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NFL St Louis Rams

St. Louis Rams 2013 Breakout Candidate: Michael Brockers

Michael Brockers St. Louis Rams

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The learning curve as an NFL rookie is a daunting obstacle. Add in the idea of dealing with a dreaded high ankle sprain in the final preseason game and that tall task reaches skyscraper heights. That is exactly what 2012’s first round pick Michael Brockers had to deal with coming into last season with the St. Louis Rams, but he still managed to flash some serious potential looking ahead to the upcoming campaign.

Brockers ended last season with four sacks and 31 tackles, but the numbers don’t fully encompass what he brought to the Rams defensively. For a team missing any kind of physicality inside for so many seasons, Brockers finally gave the Rams a solid feeling up the middle which deterred opponents from gashing them up the gut for big chunks of yardage on the ground. As a team, St. Louis ranked 15th in the league in run defense allowing an average of 117.5 yards per game. That may not seem like a huge accomplishment, but given their ineptitude in that area in 2011 ranking 31st allowing 152.1 yards on average, Brockers clearly brought an attitude change.

Obviously it doesn’t hurt to have the dynamic duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn rushing the pass off the edge either. Add in the presence of fellow defensive tackle Kendall Langford who should be much improved in his second year in a 4-3 defensive alignment and the Rams have the makings of a serious defensive juggernaut.

Brockers is a thickly built defender that should demand double-teams in the upcoming season after a full offseason of getting himself fully immersed in the playbook. The learning curve is clearly a difficult hurdle to overcome, but the former LSU Tiger made it through just fine a season ago. His play late in the season showed that the injury issues were behind him, and if he can avoid any recurring problems this season, the sky is the limit for last year’s first round pick.

The Rams have young stars at all three levels on defense with Janoris Jenkins in the secondary, James Laurinaitis and potentially Alec Ogletree at linebacker, and of course the trio of Quinn, Long, and Brockers up front. With a healthy year in 2013, there’s no reason Brockers can’t live in opposing backfields during the upcoming campaign.

Anthony Blake is a Senior Writer/Copy Editor for Rant Sports. You Can Follow Him on Twitter, on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.