Ethan Westbrooks adjusting to expanded role


EARTH CITY, Mo. -- As part of the St. Louis Rams' effort to replace injured defensive end Chris Long, they're leaning on three players to step in and fill the void.

As you'd expect, William Hayes is the starter and Eugene Sims is the primary backup. But there are still snaps to be had and undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks has been tasked with picking up the slack.

Westbrooks spent the first week as a pregame inactive, stuck behind the team's eight other defensive linemen who were available against the Minnesota Vikings. But when Long suffered the ankle injury that landed him in surgery and the injured reserve with the designation to return list, the opportunity to get Westbrooks involved arose.

Against Tampa Bay in Week 2, Westbrooks got his first taste of regular-season playing time, handling 17 snaps and posting one tackle according to Rams' coaches review. Last week, Westbrooks played 16 snaps and fared better in the coaches eyes with four tackles and a tackle for loss against Dallas.

Although Westbrooks has the versatility to play all over the line, he's worked exclusively at Long's spot at left defensive end so far.

"He’s averaging 15-20 plays a game which is good," coach Jeff Fisher said. "He’ll help to keep Will fresh. We need that. Will played very well last weekend and part of that is because he’s fresh and that allows him to do that. He’s coming on. He’s got the versatility. We didn’t move him around inside like we did in the preseason but Mike (Waufle)'s done a good job with him."

To this point, Westbrooks said the biggest adjustment to playing in the NFL has been playing in the bigger, more crowded stadiums. He's also made it a point to lean on Long for advice when he needs pointers throughout the week.

"I’m getting more acclimated with the whole defense, the speed of the game," Westbrooks said. "Really starting to put an emphasis on my technique from Coach Wauf and Chris. Even though he’s out, Chris has been helping me a tremendous amount in the room and on the field.”