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After Strong Offseason, Ebukam in Line to Start at OLB

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  • After Strong Offseason, Ebukam in Line to Start at OLB

    After Strong Offseason, Ebukam in Line to Start at OLB
    By Kristen Lago
    Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018 12:10 PM

    Heading into the Rams offseason program, the club’s defensive lineup appeared to be pretty settled.

    From the new additions of cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, to the acquisition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, those outside of the building had a good idea of which players would be starting in the secondary and on the front line. The Rams linebackers, however, was a different story, given the departures of former starters Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, and Connor Barwin.

    But as the team looks toward training camp, it seems that at least one question mark from the group has been answered at outside linebacker.

    “I think Samson Ebukam has had a tremendous spring,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said recently. “I just think he’s learned more and more about what he can do and how to do what he does… [He] certainly will have one of the starting positions.”

    Ebukam made a name for himself last season early on as a dominant force on special teams. He also developed quickly as an important depth piece on the outside — recording 31 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one forced fumble in 2017, having appeared in all 16 games.

    While the coaching staff has been open with Ebukam about their plans for him this fall, the Eastern Washington product has maintained a humble attitude throughout the offseason.

    “They’ve told me that and all that good stuff, but I don’t really pay attention to it,” Ebukam admitted. “I’m just here to earn my spot. It’s another year and I just have to earn it just like everybody else."

    For that reason, he has been focused on delving deeper into the intricacies of the defense and working on his ability to rush the passer more effectively.

    “Definitely the playbook,” Ebukam said of his growth, “being able to play faster on the field and not thinking as much as I did last year. I just feel more loose and more confident now that I know the playbook more because I didn’t have this last year.”

    “I wasn’t here in OTAs [in 2017], so this is all kind of like a learning experience for me and I’ve loved it every step of the way,” he continued.

    Phillips and head coach Sean McVay have been impressed with the young linebacker’s overall development.

    Both mentioned the strides they’ve seen in Ebukam this offseason have given them confidence in his ability to be a starter in 2018.

    “He’s got tremendous speed and he’s learning to utilize that,” Phillips said. “You’ve got to hone in on what you do well [and] he’s kinda found his niche there.”

    “Samson has been a great player for us where you see the bursts, just the way that he’s consistently able to get in and out of different things whether it’s bursting [or] pursuing the football,” McVay said. “We always talk about that effort with the burst, speed, and finish and he’s really demonstrated that.”

  • #2
    Honestly, my floor for Ebukam is that he plays as well as Barwin/Quinn did last year. I think there is a very good chance he exceeds their play.

    Also, where is Ejuan Price? I was really high on the guy when we drafted him.


    • #3
      This, probably more than anything else, explains Barwin's lack of a contract with the Rams this year. I thought Ebukam looked really fast last year, and was great at pass rushing. Wasn't as convinced on his run defense though.... maybe that's something that's settling in as he learns the playbook more. Between him and Longacre, I though depth was really good at OLB as we entered the offseason. After unloading Quinn and not resigning Barwin, it's literally up to these two guys on the outside now


      • #4
        Originally posted by Wade Phillips
        [He] certainly will have one of the starting positions.
        Seems a bit odd to declare Ebukam a starter before any competition, but I suppose anything can happen before the start of the season. Ebukam certainly has the right attitude in saying he has to earn a starting spot just like anyone else.


        • #5
          Ebukam ran a low of 4.44 at the combine, and a high of 4.59. He pumped out 24 reps on the bench, broad jumped two inches short of 11 feet, and had a vertical of 39 inches. No question he’s got the physical attributes to succeed – if he’s got the smarts to boot, he could end up being a major steal. Starter? Guess we’ll find out soon enough.

          Ejuan Price is still listed on the roster, haven't heard much about him of late ..


          Related Topics


          • r8rh8rmike
            Klein: Cory Littleton is in the middle of Rams' rebuilt defense at linebacker
            by r8rh8rmike
            Cory Littleton is in the middle of Rams' rebuilt defense at linebacker

            By GARY KLEIN
            JUN 04, 2018 | 3:00 AM

            The journey began at the outer fringes of the roster and included a delay in the Pacific Northwest.

            Now Cory Littleton is suddenly right in the middle of the Rams’ defense.

            Two years ago, after he signed as an undrafted free agent, Littleton sat out nearly all organized team activity workouts because he was required to finish the spring quarter at the University of Washington. He pored over the Rams’ playbook in Seattle, and when he finally joined the team he earned a roster spot as a valuable special teams contributor.

            Last year during OTAs, Littleton studied and played behind veteran linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, earning a role as a featured back-up and spot starter.

            The Rams traded Ogletree in March, so Littleton has spent OTAs acclimating to new responsibilities.

            He is a starting inside linebacker and signal caller for a remade, star-studded defense that is expected to help the Rams move beyond the first round of the playoffs.

            “Basically,” he said of his role, “the quarterback of the defense.”

            It’s a big promotion for a first-year starter in a unit that will include star defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

            Littleton, 24, acknowledged that he was adjusting to fit the role.

            “I’m not the most vocal person,” he said, smiling. “I do my best.”

            The linebacker corps is the biggest question mark for a defense that appears stout along the front and talented and deep in the secondary.

            The Rams finished 11-5 and made the playoffs last season with a defense that ranked 19th overall, 13th against the pass and 28th against the run. They allowed the 12th-fewest points.

            General manager Les Snead made several offseason moves to provide defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with players that specifically fit his 3-4 scheme.

            The makeover began when the Rams traded veteran linebacker/edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks. It continued when they shipped Ogletree to the New York Giants for picks to clear salary room for the acquisition of Talib. And they let veteran linebacker Connor Barwin leave to test free agency.

            Barron, a six-year veteran, is attending but not participating in OTA workouts, the same model the Rams utilized last year to make sure he made it to and through the season without physical setbacks.

            That has provided Phillips, coach Sean McVay and linebackers coach Joe Barry an opportunity to closely assess others.

            Ramik Wilson, who started 17 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in his first three pro seasons, said he was adjusting quickly to a new system and teammates.

            -06-05-2018, 08:41 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Rams Feel Good About Depth at Linebacker
            by r8rh8rmike
            Rams Feel Good About Depth at Linebacker

            Posted 14 hours ago
            Kristen Lago Rams Writer/Reporter@kristennlago With four new additions acquired through the Draft, the Rams have 12 linebackers currently on the roster.

            This offseason, the club traded its starting edge defender Robert Quinn to the Dolphins. Starting middle linebacker Alec Ogletree was then traded to the Giants and starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin remains an unsigned free agent. Inside linebacker Mark Barron is the last remaining starter of the group on the team’s roster from 2017 — leaving three slots likely open for the next season.

            But despite the large holes on defense, coordinator Wade Phillips said he was confident about the club’s depth at the position.

            “We lost two outside backers and one inside backer who were starters,” Phillips told “So, it’s opening places for guys to step up and play. And I think some of these guys that we got were added to help us. I’m looking forward to that, but we [do] feel good about where we are.”

            The group Phillips was referring to includes outside linebackers Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Trevon Young, as well as inside linebackers Micah Kiser and Travin Howard.

            “I think you look at it and you like some of the depth that you’re able to create with some guys that can play on the edge,” head coach Sean McVay said recently. “Then you add interior players that can do some different things and allow us to be a bit more versatile at some of those spots and add some depth.”

            Kiser has been talked about as one of the rookies with the best chances at making an early impact on the defense. The Virginia product led the ACC in tackles for three consecutive seasons, recording 33.5 tackles for loss, 19.0 sacks, and eight forced fumbles along the way.

            “Micah has an opportunity to fit in, I mean we lost our MIKE linebacker,” Phillips said. “We lost our leadingtackler, so hopefully he can come in and step into those shoes, which are big shoes for a young guy.”

            “But he’s got all the talent,” he continued. “I mean hey, those are great things going in and I think it’ll take him a little time, but we feel like he was a really good fit for us.”

            All four rookies will join a linebacker room that already includes Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Ejuan Price, Garrett Sickels, Carlos Thompson and recently signed Ramik Wilson. Of the group, Ebukam, Longacre, and Littleton have the most game experience, combining for 1,007 snaps in 2017.

            All together — with some significant contributors from last season and a couple of promising newcomers — the Rams linebacker group includes several viable options for 2018.

            “We [definitely] have some guys on the team that can come through for us,” Phillips said. “It’s going to play out, but I feel good about it right now. We have some talent.”...
            -05-10-2018, 09:20 AM
          • MauiRam
            On a star-studded Rams defense, Cory Littleton quietly finds a role
            by MauiRam
            THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- If Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry had his way, he would have started coaching Cory Littleton more than two years ago.

            Barry, a former assistant with the Washington Redskins, implored the Redskins to select Littleton in the 2016 draft.

            "When we were in Washington we loved him," Barry said. "I was on the table the entire third day of the draft to draft him."

            But with more pressing needs, the Redskins passed on Littleton, who made several positions moves in four seasons at the University of Washington, which reflected in a draft grade that labeled him as an in-between player without a real spot in the NFL.

            The other 31 teams passed on Littleton in the draft, too, leaving Littleton, a San Diego native, to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Rams.

            "He made the decision," Barry said, "And I was like, 'Dang! What a bummer.'"

            Barry may have lost out on Littleton in the draft and free agency, but united with him in Los Angeles a year later when he accepted a position on coach Sean McVay's staff.
            Now as the Rams prepare for the 2018 season, Littleton, 24, has gone from an undrafted player to a penciled-in starter at inside linebacker on a defense that includes All-Pros Aaron Donald,

            Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

            "It's been a progression," Littleton said. "Just trying to get better every day."

            Littleton's ascension up the depth chart was made possible after a series of offseason roster moves.

            In the first year deploying defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, the Rams ranked 19th in total defense, giving up the 12th-fewest points and generating the fifth-most turnovers, as they clinched the NFC West for the first time since 2003.

            But they also ranked 28th against the run, allowing an average of 122.4 yards rushing.

            In an effort to better field the 3-4 and provide some salary-cap flexibility, the Rams traded outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree -- who last season signed a four-year, $42-million extension -- to the New York Giants.

            Ogletree's departure cleared a path for Littleton to win the starting job.

            "I'm just competing to try to secure it," Littleton said. "I have a lot of tough competition and I'm just going to do my best to try to keep it."

            The choice to part ways with Ogletree, a cornerstone of the locker room and the team's leading tackler the last two seasons, was made somewhat easier by the promise Littleton showed last season.

            "When he played last year, he's the type of guy where you're creating certain packages just to get him on the field when you've got two really good players inside like Alec Ogletree and...
            -07-09-2018, 09:39 PM
          • Nick
            How will Rams Replace Leaders on Defense?
            by Nick
            How will Rams Replace Leaders on Defense?
            Posted 40 minutes ago
            Myles Simmons
            Rams Insider

            Los Angeles overhauled its secondary during the offseason, acquiring key impact players like cornerback Aqib Talib, cornerback Marcus Peters, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

            But in bringing those players in, the Rams also traded significant defensive players like middle linebacker — and defensive signal-caller — Alec Ogletree, and outside linebacker Robert Quinn.

            Now that L.A. has begun Phase III of the offseason program, it’s fair to raise the question of how the club will replace such leaders not just for the defensive unit, but also for the team as a whole. Head coach Sean McVay addressed the subject earlier this week.

            “I think the best way that that happens is organically and I think really it’s about guys collaborating and playing together, as long as the communication is what we want,” McVay said. “As far as some of the motivations and some of those different things, we have a lot of guys on this team in general — offense, defense, special teams — that there are vocal leaders. But I think what most of our players would tell you that resonates more than anything is going about your work and being consistent in that approach day in and day out.”

            Essentially, McVay is saying he feels leaders will naturally emerge on Los Angeles’ squad.

            “We talk about consistency being the truest measurement of performance and I think with the way that a lot of guys work on this team, that naturally is a way of leading just by doing all the little things the right way. And I think with players on both sides of the ball that are doing that kind of just sorts itself out organically,” McVay said. “At certain positions you are naturally thrust in a role where you have to communicate — the quarterback and center on offense, the ‘Mike’ linebacker, some of the safeties with the communication that takes place on the backend. But I’ve been impressed with a lot of guys and we’re excited about just seeing it as the rest of the week progresses.”
            -05-25-2018, 04:16 PM
          • Nick
            Between the Horns - Episode 50 Recap
            by Nick

            Myles Simmons and D'Marco Farr recapped what they have observed at OTAs on the Between the Horns podcast.

            -Still looking at key areas. Defensively, they look exceptional at corner and in the middle.

            -Offensively, the team is taking a step forward with an offense they already know. There will be some coming back to earth for the offense, because teams have a year of film to see what you’re doing. But it also means you’ve got a year to build on and grow. Offense is improving and getting better.

            -Offense does not look like a Day 1 OTA offense. This is the first time in a while the Rams have had the same offensive coordinator (McVay) in back to back years, and it shows. Jared Goff got guys together to go through routes and work on timing. Cooks joined them after the trade. Cooks is as good as advertised. Fast, quick, polished. There’s no way he can’t help this offense.

            -Regarding questions about Goff’s growth as a leader on and off the field, Cooper Kupp says we need to start calling it what it is and say Goff is the leader of this offense, period. To hear Kupp say that, especially after the way things have gone for Goff so far in his career, is big time. He has the chance to be special and we're starting to see him take steps forward.

            -Looking at offense, they have one new starter (Cooks) and both agree that the Rams got better. That’s not a slight on Watkins, but more their opinion of Cooks. Cooks is a guy who has at least 1000 yards and 7 TDs in the last three seasons.

            -Regarding Tight End, McVay wants more out of that position and may go into different personnel groups (1 RB 2 TEs). Far says 12 personnel is awful for defenses because it’s balanced and the defense doesn’t know which way the ball is going until the snap. When you have a lead and a running back like Gurley, you want to go into 12 and pound them.

            -With Cooks, Woods, and Kupp, how do you cover it? They had fun talking about how to block Suh, Donald, and Brockers, but now how do defenses cover Cooks and Woods on the outside with Kupp stretching the middle? That receiving group, with Goff feeding them the ball, McVay designing plays, can be just as hard to deal with as Donald, Suh, and Brockers.

            -Holt’s impression at OTAs, the first guy he mentioned was Josh Reynolds. He’s a guy who has so much room to grow. We saw enough to say we want to see more, and the potential is there. Holt loves the other guys as well; loves Cooks’s attention to detail. Reynolds wants to prove that even though he has the size, he wants to prove that he’s more than that. How does he get on the field when you’ve got Cooks, Woods, and Kupp? There are going to be reps out there, no one can play every single one. Also dependent on people staying healthy.

            -Farr can’t wait to see Temarrick Hemingway...
            -06-11-2018, 06:19 AM