St. Louis Rams rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree has lived up to the hype surrounding him after being selected in the first round. He didn’t have the hottest start as teams were taking advantage of the young player in pass coverage using running backs. Few doubted Ogletree’s ability to step up and make a difference right away in the NFL, but the biggest concern when looking at him was his trouble with the law while in college. After promising he had matured since the draft it seems as though the young man has done just that.
Veteran teammates like James Laurinaitis praise Ogletree for his hard work and studious attack of the game. Rams HC Jeff Fisher has shown his willingness to bring in a troubled youth as long as they could prove one thing to him. That one thing is possibly the key to keeping them out of trouble as if they love football they will steer towards the correct path.
Ogletree started out as a safety in college which explains his supreme athleticism at linebacker and his ability to go sideline to sideline in pursuit of the ball carrier. After making the move to linebacker he was overshadowed by Jarvis Jones who was drafted in the first round at No. 17 overall. The word on Ogletree out of college was that he was a good hitter with plus speed in pursuit but struggled to shred blocks. His 101 tackles this season are signs that he has improved his hand work to get free of blockers instead of relying on his speed.
As far as where he ranks against other rookie linebackers he is in first place among passes defended (10), forced fumbles (4), and he is the only one with a touchdown that came from a 98-yard interception return. In a league where sacks speak volumes over tackles he falls short only gathering one sack on the season which places him at 7th among rookie LBs. His early season performance cost him a lot in yards given up in pass coverage surrendering 599 yards when his man was targeted.
Since the return of Jo-Lonn Dunbar the Rams’ defense has shut opposing TEs out of the end zone. That isn’t a knock on Ogletree, but it’s a sign that the team’s 4-3 defense was a solid LB short of a good front seven. The re-addition of Dunbar solidified the linebacking corps and took pressure off of Ogletree. His four forced fumbles have helped the Rams win the turnover battle all season long. His wrap and rip mentality leads to more offensive drives, and given the fact that he has forced two of the league’s best RBs to fumble in Frank Gore and Arian Foster, and it’s safe to say that he has.
The scary part is that Ogletree is only getting better with time. Over the last four weeks he has recorded 11, 10, nine, and seven tackles, and his run stuff yards are on the rise too. It might be a long shot due to the Rams’ shortcoming on defense as a whole, but his individual performance shines brightly on a young team.