NFL Wire News

Rams LBs on the spot with Ogletree out

on

The Sports Xchange

EARTH CITY, Mo. — As the St. Louis Rams prepare to play the high-powered Green Bay Packers offense this week, they are doing so without weak-side linebacker Alec Ogletree.

The third-year player suffered a fractured fibula in Sunday’s win over Arizona and had surgery Tuesday. For the time being, the Rams have not placed Ogletree on either season-ending reserve/injured or reserve/injured, designated for return, which would sideline him from playing for at least eight weeks.

It’s somewhat surprising that the team didn’t use the designated for return immediately give that head coach Jeff Fisher acknowledged he will be out “longer than eight weeks,” while adding, “but there’s a chance for a return.”

A team doesn’t have to bring a player back on that list after eight weeks, but the longer the wait to put someone on, the fewer games there will be available to play. Currently, the Rams don’t need the roster spot. Re-signed linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar took the spot vacated by the trade of wide receiver Chris Givens to Baltimore.

Running back Trey Watts was reinstated from reserve/suspended Monday, but has a roster exemption that doesn’t expire until the day after the Green Bay game. Even though Fisher said Ogletree will be inactive Sunday and Watts won’t be activated until next week, it’s still possible he could be activated for Sunday’s game, with Ogletree going on reserve/injured then.

Of course, all those are procedural things. What the defense now faces is at least two months without their leading tackler and emerging star. Ogletree had 55 tackles in the first four games of the season.

Dunbar was the Rams’ starter on the weak side prior to Ogletree being selected in the first round of the 2013 draft when he moved to the strong side. He lost that job this year to free-agent acquisition Akeem Ayers and was released in the cutdown to 53 players.

Ayers will now slide in as the weak-side starter with Dunbar the backup there and also potentially seeing snaps on the strong side. Safety Mark Barron will likely also have a larger role, although there won’t be many snaps for an extra linebacker against quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense this week. The Rams then have their bye before playing Cleveland on Oct. 25.

Linebackers coach Frank Bush told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Alec was doing such a good job. The maturity level had gone up so high. It’s hard to say, ‘OK, we’re gonna take this guy and replace what that was.’ (But) Akeem did a good job coming into the game for Alec in the Arizona game. He didn’t try to play above his head or below his head; he just tried to play his game and he was able to have success doing it.”

Bush coached Ayers previously in Tennessee when he played a lot on the weak side in 2011 and 2012.

“He’s got some experience at it,” Bush said. “We like him when he’s rushing the passer. That’s what we liked in Tennessee. But he’s matured. He’s grown a little bit. He knows a little bit more defense. So we’re comfortable with him being off the ball and kind of interchanging and doing some other stuff with him.”

Ayers knows he can’t be Ogletree, but said, “(He) was playing that position at a high level. He’s been very productive at that position – tackles, sacks. He was all over the field. By him playing the position so high, when I come in … I want to keep that same level of intensity going. We have different games. He does what he does; I do what I do. So I’m just gonna get in there and play football like I know how to play.”

As for Dunbar, Bush said, “He knows the defense. He’s ready to go. He stayed in great shape. We know that he’s a veteran player. If we have to call his number, he’ll be ready to go. So it was a good transition. He’s a comfort zone for coaches, and his attitude was great when he walked in the door.”

“It’s a little hard to know I left,” Dunbar said. “But it’s almost like I never left. The guys, they’re all accepting. They’re all friends of mine. So it was easy to come back in this locker room and fit.”

Said Fisher, echoing Dunbar’s words, “He knows the defense, that’s why we brought him back. He stayed in shape, came back and it’s like he’s never left. He has a good feel for what we’re doing.”

SERIES HISTORY: 92nd regular-season meeting. Rams lead series, 45-44-2, and the Rams have outscored the Packers in the previous 91 games, 2,095-2,070. The Packers, though, have won four straight in the series with wins in 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

GAME PLAN

The plan is basic; the execution will be much different. The Rams will try and control the ball on offense to keep the ball out of the hands of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Controlling the ball has been an issue for the Rams all season considering their average tome off possession of 25:40 is second-worst in the league, although just one second less than Miami. To have a chance, though, they will have to score points. The packers have scored 13 touchdowns, with 11 coming in the red zone.

On defense, the goal will be to make Rodgers and the Packers work for their point and perhaps create takeaways. That, in itself, is an issue because Rodgers hasn’t had an interception at home since the 2012 season.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

–Rams RB Todd Gurley vs. Packers run defense.

The Packers have allowed 115.0 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per rush, so there could be opportunities for Gurley to hit some big plays like he did against Arizona. That energizes an offensive line and creates confidence. Green Bay is inexperienced at inside linebacker with Nate Palmer and Jake Ryan, although they do use Clay Matthews inside at times.

–Rams LT Greg Robinson vs. Packers ROLB Julius Peppers.

Robinson has been improving as a pass blocker, but still has a ways to go. Peppers is still one of the best pass rushers in the game, and had 3.5 sacks in the first four games. Robinson will be challenged to keep Peppers away from QB Nick Foles in those inevitable passing situations.


About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business