III: Rams OLBs can generate a pass rush, but not from whom you expect
Some LA Rams fans are already mashing the panic button over the Rams' outside linebackers, but let's try to pause that for a moment. The LA Rams did not play starting outside linebacker Michael Hoecht for very long. So the first preseason game pass rush duties were handled by rookies Byron Young and Nick Hampton, returning veteran Zach VanValkenburg, and second-year players Daniel Hardy and Keir Thomas.
And rookies are going to need some time to produce.
This is not the time of year to look for players to star on the football field. If you are looking for the Rams rookies this early in the season, you will want them all to be cut by the time the regular season arrives. Instead, look for steady growth. The Rams rookies are being encouraged to try and to have no fear of making mistakes now. Mistakes in preseason games become incredibly valuable teaching moments for practices.
Look for positive trending
How did the Rams' OLB rotation look for Game 1?
- Michael Hoecht - 13 snaps - 1 tackle - 0 sacks
- Zach VanValkenburg - 19 snaps - 3 tackles - 0 sacks
- Ochaun Mathis - 0 snaps
- Daniel Hardy - 25 snaps - 2 tackles - 0.5 sacks
- Keir Thomas - 26 snaps - 5 tackles - 1.5 sacks
- Byron Young - 23 snaps - 1 tackle - 0 sacks
- Nick Hampton - 22 snaps - 0 tackles - 0 sacks
While many fans are leaning heavily into disappointment from the Rams pass rush debut, this was simply the first opportunity for many outside linebackers to see the opportunity to get after the quarterback. And the Rams have multiple ways to generate a pass rush in the regular season.
Right now, both offensive and defensive playbooks are incredibly vanilla. And if you examine the stats, you will see that of the LA Chargers 63 offensive snaps, Keir Thomas played 26 snaps on the defensive side of the football. If you look at his performance combined with that of Daniel Hardy and Zach VanValkenburg, you will see that the Rams had some players who had a pretty solid debut for the team in this one.