6 (failed) LA Rams experiments that deserve a 2023 mulligan
Michael Hoecht stating at OLB
The final mulligan is not so much due to the fact that Michael Hoecht was injured, suspended, or failed in some form to fulfill his role for the LA Rams defense. Actually, the opposite is true. The LA Rams needed to manufacture pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and the veteran outside linebackers on the Rams roster were not cutting it. So the team cross-trained defensive lineman Michael Hoecht to the role with outstanding results.
This all took place without the benefit of OTAs, training camp, or even preseason games. It occurred mid-season, and then Hoecht was thrust into the starting role to see if he would sink or swim. He swam beautifully. Yet, so many have just treated it like a common occurrence. It was not.
Before he converted to outside linebacker, Hoecht played 15 defensive snaps, had one tackle and one quarterback hit in 10 games, two games he did not take a single defensive snap. In many ways, he appeared to be on his way to free agency and perhaps even out of the NFL without so much as a whisper.
But he did play as an LA Rams outside linebacker in Week 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs and played so well that he earned a starting role for the rest of the 2022 NFL season and never looked back. His production over those seven games as an outside linebacker included 4.5 quarterback sacks, 34 tackles, eight quarterback hits, 12 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, and four tackles for a loss, and all done in just 393 defensive snaps.
Hoecht is not some gimmicky play like a fake punt for a rare first down. Hoecht started the last six games of the season at outside linebacker, without Aaron Donald on the football field, and was able to cause havoc and chaos to offenses over that small span of time. While nobody can declare with any certainty just how high Hoecht's ceiling at outside linebacker will climb, we do not what the floor is, and that is already pretty good.
While the Rams will add edge rushers this off-season, don't look for Hoecht to give up his starting role so easily. Not only has he proven capable of doing the job, but the better he performs for the Rams, the higher his value goes up if and when he tests the NFL Free Agency market. And the LA Rams, by shrewdly positioning themselves to be awarded another compensatory draft pick, will benefit in that scenario as well