LA Rams’ redshirt LB Micah Kiser better player for 2020
When the LA Rams linebacker Micah Kiser fell to a pectoral muscle injury in a preseason game to the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, nobody could have predicted the outcome. That event derailed Kiser’s first season as an NFL Starter. That was a goal he had set for himself since being drafted to the Rams as the 147th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. In the draft, Kiser’s strengths included great football IQ, good pass coverage, good blitzes, great tackler, and leadership. His weaknesses was a lack of athleticism.
His first season in the NFL was entirely special teams. He played 298 special teams snaps and recorded four tackles. While that wasn’t much of a debut, it was a year of training camp, practices, and strength training. After the LA Rams failed to use an early-round draft pick linebacker, many feared the Rams failed to adequately fill the void. But what if the team had an Ace-in-the-hole already?
Kiser was an intelligent linebacker who bulked up for the team over his rookie season. He proved to be a relentless nose-to-the-grindstone workaholic. That was enough to get the attention of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Kiser’s work ethic did more than catch defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ attention. That drive-to-be-the-best was obvious to his position coach, to his head coach. But when that reputation also hooked the attention of general manager Les Snead, the stage was set:
"““From a conscientiousness standpoint, whatever you’re rating in – I don’t know if ‘Madden’ can give a perfect score – but in conscientiousness and saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to be one of the best linebackers in the Rams organization, I do know this: His vision to be that, the conscientiousness matches that,” Snead said. “I don’t know if there’s been a day he’s missed here. Buy stock in Micah Kiser. Don’t want to interfere with his relationships, but if you have a daughter, see if you can somehow set them up because you just want to buy stock in that man.”-Les Snead as per Rams Revealed podcast Episode 27 (at 43:50)"
That’s a pretty huge endorsement.
The proof is on the field
Is this a case of that-was-then-this-is-now dynamics? After all, the LA Rams have a changing of the guard, having moved on from Wade Phillips to welcome new defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Now, everything has been reset, and the newcomers have as much chance as yesterday’s shoe-ins because the measurement has changed. The rule is no longer “can you be the best?” but rather “can you fill the most roles?”. Does Kiser measure up this year?
He does. He’s 6-foot-0 and 244 pounds. He’s stout and powerful, a 38-inch waist and 36-inch thighs, which is a throwback to players like Earl Campbell and Robert Newhouse. There is always a place on the team for that type of power. If Kiser’s shortcomings at the draft were athleticism, then that point has certainly been addressed. His stature of 6-foot-0 will limit him in terms of swapping to an outside linebacker role. But the name of the game in 2020 is to bolster the run defense. Kiser is a fireplug in the middle of the defense. That’s what the Rams need.
Multi-role vs. primary role
Even now, he is one of the best on the field. Regardless of past success in multiple roles, the key is the player comprehension, and that is where Kiser has excelled. Kiser has been “the guy”, inasmuch as he has been in the batter’s box awaiting his chance to swing at the starting role. The team has not changed the function of the linebacker. All that has happened in the offseason defense design is the addition of other roles to the defense at the ILB slot.
Kiser is not just a one-trick pony. He is not “just” a run defender. But he is new to the starting role of the NFL. And for the LA Rams, no matter who fills the defense, that interior linebacking role – whether a pure linebacker, a hybrid linebacker/safety, or a hybrid defensive back who can defend the run, that player will be new to the defense. And in that situation, I want a player who can think quickly on his feet, who can diagnose the play, and who can make the tackle. That’s Micah Kiser.