The Hammer and the Anvil: LA Rams inside linebacker a lot stronger

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams have just paired two of the best outside linebackers in the NFL on one defense when the team added Von Miller to team up with Leonard Floyd. But let’s talk about a more subtle move that you may have missed that could improve the defense for years to come. While they have a lot to prove, this duo has a lot of potential and synergy that can help the Rams defense for years to come.

What happened was that the LA Rams re-signed former inside linebacker Christian Rozeboom. Now, let’s talk about why that could be a very good thing for this LA Rams defense.

I have loved the potential that pairing both their rookie inside linebacker Ernest Jones with second-year inside linebacker Christian Rozeboom offers. In fact, I loved it at the moment the LA Rams began OTAs this year. They played solid defense, both were learning at a similar rate, but most of all, they were the future ILBs of the team.

Rams roster

Despite the fact that both were buried on the depth chart, that neither had any NFL game experience before 2021, and the fact that neither made much progress moving up in the depth charts in OTAs, training camps, or even preseason games, they were a pair that I looked forward to seeing play side by side for the Rams.

But the team made decisions, and Rozeboom appeared to be heading back to the practice squad.

In fact, all hope seemed lost when Christian Rozeboom signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad. Que sera sera. That’s how the cookie crumbles. Even as the news broke, there was more than the disappointment of another linebacker signing on elsewhere for greener pastures.

There was a second feeling, a feeling of a missed opportunity. Rozeboom seemed to be the ideal linebacker to team up with Ernest Jones. And then POOF. That hopeful wish seemed to fade away. Until the team announced re-signing ILB Christian Rozeboom to the 53-man roster.

The Hammer and the Anvil

Rozeboom can rove and cover from sideline to sideline. He is a bloodhound type of linebacker who can sniff out the football. He moves all over the place, and in the process interrupts passing lanes, disrupts receivers timing, and thumbs anyone who catches the football over the middle.

Christian Rozeboom plays like the hammer. He is the linebacker that delivers that powerful blow, swinging in a long arc like a heavy iron mallet, to separate the intended receiver from the football. He is the more mobile of the two, with an ability not only to cover real estate but recover the distance difference to close the gap on ball carriers.

Next to him, the LA Rams will position rookie inside linebacker Ernest Jones. What Jones lacks in Rozeboom’s radius and velocity, he more than makes up for with power and intensity. Jones is the enforcer, a powerful doorman who rests in the middle of the Rams defense and does not let opposing running backs through.

Ernest Jones plays like the anvil. He is a huge object that does not yield, bend, or break. In terms of missing pieces, he is the new element introduced to the Rams defense. He delivers the stiff tackles that stop runners dead in their tracks. But even more than that, his tackles are punishing. He changes the game momentum because it’s just not fun to be tackled by Ernest Jones.

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Both players have a lot to learn, and a lot to work out. They won’t deliver in Week 9. But if they could develop some cohesion in time for the 2021 NFL Playoffs, the team should be in pretty good shape.

Combined, the pair may develop into the foundation of a devastating defense, the type of hard-hitting physical defensive play that puts defenses into the NFL history books. That’s quite the future to look forward to.