Last season was one that even the most optimistic of fans couldn’t have expected for linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. The St. Louis Rams signed the former New Orleans Saints defender off of the scrap heap essentially with a very minimal investment on a two-year, $3 million contract that has paid of handsomely.
Dunbar put up numbers that he had never before even approached in his first four NFL seasons. His 115 tackles were far better than his previous best of 79, his 16 games started bested his previous top mark of 14, and he also recorded his first two career interceptions a year ago. What made the season even more impressive for Dunbar was just how dominant he was at times alongside incumbent middle linebacking beast James Laurinaitis. The duo was outstanding in 2012 to lead a revitalized Rams defense that finished 14th in the league.
What does all of this mean for Dunbar heading into 2013? Well, the Rams essentially found his replacement in Alec Ogletree in the 2013 NFL Draft and will be grooming the youngster this season at the other outside linebacker position. The rest of the depth at the linebacker position are all unproven youngsters that are merely there to flesh out the depth chart so there will be no competition for Dunbar being a starter this coming season. He will likely be asked to take on a mentor role with Ogletree as he and Laurinaitis are the elder statesmen of the linebacking corps.
This coming season will be a show-me season for Dunbar which is fitting in the show-me state of Missouri with the Rams. After his impressive first campaign in St. Louis, the Rams as well as the other 31 teams around the league will be anxious to see if he can duplicate that stellar performance in a contract year.
Dunbar is playing for a championship with the Rams first and foremost in 2013, but he is also looking to earn some extra cash in his next deal as a result. Look for him to bring a very motivated approach to the field both in training camp and the regular season. He will be a big factor in Ogletree’s development as a rookie which could play a huge role in determining his fate in St. Louis moving forward.