Rams post-draft position outlook: LB

May, 30, 2014
May 30
12:00
PM ET
With the NFL draft and free agency complete, the St. Louis Rams' 53-man roster will likely come mostly from the players already on the team.

With organized team activities less than a week away, we take a look at where each position stands heading into next week. The next in the series continues today by examining the linebackers.

Dunbar
Who returns: James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Ray Ray Armstrong, Daren Bates, Phillip Steward, Caleb McSurdy

Who is new: Etienne Sabino, Johnny Millard, Tavarius Wilson, Aaron Hill

Who is gone: Will Witherspoon

Projected starters: Laurinaitis, Ogletree, Dunbar

Pending competition: Laurinaitis and Ogletree are locked into their spots with Dunbar the odds-on favorite to handle the third linebacker duties. Dunbar is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013 and now that he's reunited with coordinator Gregg Williams, he should have the chance to do that. But a sort of hidden battle in the making might involve Armstrong's emergence. The Rams like his upside for the defense and he could find a way to push for more playing time aside from his role as a core special-teams player. Bates also figures to return as a leader for the special-teams group and backup. From there, it's anybody's guess who wins a possible sixth linebacker spot with special teams serving as the primary evaluation tool. Steward is a promising youngster who had his rookie season derailed by an injury. Of the undrafted rookie crop, Wilson is a player who draws some intrigue.

Outlook: Ogletree and Laurinaitis are expected to be cornerstone pieces of the defense for the foreseeable future. Ogletree improved as his rookie season went on and still has work to do, but he has the tools to be a productive player for a long time if he continues to develop. Laurinaitis is the mainstay and leader of the defense and will become something of a bargain in the next couple of years as his salary-cap number drops dramatically. Dunbar signed a two-year deal and could stick longer if he can return closer to his 2012 form but Armstrong figures to begin pushing him sooner than later. The Rams should be fine if the starters stay healthy, but if they don't they could have a real problem on their hands. The Rams have almost zero experience amongst the backup linebackers and only Armstrong currently projects as someone who could help out on defense in the event of an injury. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Rams search for a veteran backup like they did with Witherspoon last year. Even Witherspoon himself might be the solution for another go. Otherwise, the Rams will be entering the season in a bit of a precarious position in terms of depth at the position.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.


Insider