When the LA Rams lost outside linebacker Justin Hollins for the season, the outlook for the edge and the team’s pass-rushing seemed to fall into a bit of obscurity. The team benefitted from two sacks and a steadfast performance from Hollins, who had earned the starting role from his availability as much as his productiveness on the team.
But when Hollins was injured, the Rams outside linebacker situation was in a bit of a flux. The team was trying to return Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from their injured reserve list, the team had promoted Justin Lawler from the practice squad several times, and he suffered a broken hand, and Terrell Lewis was fighting a lingering knee injury for the past two seasons.
The situation was so dire, that it seemed that the only feasible solution to the matter would be for the LA Rams to sign a free agent to bolster the roster. In fact, we even compiled a shortlist of players who could be signed and quickly turned into productive players on the Rams’ defense.
Ultimately, the Rams did add an outside linebacker to the roster. The Rams claimed and were awarded outside linebacker Jamir Jones off the Pittsburgh Steelers waiver wire. He was a buzzsaw in the Steelers’ preseason games, and he was certainly someone who showed up. Not just on defense, but on special teams as well.
All of that was well and good, but the LA Rams need everything that Terrell Lewis can deliver. When other NFL teams shied away from the young man, the Rams rolled the dice that his tremendous upside would be worth the risk of drafting a player with medical concerns.
But after training camp seemed to have another bout of no-knowledge-knee ailments, we asked the question about how much would the Rams tolerate before Terrell Lewis’ availability became a serious question, or even concern, for the team? When Hollins fell to injury, it seemed to force the issue.
In the past three games, Lewis has started at outside linebacker once and played more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in the past three consecutive games. While that may not seem to be much progress, it’s huge for the young man who played in just 124 defensive snaps through his entire rookie season.
Availability is the key
He’s up to 201 defensive snaps already in 2021. And he’s on a streak of at least one quarterback sack in each of the past three games. So it was after the New York Giants that Lewis sat down and talked about his play so far this year.
Terrell Lewis is more than a sack specialist. He’s showing the type of proficiency that is following the lead of his teammate, Leonard Floyd. He’s improving rapidly and showing the type of discipline that is paramount for a gifted edge rusher. He’s become a better all-around player. A better stay-in-your-lane style.
Nobody could have anticipated the challenges that Lewis faced so far in his NFL career. But take a look, folks. This guy has three quarterback sacks already in just six games, and he is definitely improving. Of course, it’s a long season and there are 11 more games to play.
There has never been a question of Terrell Lewis’ talent. Even with light usage in the first few games, he is on pace to end the season with 42 tackles and nine quarterback sacks, an astonishing amount of production for a part-time rotational player. The challenge has always been getting and keeping Lewis on the football field.
He’s showing signs now. He’s playing over half of the defensive snaps and getting to the quarterback in the process. While it may not answer the question once-and-for-all, it certainly justifies the Rams drafting him in round three of the 2020 NFL Draft, and for including him on the roster this season. He has been on the field for 47 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and yet he is ranked third on the team in quarterback sacks.
Is it Terrell’s time in 2021? As long as he shows up on the football field, he has the raw ability to raise some eyebrows.