Brockers came back in a big way for the LA Rams

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

A year ago, the  LA Rams weighed their roster, set their priorities, and determined who would likely be affordable to re-sign, and who would likely sign beyond the Rams budget for another team. The result was heartbreaking. Even before NFL Free Agency hit, Michael Brockers had posted a tribute and a farewell.  A class act? Yes. And an undeniable farewell.

He quickly signed with the Baltimore Ravens, but that deal did not go through. Instead, the LA Rams were able to serve as a proxy for the Ravens, signing the contract in their place. Surprisingly, a player who the Rams never wanted to lose to another team achieved the best deal possible and was able to remain with the NFL team he loved. Win-Win, right?

Win, win, win.

Measuring the production of a football is an imperfect science. Well, a very imperfect science. Players perform on the football field due to a number of factors that have yet to be quantified: How injured were they? How well do they play with their teammates? What were they supposed to do on any given play? The list of elements that are unmeasured goes on and on.

Friendship is a tremendous motivator. It’s the type of bond that can lead to unfathomable heroics. Medal-of-Honor recipients do not risk their lives for their country. They do so for their friends. Why mention that here? Well, for starters, Aaron Donald has never played for the LA Rams without his friend Michael Brockers lined up next to him.

Brockers is the heart of the defense. He knows what makes 11 players tick on the field. He knows that from the opening kickoff, it’s not about fans, big paychecks, the stats, or even DPOY. It’s about playing for one another. Teammates who simply do not want to let their other teammates down. But more importantly, friends who want to do right by their friends when it falls upon them.

While everyone stared at Aaron Donald, Brockers quietly put up career-best numbers. Over nine seasons he only saw action for 61 percent of the defensive snaps. While that was in the lower half of snaps, he still managed to put up 51 tackles and five tackles for losses.  Both fine numbers for a defensive lineman.

Where he excelled was the pass rush, where he put up career-high quarterback sacks at five, and another high at quarterback hits at ten. Fewer snaps, career-high results.  Win-Win-Win. Pretty spectacular results for a player few expected to return.

The play of linemen, whether offense or defense, is based on the value of the group as much as the value of a player. At the line of scrimmage, it’s hand to hand combat. Strategy succeeds by having the right people win the point of contact so that other players can follow up to make the play. In our fantasy football mentality, those point-of-contact players have zero worth. So, that bleeds over to the point where too few notice them.

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Top-ranked defenses do not simply have the best tacklers on the football field. They succeed by forcing the ball carrier to the best tackler on the field. Michael Brockers has never won a Defensive Player of the Year. But for each time that Aaron Donald has done so, he has lined up next to him.

Michael Brockers is more than a tackle here and a quarterback sack there. He is the embodiment of an LA Rams veteran. He leads by example. He shares his experience and wisdom with wide-eyed rookies and younger players.  And he’s putting up career-high numbers. His teammate Aaron Donald has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the third time of his career.

If Brockers had played for the Ravens, would history have played out the same? Who’s to say? But you can bet that Aaron Donald gives credit to his teammate, and friend, for the achievement.