Los Angeles Rams still in search of replacement for Alec Ogletree at linebacker

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Near the beginning of the offseason, the Los Angeles Rams decided to trade Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants for a couple of draft picks.

A lot of Los Angeles Rams fans were surprised in the offseason to hear the news surrounding Alec Ogltree being traded to the New York Giants, but since then I believe they realize why this move was made.

One of the main factors as to why this was such a surprise was due to the Rams extending Ogletree last October, making it seem like the linebacker would be around for the long run. The deal was worth $42 million over four years, but Los Angeles definitely freed up some money by moving Ogletree when they did.

Ogletree is an athletic freak with his ability to play in coverage successfully against running backs and tight ends. However, it was a completely different story with Ogletree’s ability to stop the run since this was one of his areas of weakness.

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Although the Rams’ defense had a dominant year in 2017, their run defense was near the bottom of the NFL. Unfortunately, Los Angeles ranked 28th in rushing yards allowed per game and having Ogletree as an inside linebacker was one of the reasons for that.

In reality, Ogletree never fit the defensive scheme the Rams were running under Wade Phillips. They run a 3-4 base defense and Ogletree doesn’t quite fit the mold of a 3-4 inside linebacker.

Ogletree was able to play in the 4-3 defense very successfully a couple of years ago. In a 4-3 defense though, that extra lineman up front helps stop the run. This allowed Ogletree to fly around the field and make plays, which is what he does best.

General manager Les Snead commented on the Ogletree situation a few months back when he was asked about trading Ogletree and Robert Quinn, and what he had to say was actually quite interesting.

"“When you do the transition from 4-3 to 3-4, it helps to live a year as you put guys in positions that they’re not necessarily used to,” Snead said. “So I think last year helped to figure out who were the best fits and who weren’t. It’s nothing against individuals. It’s just a scheme. And also getting, as Wade would say – and any defensive coordinator – he may value certain positions more on others based on what he’s trying to get done. I think that’s part of the transition there and it’s not gonna get done in the first off-season.”"

Now that Ogletree’s leadership and presence are gone, who could step into the role of inside linebacker for the Rams? The first possibility is Ramik Wilson, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs for the last three years. While with the Chiefs, Wilson tallied up 88 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and four fumble recoveries. The good thing is, Wilson is comfortable in a 3-4 defense having played in it for three years.

Wilson’s best season came in 2016, when he started in 11 games for the Chiefs while finishing with 61 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. This was a very solid season for a guy in his second year in the NFL. While playing with Kansas City, Wilson got to learn from one of the best inside linebackers in Derrick Johnson. Hopefully, Wilson picked up on some of Johnson’s leadership traits in Kansas City.

Another option to replace Ogletree is Micah Kiser. The Rams selected Kiser in the fifth round of the NFL Draft this offseason.

Kiser played his college ball at the University of Virginia, where he played at for four years. In college, Kiser totaled 408 tackles, 19 sacks, eight forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and one interception.

The impressive part is he only had 15 tackles during his freshman year. So if you do the math, he was a tackling machine his last three seasons at Virginia. Kiser led the ACC in tackles for three consecutive seasons, becoming just the second player to do so in ACC history (the other guy being none other than Luke Kuechly).

Another impressive feat for Kiser was being awarded the William V. Campbell trophy in 2017, which is considered the “Academic Heisman” award. This award is given to the best scholar-athlete in the whole nation, so that includes all colleges.

Kiser is obviously a very intelligent human being. Hopefully that allows him to learn things quickly in Wade Phillips’ defense.

Ogletree getting traded left a hole in the middle of the Rams’ defense, but I believe Rams have a couple of guys who can step into the role of inside linebacker successfully. It does help just a little to have guys like Aaron Donald (hopefully), Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh in front of you.

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Plus, you can’t forget the likes of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Lamarcus Joyner are behind you in coverage, which should ease whoever steps in to the fill the gap in the middle of the defense. There’s no denying the fact that the Rams can have one of the best defenses in the NFL this season, even with uncertainty at the linebacker position heading into training camp.