The LA Rams outside linebackers are only now starting to find their range at getting to the quarterback. In fact, the group just recorded their first sack as a group when Justin Hollins brought down Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota late in the game to ensure a Week 2 victory for the LA Rams.
But with a questionable knee on Leonard Floyd, the ever-present health concerns to Terrell Lewis, the absence of rookie Daniel Hardy, the inexperience of Keir Thomas, and the signing of former Rams OLB Chris Garrett to the Minnesota Vikings practice squad, the LA Rams are wise to bring in a new face.
That new face is DE/OLB Zach VanValkenburg, a promising rookie edge rusher from the University of Iowa.
So what can we tell you about him?
The rundown on Rams roster addition
Well, he is listed on the LA Rams roster as a defensive end, but his draft profile indicated that he can be either a defensive end (hand in the dirt) or a 3-4 outside linebacker (two-point stance).
VanValkenburg (wow, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it) originally signed on with the Las Vegas Raiders as an undrafted rookie after the 2022 NFL Draft. In four preseason games, he was consistent, recording at least one tackle in each game and additionally getting one quarterback sack in the final preseason game against the New England Patriots.
While he seemed to be a solid roster addition for the Raiders roster, and ultimately practice squad roster, not much was reported about either his signing, his release, his return to their practice squad, or his eventual release. So let’s fill in the blanks, shall we?
What are the odds?
We know that the Las Vegas Raiders play a 4-3 defensive configuration, which is why Zach VanValkenburg is listed as a defensive end.
His various draft profiles point out that ZV (don’t make me memorize how to spell his last name today, please?) was suspect because he did not have extensive experience with NCAA Division I competition. But his preseason production should put that to rest.
Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing a stout 264-pound, ZV has the size to make an impact in the NFL. He is a ferocious play at the line of scrimmage, a Tazmanian devil flurry of activity who remains vigilant at where the ball carrier is at all times. Where he doesn’t always win the battle from sheer athleticism, his barrage of moves often succeeds out of the sheer volume of moves and countermoves.
He has special teams coverage written all over him. But, he is that raw work-ethic caliber of player who often finds great success in the LA Rams organization because he develops out of determination and grit.
I would keep Zach VanValkenburg on your radar. The LA Rams have plenty of options to address with a player signing here and now. They added the young edge rusher for good reason.