Edging out the competition
Outside linebacker Michael Hoecht is another player who sprang from the ashes of the Rams' defense last season to put up an impressive performance. The Rams' pass rush was not effective in 2022. It was so bad that the team cross-trained Hoecht into the role, and has parted ways with all other edge rushers save for 2022 rookies. While Hoecht was given a crash course on how to play the position in 2022, he held up pretty well. He played the final 7 games at OLB, starting six of those games.
In 393 defensive snaps, he racked up 34 tackles, eight quarterback hits, 11 QB pressures, and 4.5 quarterback sacks. This year, he is getting a full training camp to train all of the nuances of playing the position. He clearly can get to the quarterback, which will keep him on the football field and out of the shadows this season.
A surprising performance from this second-year player
Outside linebacker Keir Thomas returns to the Rams defense after a pretty uneventful rookie season. He stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 275 pounds, and saw limited action in the final eight games of the Rams 2022 NFL season. He split his time between roles on defense and special teams and may be asked to do so again this season. He leveraged 71 defensive snaps into four tackles and two tackles for a loss.
His 2022 numbers may not seem like much, but he has a full season under his belt, an advantage that should not be lightly discounted. Thomas knows the routine, giving him a leg up on the wave of rookies who are onboarding this year. When he was on the football field, he put up some great looks. So far, the reports out of OTA have focused on Byron Young and Daniel Hardy as players to keep on your radar. For what it's worth, keep Keir Thomas on your watch list as well.