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With Mark Barron’s departure, Rams have an important spot to fill at linebacker

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  • With Mark Barron’s departure, Rams have an important spot to fill at linebacker

    With Mark Barron’s departure, Rams have an important spot to fill at linebacker
    Friday, Mar 29, 2019 10:05 AM
    Myles Simmons
    RAMS INSIDER

    When Los Angeles released veteran linebacker Mark Barron earlier this month, the team had interest in bringing him back at a lower contract number.

    That, however, did not work out for the Rams, as Barron signed a two-year deal with the Steelers.

    Barron had been a significant piece of the Rams’ defense going back to 2014, when the team acquired him from the Buccaneers via trade. The former first-round pick was a wildcard of sorts on the Rams’ defense for the rest of that season and in the early stages of 2015, before transitioning to weakside linebacker in the club’s former 4-3 scheme. Then once coordinator Wade Phillips arrived in 2017, Barron became the team’s second starting inside linebacker in the 3-4.

    But Barron’s last couple of years saw him significantly impacted by injury — keeping him out of two games in 2017 and then four in 2018. Nevertheless, Barron’s presence was certainly felt when he was on the field.

    That’s part of why head coach Sean McVay told reporters this week at the league meetings in Phoenix that the Rams are going to miss Barron going forward.

    “You know, I think Mark Barron — what a stud he is. You know, what he’s meant to this team long before our coaching staff got there — we were hopeful to try to get Mark back, but to his credit, he had a lot of teams that were interested,” McVay said. “Pittsburgh got a great one — a great competitor, kind of a silent leader in his own way. I always had so much respect of the way that Mark handled some of the adversity, specific to the injuries. And he just went out and competed. And you could see the way that the players and his coaches respected him. He’s going to be a guy we’re going to miss a lot.”

    At this point, rising second-year linebacker Micah Kiser would slot in as the starter at the Rams’ second inside LB spot alongside defensive signal-caller Cory Littleton. McVay mentioned Kiser on Tuesday, saying that part of the reason why L.A. drafted Kiser was for him to play that position eventually.

    A 2018 fifth-round pick out of Virginia, Kiser played 63 percent of special teams snaps last year — only three players had more — but the linebacker did not get any time on defense after the preseason.

    But whether or not Kiser ends up starting the season at ILB, Los Angeles will likely need to beef up that position. Aside from Barron, linebackers Ramik Wilson and Bryce Hager are also unrestricted free agents. Earlier this month, general manager Les Snead said, “There’s probably a little more work to do at that position through this process.”

    As the offseason continues, inside linebacker is certainly a position to monitor for the Rams both in free agency and the draft.

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  • MauiRam
    Versatile Rams linebacker Mark Barron is thriving in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme
    by MauiRam
    Gary Klein


    Rams linebacker Mark Barron intercepts a pass in front of teammate Nickell Robey-Coleman during a victory over the Cowboys on Oct. 1.
    (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

    Wade Phillips’ impending arrival as the Rams’ defensive coordinator last January caused several players minor anxiety.

    They were excited, of course, about Phillips’ track record of success, but uncertain how they might fit into his 3-4 scheme.

    Mark Barron, at a seemingly undersized 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds for an inside linebacker, was not among the nervous.

    “I wasn’t worried about it all,” Barron said. “Just tell me what you need me to do, what’s my responsibility, and I’m going to go and try to find a way to make plays within that scheme.”

    Barron, 28, has done that for a Rams team that is 7-2 and atop the NFC West heading into Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

    He has 63 tackles and three interceptions, both team bests.

    “You feel him,” coach Sean McVay said. “He’s all over the field.”

    Barron’s playmaking has helped the Rams lead the league with 19 forced turnovers, including 12 interceptions and seven fumbles.

    In last week’s victory over the Houston Texans, Jared Goff’s long touchdown pass to Robert Woods was the third-quarter play that blew open the game and sent the Rams on their way to a 33-7 blowout.

    But Barron’s interception late in the first half positioned the Rams for the breakout.

    After the Rams failed to generate a first down with a fake punt, the Texans took over and moved inside the Rams’ 20-yard line with a chance to build on a 7-6 lead.

    Barron intercepted a pass to quell the threat and returned it 15 yards to set up a drive that led to a field goal to put the Rams ahead going into the break.

    And he did it wearing a cast on his left hand because of a thumb injury.

    “If I’m going to step on the field and play with it, I can’t be out there making excuses,” Barron said. “You got to find a way.”

    Barron has thrived for the Rams since moving from safety to a hybrid role a few seasons ago. It was one of several position switches he made since he began playing football in youth leagues.

    Barron mainly played running back, wingback and receiver in high school in Mobile, Ala. But during his senior season, to help the defense, he also moved to linebacker and safety.

    In college at Alabama, he played safety for two national championship teams and was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the seventh pick in the 2012 draft.

    The Rams acquired Barron for two draft picks in a 2014 trade deadline move, and he finished that season at safety.

    But in 2015, after outside linebacker Alec Ogletree suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 4, former Rams defensive...
    -11-18-2017, 12:20 PM
  • Nick
    Rams' Mark Barron says he can shoulder his role as a veteran linebacker
    by Nick
    Rams' Mark Barron says he can shoulder his role as a veteran linebacker
    By GARY KLEIN
    JUN 28, 2018 | 11:10 AM

    Shortly after the 2017 NFL season ended, Rams linebacker Mark Barron underwent shoulder surgery. A month later, doctors removed bone spurs from his left heel.

    The procedures and ensuing rehabilitation kept Barron sidelined for offseason workouts and minicamp.

    So Barron won’t be backpedaling or sprinting through drills when he holds a free youth football camp Saturday in his hometown of Mobile, Ala. But he will be on the field at Sage Park, where a turnout of as many as 200 boys and girls is expected.

    “I’ll be moving around from station to station,” he said in a telephone interview, “talking to the kids and trying to motivate them.”

    Barron, 28, could find similar circumstances with his young teammates during the upcoming season.

    The Rams made blockbuster moves in March and April, acquiring several veteran players with Pro Bowl resumes. Cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib arrived via trades, and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh signed as a free agent.

    The shuffle also included the departures of a couple of veterans: inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and edge rusher Robert Quinn.

    Those moves leave Barron, who has six years of experience, surrounded by young linebackers in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme.

    Third-year pro Cory Littleton will flank Barron at inside linebacker, with second-year pro Samson Ebukam filling Quinn’s role. The starter at the other outside linebacker spot will be determined during training camp.

    “They’re very mature guys,” Barron said of Littleton and Ebukam. “They’ve taken on their roles, they take them very seriously, so their approach to the game is the way it’s supposed to be.

    “Once I get back out there and get in the huddle with these guys, whatever is needed, whether it’s communication or whatever I need to do, is what I’ll be doing.”

    Barron, who carries a salary-cap number of $10 million this season, understood the moves that sent Quinn and Ogletree to other teams — “This league is a business,” he said — and the Rams must replace their leadership. But Barron is happy with the roster makeup.

    “We’re in a great position to make a Super Bowl run,” he said.

    That’s a welcome scenario for a player who made his first playoff appearance last season after the Rams won the NFC West and finished 11-5 under first-year coach Sean McVay.

    Barron, the seventh pick in the 2012 draft, began his pro career as a safety with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was traded to the Rams during the 2014 season, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams converted him into a hybrid linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

    Barron flourished in the role and signed a five-year, $45-million extension before the 2016 season, which...
    -06-29-2018, 11:34 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Linebacker: The biggest, perhaps only, concern for 2018 Rams
    by r8rh8rmike
    Linebacker: The biggest, perhaps only, concern for 2018 Rams

    5:00 AM PT
    Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer

    LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles Rams' offense that was among the NFL's best last season might be even better now, with Brandin Cooks joining the receiver group and Jared Goff potentially taking another step forward as a third-year quarterback. The defensive line, where Ndamukong Suh joins Aaron Donaldand Michael Brockers, looks flat-out scary. And the same can be said for the secondary, now that Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have been added to a group that includes Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

    The linebackers ... well, that's a different story.

    The Rams upgraded elsewhere on their roster at the expense of this group. The salary-cap space now allocated for Cooks and Talib used to belong to outside linebacker Robert Quinn (traded to the Miami Dolphins) and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (traded to the New York Giants). Two long-time fixtures on the Rams' defense are gone, as is Connor Barwin, an accomplished veteran who started on the left side last year and now remains unsigned as a free agent.

    Heading into 2018, the Rams have what looks like three open spots at linebacker -- spots they will fill internally, either with former backups or recent mid- to late-round draft picks. The only returning starter in this group is inside linebacker Mark Barron, a potential cap casualty when the offseason began.

    Below, we sorted through the candidates to play alongside him.

    The favorites: Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre played well while backing up Barwin and Quinn, respectively, last year. Cory Littleton, mostly an inside linebacker, was a star on special teams, blocking two punts. They all seem to have the inside track on starting roles heading into 2018, but will nonetheless have to earn their keep. Ebukam is an explosive athlete who profiled as a high-upside edge rusher coming out of Eastern Washington, but one who also needed some refinement. The Rams hope Year 2 is a big one for him. Undrafted out of Northwest Missouri State, Longacre's snap count went from 149 to 354 from 2016 to 2017, while switching from defensive end to mostly outside linebacker. He finished with 5.5 sacks in 230 snaps on the right side. Littleton, undrafted out of Washington, started in place of Barron in Week 16 against the Tennessee Titans and recorded a sack and an interception in the game that clinched a division title. The incumbents: For outside linebacker, the Rams also have Ejuan Price (a seventh-round pick last year), Garrett Sickels(undrafted in 2017) and Carlos Thompson (undrafted in 2015). Those three have combined for 87 defensive snaps in the NFL. Wade Phillips likes to rotate his outside linebackers, so that total might increase significantly this coming season. That isn't necessarily the case at inside linebacker; at least not with Barron and Ogletree, who...
    -05-04-2018, 09:16 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Is Barron A Strong Safety? Free Safety? Stay Tuned
    by r8rh8rmike
    Is Barron a strong safety? Free safety? Stay tuned

    10 hours ago • By Jim Thomas jthomas@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8197

    All in all, the Rams were happy as clams to acquire safety Mark Barron in Tuesday’s trade with Tampa Bay.

    “We obviously liked Mark coming into the league,” coach Jeff Fisher said following Wednesday’s practice at Rams Park. “He was an outstanding college player. We thought he had a lot of ability, and whatever the reasons are (for the trade) down there, we had an opportunity to take advantage of getting a good football player.”

    As to exactly how the Rams plan to use him, stay tuned. They’re apparently still figuring that out. And if Fisher knows, he’s not telling.

    “I’m not going to speculate the roles and things like that,” Fisher said. “We got a good player. I’m gonna spend some time with him, and talk about where and how he fits at some other point.”

    At 6-2, 213, Barron has the size of a strong safety and has a hard-hitting style best suited to playing in the box, defending the run and occasionally getting after the quarterback — which actually describes the style of play of the Rams’ current starting strong safety, 6-3, 217-pound T.J. McDonald.

    But Barron, in his first interviews with St. Louis reporters, said he’s capable of playing strong or free.

    “I feel like I’m an athletic guy,” Barron said. “I can do whatever I’m asked to do. I just like to get involved more. So it’s easy to get involved early in the game when you’re in the box.”

    But Barron said he’d have no problem if asked to play free safety, which usually includes more coverage responsibilities and involves playing farther off the line of scrimmage.

    “A lot of my career for as long as I’ve been playing I actually played free,” Barron said. “People don’t know that, but for a lot of my career I have.”

    He was speaking mainly about his college career at Alabama.

    Just a couple of stalls away in the Rams’ locker room, McDonald also said he could play free safety if called upon.

    “I can do whatever they tell me to do,” McDonald said. “Once I get out there on the field, I’ve just gotta go make plays wherever I’m at. There’s only one ball on the field and we all gotta get to it. So if I’ve gotta get to it from a little further depth, then I’ve gotta get on my horse.”

    Fisher said both McDonald and free safety Rodney McLeod have been playing well this season. But the opportunity to acquire Barron, for fourth- and sixth-round draft picks in 2015, was something the Rams felt they couldn’t pass up.

    “He’s a smart, instinctive football player,” Fisher said. “He’ll hit you. He understands angles. Gosh, he was a first-round pick (in 2012) and for whatever reason it didn’t work out or they felt like he didn’t fit in the system.

    “We’ll find a way to fit...
    -10-30-2014, 09:04 AM
  • Nick
    Rams rookies quickly warm to ‘old dude’ coordinator Wade Phillips
    by Nick
    Rams rookies quickly warm to ‘old dude’ coordinator Wade Phillips
    By Rich Hammond, rhammond@scng.com,, @Rich_Hammond on Twitter
    POSTED: 05/12/17, 7:25 PM PDT | UPDATED: 6 HRS AGO 0 COMMENTS

    THOUSAND OAKS >> Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who is old enough to be the grandfather of the rookies he met this week, quickly bridged the generation gap.

    “I thought he was going to be kind of a hard (personality),” linebacker Samson Ebukam said Friday. “Because he’s an old dude; you know what I’m saying? He’s an old dude, and I thought he was going to be one of those hard-ass dudes, who was like, ‘Do this, do this, do this.’ But he’s chill. He’s just right there trying to get you better, and that’s what I like about him. He’s just trying to get us better.”

    Don’t blame the rookies for being intimidated by the spectre of Phillips. He’s 69 years old with a recently minted Super Bowl ring, and he’s been coaching in the NFL since the mid-1970s, which must seem like the dark ages to a 22-year-old player such as Ebukam, and his peers.

    Old and young seem to have melded together. The Rams on Friday opened their two-day rookie mini-camp for players recently drafted and signed, and while much of the recent focus has been on the Rams’ well-regarded offensive prospects, Phillips brings the potential for immediate defensive improvement.

    Phillips now has his first chance to work with Ebukam, a fourth-round draft pick of the Rams last month, safety John Johnson (a third-round pick) and many other undrafted free agents.

    “I’m pleased with all of them,” Phillips said. “Their effort is really good. They’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but that’s a good thing. That’s what we want, that kind of mood.”

    Rams rookies certainly knew Phillips by reputation, and thus far, he seems to be a good complement to first-year coach Sean McVay and his nonstop energy. Phillips is far from lethargic, but he speaks slowly, with a Texas drawl and plenty of dry wit. Then there’s the resume.

    Phillips won the Super Bowl two years ago as Denver’s defensive coordinator, and he’s known as something of a turnaround artist. That’s good news for the Rams’ defense, which is talented but underachieved last season.

    Phillips, who worked with Rams veterans at a mini-camp last month, said he has been impressed with their work ethic. Phillips estimated that he already has installed 70 percent of his defense.

    “Like any coach, it’s, ‘What have you done for me lately?’” Phillips said. “We’re going to try to do something right now. We’ve been successful doing that over the years.”

    Phillips already seems to be growing on the youngest Rams. Johnson said Phillips reminded him of his former college defensive coordinator, and players seemed pleasantly surprised by Phillips’ relatability.

    “So I’m kind of comfortable...
    -05-13-2017, 06:24 AM
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