Last season the St. Louis Rams reaped the benefits of linebacker Alec Ogletree slipping all the way to number 30. He became the first Ram to out-tackle James Laurinaitis in a single season, taking the most tackles in a season title away from the veteran.
However, where the Rams struggled at linebacker was on the strong side. The same side played by Jo-Lonn Dunbar who had a season to forget in 2014. Dunbar was the 5th worst 4-3 outside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus. Dunbar was a liability in coverage, and wasn’t much better in the run game.
If Pro Football Focus graded leadership, that would have been the only area where Dunbar would have earned a positive grade. As much leadership as Dunbar brought, you can only play leadership over talent for so long, and it may be time to find a replacement for Dunbar.
Some fans wanted the Rams to go for Khalil Mack with the second overall pick in the draft. As great as having Mack on the defense would have been, Dunbar’s replacement may already be on the roster. Dunbar’s replacement might be Ray Ray Armstrong.
If it was one undrafted free agent that Rams fans were most excited about last season, it was University of Miami linebacker, Ray Ray Armstrong. Although Armstong only got 21 snaps at outside linebacker according to Pro Football Focus, he did play a lot of special teams, and excelled in that role.
It seemed like every time a play was made on special teams, Armstrong was right there. In fact, Armstrong led the team in special team tackles with 12 on the season. The undrafted rookie became one of the more impressive special teams players aside from wide receiver Stedman Bailey.
Going into year two, and with no definitive starter across from Alec Ogletree, will Armstrong be able to contribute more on defense and eventually win the starting role? There is no question this kid has a nose for the football, and plays aggressive. That is exactly the type of player that Gregg Williams loves to have on defense.
As mentioned earlier, Armstrong only got 21 snaps at outside linebacker last season. However, for what it’s worth, 17 of those snaps came against San Francisco in seek four and he graded positively at 0.2.
Although that may not seem great, considering the 49ers blew the Rams out by 24 points, and Armstrong was an undrafted rookie going against one of the best offensive lines and best teams in the NFL, 0.2 is somewhat impressive.
Although Armstrong may not come out and start week one against the Minnesota Vikings, Armstrong could work his way more and more into the lineup. The fact that this guy was willing to do whatever it took to get on the field, even if it meant playing special teams speaks volumes to what this guy is all about. And the fact that he excelled in that role and became one of the team’s best special teams players is respectable.
Like every young player, Armstrong had his mental errors with penalties. However, this guy plays with the energy and intensity that Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams like. Going into year two, Armstrong’s role can certainly increase if he proves that he has what it takes to play on the defense in training camp.