McIntosh and the Rams' new LB outlook

June, 15, 2012
6/15/12
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In a perfect world, the St. Louis Rams would address all their needs through the draft.

The team might yet pull it off over the next couple offseasons, thanks to the bounty of picks the Rams collected from trading the second overall choice in 2012.

Needs outnumbered resources in the immediate term, however, leading the Rams to patch their linebacker problem with shorter-term solutions.

Rocky McIntosh recently joined Jo-Lonn Dunbar and Mario Haggan as veteran additions at the position. Haggan, 32, is the oldest player on the team, but as the chart shows, the Rams remain young overall at every position. They have the NFL's youngest roster on average.

The Rams need McIntosh, Dunbar and Haggan to outperform some of the veteran linebackers subtracted from the roster: Ben Leber, Brady Poppinga, Bryan Kehl and Chris Chamberlain.

That seems like a reasonable expectation.

McIntosh, 29, was in his fifth season as a starter for the Washington Redskins when the team decided Perry Riley, then 23, provided a more athletic alternative. The Redskins, with McIntosh and the now-37-year-old London Fletcher at inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme, already had plenty of veteran moxie at the position. They needed speed. McIntosh probably fit better in the 4-3 defense Washington ran previously.

Scouts Inc. liked McIntosh more than the Redskins did, calling him an "active playmaker" with "great range inside out to the ball."

Dunbar, signed from New Orleans, figures to start at one outside linebacker spot. McIntosh is an early favorite to start at the other one. James Laurinaitis is entrenched in the middle.

The position remains a bit unsettled. The Rams do have a couple of younger options, but with no hitting allowed till training camp, it's tough to know how those players project. The Rams' veteran additions give them insurance, and probably more than that. I'd expect the team to start two veterans on the outside.

McIntosh played for would-be Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams in Washington. Williams is suspended indefinitely, but the Rams are installing what is essentially the same system Williams ran with the Redskins. That puts McIntosh at a significant advantage over younger players less familiar with the scheme and unproven in the NFL.

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