How will the LA Rams optimize Michael Hoecht now that he's back for 2024?

Los Angeles Rams, Byron Young, Michael Hoecht
Los Angeles Rams, Byron Young, Michael Hoecht / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The LA Rams received some positive news on April 4, 2024, when DL/OLB Michael Hoecht finally signed his tender offer to reman and play one more season. With that development, the Rams outside linebacker position is back to fully staffed, at least compared to the 2023 Rams roster. That means that any players selected for the outside linebacker position during or after the 2024 NFL Draft are reinforcements to the team's pass rush.

The question is: Which version of Michael Hoecht did the Rams extend? Is he an outside linebacker? Or is he a defensive lineman? Or is he a hybrid combination of both?

In many ways, it may not matter initially. If defensive starters are considered the bricks when constructing a house, then Hoecht could be used as the mortar between the bricks to hold everything in place. While he was forced into some bad looks last season, keep in mind that there were multiple extraneous variables that negatively impacted his performance in 2023.

For openers, the Rams roster was set to rotate OLBs Byron Young, Nick Hampton, Ochaun Mathis, Michael Hoecht, and held backup OLB Zach VanVelkenburg on the practice squad to serve as an emergency backup. But Ochaun Mathis (knee) suffered an injury early in the season and Nick Hampton was not quite ready to play, ending up on the inactive list for seven games in the heart of the 2023 NFL season.

Secondly, Hoecht had cross-trained from a down defensive lineman to outside linebacker mid-season in 2022. So the 2023 NFL season was very much like his rookie season, at least in terms of playing at his new position.

Without enough depth, the Rams needed to rotate Hoecht in for 962 defensive snaps. But here's where it gets fun.

Hoecht is versatile, and played both as a down lineman and as a two-point stance in 2023. But there is no source of how often he toggled between the two positions. But since he has already been used in both roles when Aaron Donald was with the team, that opens up the likelihood of his repeating that dual-role into 2024 to help out in both areas.

Hoecht continues to improve on the stat line. In 2022, he put up 4.5 quarterback sacks and 36 tackles. In 2023, he put up 6.0 quarterback sacks and 81 tackles. Will he put up career-high numbers in 2024? I'm certain both he and the team hope so. After all, the team has to account for 1500 lost defensive snaps in 2024 due to the loss of DE Jonah Williams and DT Aaron Donald to retirement. Moving Hoecht more frequently to a defensive lineman role can help the team compensate for that dip in defensive snaps.

Not every player on the Rams roster needs to be an All-Pro or Pro Bowler. A versatile option like Michael Hoecht ensures that new DC Chris Shula has a number of option to set up for his defense.

No matter where he lines up, the Rams are wise to bring back Hoecht's 6.0 quarterback sacks for 2024. Hopefully, if optimized, he will improve that number this year.