The LA Rams, as they are known to do, made a subtle yet inspired transaction as NFL teams were pruning rosters to make the 53-man limit. The Denver Broncos, the former team of then defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, attempted to waive ILB/OLB hybrid Justin Hollins in order to move him over to their practice squad. But the eagle-eyed personnel office, led by gambling GM Les Snead, was perched and prepared for the attempt.
The LA Rams claimed him off waivers and directly onto their 53-man roster. Who needs any first-round draft picks when you are that good at poaching NFL-caliber talent for next to nothing? The scouting on Hollins was clearly influenced by Staley, who knew that Hollins was cross-trained in both roles as an inside linebacker and as an outside linebacker. Coincidentally, the LA Rams suffered injuries at both positions and Hollins was the ideal cavalry to ride in as reinforcements.
Staley also caught on to Hollins early in the scouting process and saw his potential (and potential versatility), and pushed for him to personnel people, but just didn’t have enough time to finish the teaching part. I’d infer his voice was a pretty big part of this process.
— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 6, 2020
While the Rams appear to be satiated at the ILB spot, for now, they are feeling a bit thin at the outside linebacker spot. Both OLB Terrell Lewis and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have histories of untimely injuries. And rookies Chris Garrett and Max Roberts are, well, raw rookies.
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Hollins stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245-pounds, a tall lanky outside linebacker who is very adept at all of the critical skillsets of the edge position for the LA Rams defense. While never starting, he actually played a third of the defensive snaps, 349, and made good use of his time by chalking up 28 tackles, three quarterback sacks, five quarterback hits, one defected pass, and one forced fumble. In pass coverage, he allowed four of the five passes thrown in his direction to find their mark.
Not bad for the 156th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. For his efforts, he earned a respectable Pro Football Focus grade for his 2020 performance of 66.6. For comparison purposes, that is slightly less than teammate Terrell Lewis’s 2020 grade of 70.4. On the other hand, it was better than Obo’s 62.9 grade for 2020. Best of all, he’s proven to be dependable and available.
Clearly how the LA Rams have a new defensive coordinator this year in Raheem Morris, a defense that will be as unfamiliar to Hollins as the rest of the defense. But the fact is that Hollins commands consideration for the starting role at the outside linebacker position. If he does not achieve the honor by the time the season starts? Time is on his side. The Rams will eventually promote him, because he shows up for each game, and on each play.
OLB Justin Hollins is just waiting for the season to start. To start. Now, all we need to do is wait too.