Is this the year LA Rams OLB Jachai Polite realizes his potential?
Potential is unrealized energy. For the LA Rams, that motionless stockpile of energy can describe the talent of players on the practice squad. It can also refer to players on the depth chart who patiently await their turn at making plays on the offense, defense, or special teams. It’s there, waiting.
But perhaps potential is most appropriately applied to LA Rams outside linebacker Jachai Polite. He is hulking 6-foot-3, 258-pound outside with a ridiculously threatening first step burst towards the quarterback. Originally chosen in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, Polite had all the potential of a solid NFL pass-rusher. He arrived at the NFL at 21 years of age and failed to land a spot on the Jets roster.
The LA Rams signed him to the practice squad last year. A place to save his potential for some future opportunity when the time was right. Is that time now? Certainly, there are a few factors that build to that conclusion.
The LA Rams had plenty of depth on the edge in 2019. Not only did the Rams have defined starters in veterans Dante Fowler Jr. and Clay Matthews, but the team had a pretty solid core of rotational players to absorb snaps at the position. Polite arrived too late to pry snaps away from the 2019 defensive pass rushers.
Things changed dramatically this season when the Rams parted ways with Matthews and lost Fowler to free agency. An even bigger change was the hiring of former Denver Broncos outside linebacker position coach Brandon Staley to be the Rams defensive coordinator. Staley knows edge rushers, having worked with both Von Miller and Khalil Mack in his career.
Now, Jachai Polite had the chance to learn from Staley. A young man with huge upside potential suddenly found himself coached by someone who could teach him to play like the best in the league. But would he take advantage of the opportunity? It seems he will.
What can we expect?
It’s a show-me role
With rookie OLB Terrell Lewis out for game one, and uncertain about his immediate future, Polite will slide into the depth chart. The Rams will start veterans Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam. First off the bench will be veteran Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The second player? Jachai Polite. It’s difficult to say how many defensive snaps he will play in the season opener. But for each time he plays well, that number will increase.
Polite has a new opportunity. He’s on the Rams active roster and will undoubtedly have the opportunity to fill an immediate special teams role with the team. Defensive snaps may come over time. The better that he shows up on game-day, the larger his defensive role will become. What is his ceiling?