So Laurinaitis did just that, acting like he had been there before because in most cases, he had. That approach carried into his rookie season with the Rams where he led the team in tackles and made his share of big plays.

                    Never did Laurinaitis pound his chest or go off into a wild celebration. But before this season, cornerback Ron Bartell let Laurinaitis know that it’s OK to cut it loose after a big play.

                    As if Bartell’s encouragement wasn’t enough, Laurinaitis also took exception to a perceived slight in the Madden ’11 video game.

                    That game added a “swagger” rating feature this year where players are rated for the way they carry themselves. While the ratings seemed to be pretty arbitrary (former Rams safety David Roach was a 90), Laurinaitis was none too pleased to see that his rating matched his jersey number.

                    With that, Laurinaitis set about finding ways to get his swagger rating up and decided that incorporating pieces of his wrestling lineage into it would be a good way to do it.

                    “You realize in the NFL that it’s not really frowned upon,” Laurinaitis said. “It’s encouraged to get kind of creative with things. I really have to give credit to Ron Bartell as far as the sack celebrations. He told me a while ago I needed to step that up and recommended with the family lineage to do a lot of wrestling celebrations hence the Hulk Hogan, the Ric Flair, some of the things I have thrown in there.”

                    Now in his second season in the NFL, Laurinaitis has had plenty of opportunities to break out some of his new moves.

                    For the second consecutive year, Laurinaitis leads the team in tackles and is piecing together a Pro Bowl caliber season.

                    In 14 games, Laurinaitis has racked up 112 tackles, making him the first Ram since Pisa Tinoisamoa to reach the century mark in his first two seasons in the league. In addition to his tackling prowess, he’s added six passes defended, one interception and three sacks.

                    Being the perfectionist that he is, Laurinaitis is never satisfied with his performance but does acknowledge that he’s made a lot of progress from year 1 to year 2.

                    “I think I’m more accountable,” Laurinaitis said. “I’m better in the decision making on the field, getting guys lined up, knowing the game plan, know the details. It’s just part of...
                    -12-23-2010, 05:20 PM
                  • r8rh8rmike
                    Do You Think James Laurinaitis Has The Tools To Become An Elite LB In The NFL?
                    by r8rh8rmike
                    Laurinaitis proving his chops at NFL level

                    BY ROGER HENSLEY
                    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 11:32 am

                    QUESTION: Do you think James Laurinaitis has the tools to become an elite LB in the NFL?

                    JIM THOMAS

                    There’s no doubt. Laurinaitis has good range, good instincts, and a football mentality to go along with leadership skills and a strong work ethic in terms of preparation. Sure, there are things he needs to work on. But in order to gain recognition, the Rams need to win more games.

                    BILL COATS

                    No question. He has the physical attributes – good size and decent speed. Perhaps most important, he’s smart and really studies the opposition. That’s crucial for a middle linebacker, since he makes the alignment calls on defense.

                    JEFF GORDON

                    He is already a very good middle linebacker and an emerging team leader. He shored up this team’s run defense as a rookie and took off from there. His development allows this defense to move him around and use him in a variety of ways. He must continue his improvement in pass coverage to become an elite linebacker, but he appears to be well on the way to that.

                    KEVIN WHEELER (Host of “Sports Open Line” on KMOX)

                    I suppose it depends on how you define “elite.” For the purposes of this discussion I’ll define it as a player who makes multiple Pro Bowls and by that definition I do think Laurinaitis will be an elite linebacker.

                    He has the size and athletic ability necessary to be an impact player at his position and more importantly he’s a composed, committed leader on the defense. Laurinaitis is one of those guys who appears to have been born a linebacker. Everything about him fits the position.
                    -09-30-2010, 12:26 PM
                  • RamFan_Til_I_Die
                    Laurinaitis seeks to become leader for St. Louis Rams
                    by RamFan_Til_I_Die
                    Laurinaitis seeks to become leader for St. Louis Rams
                    BY JIM THOMAS
                    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

                    When the time came for the Rams to make their second-round pick in the draft, they were in an enviable position.

                    Granted, all the top-rated wide receivers were gone. But both of the top middle linebackers in the draft — Ohio State's James Laurinaitis and Southern California's Rey Maualuga — were on the board. The Rams decided to take Laurinaitis, sparking a debate and discussion among Rams fans that still is going on, and might continue for some time: Did the Rams take the right guy?

                    Coming off a season in which the Rams yielded a franchise record for rushing yards allowed, wasn't Maualuga the best run stuffer of the two? Wasn't Maualuga bigger and more of a collision player?

                    After the Senior Bowl, the Rams seemed to be smitten with Maualuga. But something changed over the next two months. There were rumors of off-field issues concerning Maualuga and with a struggling franchise trying to lay a foundation for the future, Rams management decided to make the safer and more conservative pick by selecting Laurinaitis at No. 35 overall.

                    Cincinnati snatched up Maualuga three picks later.

                    These are the types of decisions that can shape franchises and put their stamp on coaching and general manager tenures. For those reasons and more, no Rams draft pick, not even No. 2 overall pick Jason Smith at offensive tackle, will be under as much scrutiny during his rookie season as Laurinaitis.

                    No one is more aware of this than Laurinaitis, who makes no apologies for being picked ahead of Maualuga.

                    "I think we're two different style of players," Laurinaitis said. " And I'm not ever going to say anything negative about Rey. I think he's a great player. I do. I think he's done great things at USC. And I think he'll be a successful pro player."

                    As the 2009 season unfolds, Laurinaitis realizes Rams fans will be doing a compare-and-contrast of his play with Maualuga's. Fans and even media members might be comparing stats of the two players, but Laurinaitis won't.

                    "Oh no. Not at all," he said. "I think if you focus on what other people are doing, it takes your focus off what you need to be doing for your team."

                    Laurinaitis says he and Maualuga have become pretty good friends since spending time together at Playboy's preseason all-American team function. Last season, they'd call each other from time to time, congratulating each other on this game or that. On the first day of the draft, Maualuga even called Laurinaitis to congratulate him on being drafted.

                    "We're fans of each other," Laurinaitis said. "There's a little competition there when you're two middle linebackers. You're happy to be the first one off the board,...
                    -05-04-2009, 10:42 AM
                  • MauiRam
                    Nick Waggoner on James Laurinaitis
                    by MauiRam
                    By Nick Wagoner
                    Senior Writer

                    As he prepared himself for his first NFL minicamp, second-round draft choice James Laurinaitis heard all of the questions about getting thrown into the fire immediately.

                    Rare is the second-round choice who has more pressure on him from the start than the player picked in the first round. But in this situation, one could make the case that the expectations for what Laurinaitis can do for the defense are at least on par with the level of impact expected of first-round tackle Jason Smith with the offense.

                    “This is the NFL,” Laurinaitis said. “There’s not time to kind of wait for the rookies to catch on. You better catch on or you’ll be left behind. I think pace-wise, you better just try to learn and keep up. I think the most important thing I’m going to try to do is just compete and run around and show that I have a great work ethic and that I’m going to try 100 percent no matter what and the mental stuff will come. That’s the way it is for everyone.”

                    Laurinaitis is no stranger to the pressure of performing right away. At Ohio State, he got his first real playing time opportunity as a freshman when future first-round pick Bobby Carpenter suffered a broken leg on the first play from scrimmage against rival Michigan.

                    Thrown right into the mix against the Buckeyes’ most hated opponent, Laurinaitis embraced the opportunity and never looked back during one of the most distinguished careers a linebacker has ever had at the collegiate level.

                    From that day on, Laurinaitis did nothing but produce for Ohio State. While he wasn’t the most athletic player at his position, few linebackers have the read and react skills of Laurinaitis.

                    Those instincts to read keys and waste no motion getting to the ball helped Laurinaitis become a three-time All American and one of the most accomplished players in school history.

                    In three seasons as a starter, Laurinaitis posted 366 tackles, nine interceptions, 24.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks.

                    In 2006, Laurinaitis won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation’s best defensive player. In 2007, he won the Dick Butkus award as the nation’s best linebacker.

                    “The production – the guy has been like this his entire career at Ohio State,” Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. “He’s been a tackling machine.”

                    Not too shabby for a kid from Minnesota, who was once touted as a potential second or third round pick in the NHL Draft. Still, some questioned whether Laurinaitis made the right decision in returning to Ohio State for his senior season after he had accomplished so much for the Buckeyes.

                    Entering this year’s draft, Laurinaitis was considered one of the two best middle linebackers available. Southern California middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was the other highly regarded middle ‘backer.

                    Much to...
                    -05-02-2009, 06:15 PM
                  • txramsfan
                    Is Laurinaitis finally the answer?
                    by txramsfan
                    All indications seem to point to the possibility that JL can finally purge the heartburn of losing London Fletcher. The way he flies around the field, plays the run, and just overall gets this defense in gear makes me think I may be able to finally be relieved of my torture. Watch how soon he becomes the heart and soul of my defense.
                    -09-09-2009, 02:58 PM