Jun 6, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree (52) looks on during organized team activities at ContinuityX Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Ogletree To Play "Left Side Linebacker," Not Weakside Or Strongside

All throughout rookie minicamp, rumors began to spread about the St. Louis Rams slotting Alec Ogletree as the strongside linebacker in the defense. Most analysts believed that Ogletree would be much better suited for the weakside, manning the backend of the linebacker unit. Typically, the weakside linebacker is the fastest player in the corps, and possesses the best coverage skills. With Ogletree’s mixture of experience at safety and as a 4-3 inside linebacker, it seemed natural that he would be starting at WILL at the beginning of the season.

However, there is one problem with that idea… Jo-Lonn Dunbar. The Rams’ 2012 offseason signee was an under-the-radar monster last season, performing well in all three facets of the linebacker game. In the pass rush, Dunbar ranked 5th among all 4-3 outside linebacker with 4.5 sacks, 5th in hits on the quarterback (5), and 7th in hurries (9). In coverage, he snagged 2 interceptions (5th) and 3 pass deflections (6th). Last, but certainly not least, he was a monster against the run, recording 115 combined tackles, including 62 defensive stops (i.e. a tackle that results in an offensive “failure”), which was the 3rd most of any defensive player in the NFL last season.

One could easily argue that Dunbar’s “downhill” style of play is much better suited for the strongside, instead of playing chase-and-tackle on the backside. However, he had limited success at SAM in New Orleans, grading out positively (according to Pro Football Focus) in only 6 out of his 23 total “starts” at the position. So, how would Jeff Fisher choose? It appears, for now, that he won’t…

 

Fisher has already made the point abundantly clear that he prefers his safeties to be interchangeable, so why not use that same philosophy on outside linebackers, assuming the can both “fit the bill.”

With Alec Ogletree at the “left” outside linebacker spot, which some might call “LUCKY,” he will be slotted behind Chris Long, who typically mans the left defensive end position. This moves makes a ton of sense, for a number of reasons. First, that means Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who specializes as a run stopper, will be lined up behind Robert Quinn, who struggled in run defense last season. Second, it means that Ogletree will likely get a better pass rush, with Chris Long demanding a double-team on nearly every play. Let’s just call it a double-dose of bad news for an offensive line if those two are gunning for the quarterback on the same side…

Once again, Coach Fisher has brushed away traditional thinking in favor of getting the best players on the field at all times. Last year, Fisher opted to rely heavily on the nickel package, as opposed to the base 4-3 set, which allowed him to move Cortland Finnegan into the slot, move Trumaine Johnson or Bradley Fletcher to the outside, and keep Mario Haggan and Rocky McIntosh off of the field. This season, with no set designated weakside or strongside linebacker, offensive coordinators will have a more difficult time game-planning against the defense, and quarterbacks will have a much tougher time deciphering matchups in their pre-snap reads. Just another testament to Fisher’s genius…

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