For the last four years, even the most casual of Rams followers could likely identify the team’s leading tackler. Since his rookie season in 2009,
With the emergence of rookie LB
Buoyed by his 12-tackle performance last Sunday in Arizona, Ogletree is on the verge of surpassing Laurinaitis is a pair of categories.
His 121 tackles on the year gave him the season lead over veteran middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, who trails closely with 120. Laurinaitis has led the Rams in total tackles in each of his first four NFL seasons, and also owns the team’s rookie record of 144 stops 2009. Ogletree appears poised to overtake both of those distinctions.
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“Each week he does something that surprises you,” Fisher said. “You say, ‘Wow’ on a positive side. He’s tackled very well, got off blocks, ran much better this week in his pass coverage and things than he was last week.
Ogletree has established himself as a unique talent who has avoided the ‘rookie’ wall that often affects first-year players unaccustomed to the rigors of a 16-game season. Instead of seeing his level of play wane in the final month of the season, Ogletree’s production has surged over the past three weeks. His tackle totals in the last three weeks have been 15, 12 and 12, respectively.
“I definitely am in a different place,” Ogletree said. “From week to week, I just try to get better and from the first week, I feel a lot more comfortable with our schemes.
The first-round draft choice out of Georgia wasted no time in being a major factor in the Rams’ defensive unit. In addition to being a sturdy tackler from the outside linebacker position, Ogletree has shown a nose for the football this year. His four forced fumbles are the most by a Rams linebacker since Pisa Tinoisamoa in 2003. He also has one interception, which was returned 98 yards for a touchdown in Week 6 in Houston.
Ogletree’s place in Rams history has not been lost on the first-year linebacker. Since learning of Laurinaitis’ 144 tackles as a rookie in 2009, Ogletree has been in hot pursuit.
“I’m trying to break his (rookie) record that he set,” Ogletree said. “I can definitely say that.”
His work in defending the passing game may receive its most significant test this week, when he may be tasked with defending New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham. While Ogletree faced off against Dallas’ Jason Witten and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, in addition to the 49ers’ Vernon Davis, Graham represents a player at the peak of his career in the midst of what is arguably the league’s most dangerous passing offense.
“It’s definitely a big challenge to have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and putting the ball in the right spot,” Ogletree said. “We’ll have to come up and make a few plays this week. We may have to double-team him, but when the time comes, we’ll figure it out.”
Based on his production through 13 weeks as a professional, there has been little Ogletree hasn’t figured out so far.