Brockers Settling In

Posted Oct 18, 2012

As the 14th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Rams rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers was well aware of the expectations that would go hand in hand with his lofty draft status and lucrative first contract.

So when he left the preseason finale against Baltimore with a sprained ankle, he struggled to find the silver lining. Determined to prove his value right away, Brockers was relegated to extensive rehabilitation and a whole lot of hope in an effort to get on the field as soon as possible.

Brockers attacked his rehab with plenty of vigor and finally made his NFL debut in the Sept. 30 game against Seattle even though he estimates he wasn’t anywhere close to full strength in that game.

Since, Brockers has only continued to get better and more effective with each game repetition he gets.

More every week, I get more and more comfortable,” Brockers said. “The first couple weeks where I played, I was at about 70 percent. The percentage keeps getting higher every week so I am just getting better every week. That’s the best thing I can do right now. I haven’t had the blowout game I have been wanting and dreaming about but like coach has been saying, it will come. Until it does, I have to keep my head in the playbook and keep giving great effort.”

Regarded mostly as an immediate contributor as a run stuffer in the middle of the defensive line, the imposing Brockers – he stands 6’5 and weighs about 315 pounds – it’s not in his individual statistics where his impact will be best measured.

Almost from that first game in week 4, Brockers has been the target of double teams as teams attempt to keep the big man from clogging up run lanes. In terms of brute force and pure, physical strength, Brockers is already advanced for his age but the better he can be at taking on those blockers and holding up at the point of attack, the better the entire defense will be.

In his three appearances, Brockers has five tackles, two quarterback pressures and a quarterback hit. But each week he seems to be more and more of a force in the middle.

“I get in the game, get the jitters every game going into that first snap and it’s like ‘Wow, everything is moving so fast,’” Brockers said. “But as the game goes on, it kind of slows down. I am getting so close, I feel like I’m getting so close and I have just got to keep my head on straight and know that one of these days I’m going to have a blowout game and it’s going to be a great experience.”

In the meantime, Rams coach Jeff Fisher and the defense will continue taking exactly what Brockers has provided, especially in the past two weeks.

Playing at what he earlier mentioned was about 70 percent of his full strength, Brockers turned in a lackluster performance in that game against the Seahawks. It was no coincidence that Seattle gouged the Rams for 179 yards on 34 carries, an average of 5.3 yards per attempt as Brockers played about 72 percent of the defensive snaps.

By his own admission, the thought of playing on a banged up ankle was hard to shake.
“When you are running down field and guys are trying to clean you up and stuff and they see the ankle is taped up a lot, you will think about stuff like that,” Brockers said. “I think now my mind is off of it and I’m just playing all out and I think that’s the best thing for me to do right now.”

As the Rams run defense looked to bounce back in the past two weeks against Arizona and Miami, Brockers figured prominently into the plans though he actually played in a smaller percentage of the snaps as the defensive line found a rhythm with its rotation.

The result was a run defense that put together its two finest performances of the season as the Cardinals and Dolphins combined for 64 yards on 35 carries, an average of an anemic 1.8 yards per carry.

A more comfortable Brockers in the middle of the line certainly has had something to do with that improvement. 

“He’s come on,” Fisher said. “He’s been…each week he’s improving. And there’s a lot for him to go, but he’s been solid inside. He’s been very good against the run. Part of our success against the run was attributed to his ability and what he’s doing inside.”

Brockers’ improved play has given the Rams a pair of defensive tackles that have been nearly impossible to move off the line of scrimmage in the past two weeks. Fellow starting defensive tackle Kendall Langford is also getting more settled on the inside after spending his first four seasons as a 3-4 end in Miami.

Langford has seen his running mate improve week to week and is excited about the duo’s future.

“I think he’s turned the corner as far as the ankle and he’s more comfortable,” Langford said. “He’s playing well. We are all just trying to keep getting better and better.”

When, as Brockers calls it, a “blowout” game arrives and he is able to get some sacks and do things that stand out more to the untrained eye, there figures to be plenty of recognition thrown his way.

In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with biding his time, continuing to work hard and taking on any and all blockers that opponents throw at him.

“Coming in as a first rounder, I have got a lot of pressure on me,” Brockers said. “So just like coach said, ‘don’t let the pressure get to you, play your game, play the game you have to for the team’ and as long as we are winning it’s OK. But it will come. The pass rush will come; the sacks will come but you just take your time and just keep giving great effort.”