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2020 positional preview: Defensive tackles

Photo Credit: CBS Sports

With training camp nearing, the Los Angeles Rams have many kinks to work out before the season begins, but one less chink in its armor is a fully developed defensive line, with an even better defensive tackle corps.

The Rams did a formidable job replacing losses across the defensive squad this offseason, but no move was filled with more blessings than signing of DT A’Shawn Robinson, and then the return of Michael Brockers after leaving briefly for the Baltimore Ravens.

This week we look at the defensive tackles to preview their strength and talents as camp begins.

Aaron Donald

Few people question the veracity of statements proclaiming the 7-year pro is the greatest and fiercest defensive football player, if not the best player in the whole league.

Donald commands so much respect by the offensive coordinators in the league. Many times, in any given game he faces double teams, and if that doesn’t work, a third lineman comes in to help give their quarterback another split second. So now we ask ourselves, what? Who’s blocking the other three defensive linemen?

Donald quite often deals out his own punishment against his enemies, and can handle himself quite well. This season could very well be the game changing season, where Rams fans will be able to see their defensive tackles much more aggressive and finally releasing other offensive linemen off of Donald. Releasing as they say, the dog off of his leash.

Michael Brockers

Brockers, a 9-year pro, has been the Tonto to Donald’s Lone Ranger after the two came together in 2014. They formed a working continuity with each other, each leaning on the other’s techniques to make a difference each play.

As the 2020 season ended, Donald made it clear Brockers was a must-sign for the Rams during the free agency period. Brockers is the perfect run stopper to Donald’s pass rushing scheme. Hands-down Brockers was the best run stopper on the Rams. Since Brockers joined the team, and after Donald arrived, the two were simpatico; they had continuity and a fluid defensive plan. Brockers will be able to get breathers and be stronger on first and second down with A’Shawn Robinson now in the fold.

A’Shawn Robinson

The 5-year pro played for the Detroit Lions before signing with the Rams this spring. Robinson was going to be the defensive sack artist for the Lions, but injuries plagued his last few seasons. The Rams see a much different fate for Robinson and their defensive scheme; one that could make a world of difference to the whole DT corps and its production.

Robinson was thought to be able to thrive in the three-technique style, and a return to his pre-injury form, which will heighten the Rams’ need for gap fillers on the line. With the fortunate event bringing Brockers back to Southern California, either player could be a super utility fill-in for each other on a line that now suddenly features interesting depth.

OTHERS IN PLAY FOR THE ROSTER

Greg Gaines – Second-year pro, Marquise Copeland – Second-year pro, Sebastian Joseph-Day – Second-year pro, Morgan Fox – fifth-year pro and Michael Hoecht – Rookie.

Players like Joseph-Day and Gaines could make things interesting for the defense if the 4-3 is employed for any amount of time. But both also could play very well outside in a pinch. Joseph-Day is agile and mobile enough where the league could see him lined up over center or on the end in a 4-3 scheme.

Fox was a restricted free agent who was not tendered by the Rams, but he returned to the team in late May. The Rams released DT Tanzel Smart to make room, but Fox also identifies as a defensive end or could play outside linebacker. He will certainly be a good change of pace on a line featuring Joseph Day, Gaines, and himself.

Copeland is a returner to the team, and Hoecht signed a UDFA contract after the 2020 NFL Draft. Both players will be looking for an opportunity to make a niche in an already deep depth chart.

Rams fans should take a good look at camp this season, and watch how the defensive line progress and how the DTs lead the way to solidify themselves against the run and passing games. It will also be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Brandon Staley utilizes each DT in potentially other positions such DE or OLB.

Sources: NFL.com, CBSSports.com

You can follow Bob Smith on Twitter @amoresports. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

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