The youngest team in the league is bound to have some rookies expected to play big roles, but the St. Louis Rams have two very key pieces on the defensive side of the ball in their first NFL seasons. Both linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald will be starters on Sunday when the Rams open up their 2013 slate with the Arizona Cardinals, and both appear primed to find immediate success.
Oddly enough the two of them were both considered somewhat risky endeavors entering the 2013 NFL Draft. For Ogletree, a DUI just before the NFL Scouting Combine gave scouts and player personnel folks around the league pause when evaluating him. With McDonald the question was more on the field as the consensus was he lacked skills in coverage.
Draft gambles have become commonplace in St. Louis under the new regime with general manager Les Snead making the moves and head coach Jeff Fisher advising the decisions. These two were certainly of the more mild variety considering the team’s selection of both Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson the year before – two players who were taken off of some team’s draft boards altogether.
As for the current rookies, Ogletree really impressed against the Denver Broncos tallying an interception of the great Peyton Manning as well as a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. He is a converted safety himself with great instincts and rangy athleticism in coverage that will really enhance the linebacking corps in St. Louis.
McDonald has shown solid form in his tackling and definitely dispelled the rumors that he is always looking for the big hit. Although he is still capable of dishing out the kill-shots, McDonald has refined his game during camp and developed into a more complete player. His continued growth throughout the season will be big for the middle of the secondary.
The big names might be on the offensive side of the ball in terms of rookies with Tavon Austin, but the Rams need their young defenders to perform as well. Both of these guys seem more than capable of becoming big-time contributors in their first seasons with the team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear some rookie of the year talk for Ogletree if he can continue to buzz around the ball the way he did during the preseason.