No bench for LA Rams OLB Chris Garrett this year

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

When the LA Rams added athletic freak Chris Garrett in the 2021 NFL Draft, the hope was that he would be able to develop quickly into a rotational outside linebacker for the team. But injuries stripped the LA Rams defense of any meaningful rotation, and the active 53-man roster quickly depended upon the practice squad to augment the roster.

Garrett was not given a chance to earn a rotational role. Out of necessity, he was thrown onto the football field and asked to do his best. His rookie best was not good, and so he found himself back on the bench, the NFL equivalent of being redshirted. It’s not a slight to Garrett whatsoever. Many young rookies on this roster saw little if any action on the football field in their first season.

Garrett is a solid 6-foot-4 245-pound tornado who is both fast and strong off the edge. Throughout his college career, that was enough. Fast to the quarterback. Get the sack. Celebrate another victory after the game. That was his role in college, and he played it to perfection.

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NFL football is more challenging

But the NFL is a bit more challenging. If Garrett habitually veers inside towards the quarterback, the offense will simply find a way to get the ball outside and run to daylight. If Garrett stays to the outside, then offenses will track that too, learn to get the ball inside and put a stout blocker in Garrett’s path.

So the path to success for outside linebacker Chris Garrett is as much above the neck as it is below the neck. The raw athlete was less about track meet statistics than football field production. This is the young man whose college production was off the charts. 36 quarterback sacks in 28 games tell quite a story.

But NFL offenses can beat you in many ways. You must be able to stop the run, contain mobile quarterbacks, and then sack that quarterback. Garrett had to learn many of the NFL techniques required to succeed in this LA Rams defense. Now? He’s a second-year player who wants nothing more than to play in more than four defensive snaps this year.

The LA Rams have not loaded up on outside linebackers. From the basic roster management perspective, that suggests that the Rams front office believes that Garrett is at least in the running as a strong replacement for former OLB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo this year. And depending upon the durability of Justin Hollins or the health of Terrell Lewis, that rotational role could grow into a part-time starting role.

How well will Garrett perform in 2022?  The LA Rams have made the NFL careers burst with many young men who were not highly regarded by other teams. And the biggest question mark for Chris Garrett: Can he compete with NFL players?; was answered with a resounding yes in last year’s preseason contests.

A surefire success in 2022? Not quite. But I would say that he is an odds-on favorite to be a pleasant surprise in this LA Rams defense.

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