LA Rams News: Samson Ebukam loves life on the edge

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams OLB Samson Ebukam plays edge rusher and loves life on the edge

The LA Rams did not pursue free agent edge rusher, Dante Fowler Jr., in the 2020 off-season. While they were a bit cash-strapped, they found the money to sign OLB Leonard Floyd, NT A’Shawn Robinson, and re-sign DE Michael Brockers. Through the evaluation process, the Rams likely examined the roster to determine where the team could promote reserve players, and where the team needed to add competitive depth to remain successful.  Somewhere in the discussion, the coaching staff agreed that backup edge rusher Samson Ebukam was ready for promotion.

Promotion? Well to an extent.  You see, he has played over 50 percent of the defensive snaps in both 2018 and 2019. In fact, in 2019 Fowler accounted for 80 percent of the defensive snaps, Clay Matthews accounted for 56 percent of the defensive snaps, and Ebukam came in a close third with 51 percent of the defensive snaps. The other 14 percent of the defensive snaps were split among the remaining players like Obonnia Okoronkwo and Natrez Patrick.

Cutting edge production

Ebukam is not just a pass rush edge player. He is a complete package of edge-setter, pass rusher, and coverage linebacker. While it is probably wisest to save the best for last, let’s talk about the gem-like coverage Ebukam puts on the football field. In two seasons with the Rams, he has accounted for just one interception. That INT just happened to become a pick-six for the team. While he only defended one pass in 2018, he defended four passes in 2019. The completion rate against Ebukam over the past two seasons is a very impressive 62.5 percent.  So he is a precious asset in pass coverage, which is incredibly important for the Rams defensive plans in 2020.

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He shows good promise in hunting down quarterbacks as well.  Each year, his total sacks have improved, to his 2019 amount of 4.5 sacks. He also managed 10 quarterback hits and five tackles-for-loss last season as well. While he played fewer snaps, his total tackles of 48 were significantly higher than teammate Clay Matthews. That’s very impressive for a young man who was selected in the fourth round of 2017 NFL Draft.

Even his 2019 Pro Football Focus grade of 66.7 is fairly impressive.

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Terrell Lewis has stiff competition

When the LA Rams drafted edge rusher, Terrell Lewis, the expectation is that Lewis will be the starter opposite OLB Leonard Floyd. While that may certainly happen at some point in the season, Ebukam will not surrender that role easily.  That is a very good thing for both the Rams and for Lewis. After all, the worst thing that could happen to any rookie’s debut is to fall flat on their faces. The risk of struggling early is related to how quickly a rookie is placed onto the field, and how much competition he had to face along the way.

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For any player to earn snaps behind Ebukam, he will most definitely earn them. Ebukam has proven he can defend the pass, the run, and sack the quarterback. Other players must prove to be equally competent to get defensive snaps. There was no way that the LA Rams could have anticipated Terrell Lewis falling to them in the 2020 NFL Draft.  So it’s clear that the decision to part ways with Dante Fowler Jr. was based on knowing Samson Ebukam was ready to step up this season.  I am confident that he can step up this season as well.  To be fair, he was already playing more than 50 percent of the snaps on the edge. Now, he’ll simply be playing the first snaps of the game there.