Langford Embraces Challenge

Posted Mar 23, 2012

From the moment Kendall Langford came into the NFL, he was put in a situation where he was asked to be part of a major rebuilding process.

After Miami drafted the then raw but talented Langford out of Hampton in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, he joined a team looking to regain solid footing after a lot of struggles.

When Langford signed his first free agent contract with the Rams earlier this week, he knew exactly what he was signing up for. And frankly, he’s OK with it because he’s already done it.

Instead of shying away from the challenge of being part of a rebuilding process, it’s one that Langford embraces.

“It’s very appealing to me,” Langford said. “That’s one of the challenges I faced when I came out and was drafted to the Dolphins. Kind of the same scenario, they were 1-15 and we came in there with the mindset, ‘We need to change the culture around here.’ Those guys, they have that mindset, that mentality. I know it’s something that will happen around there and happen very soon.”

For that turnaround to happen, the Rams are expecting Langford to play a key role in the turnaround. St. Louis finished last season among the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run.

In addition, the Rams got little to no consistent pass rush up the middle as defensive tackles accounted for just four of the team’s 39 sacks.

That lack of production has led to an offseason makeover of the position as the Rams released veteran defensive tackles and starters Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan. Gary Gibson, who had three of the aforementioned four sacks, is an unrestricted free agents and isn’t expected back.

The departure of Robbins and Bannan and the expected exodus of Gibson leaves the Rams with nothing but youth on the interior with the like of Darell Scott and Jermelle Cudjo joining a pair of practice squadders as the only defensive tackles on the roster.

In Langford, the Rams have added a versatile player with the ability to do a little bit of everything.

“Kendall is a big, physical player who will be a great addition to our defensive line,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He’s tough and he always plays hard. We’re excited about what he’ll bring to the rotation up front.”

First and foremost, Langford is expected to bolster the Rams’ woeful run defense. At 6’6, 295 pounds, Langford is a strong, tough player known for his ability to take on multiple blockers and stuff the run.

“I think I’m a dominant run stopper,” Langford said. “I’m a physical guy and I play hard. I come to work every day ready to work and I come out and I play hard ball.”
Indeed, Langford’s reputation has been forged by his ability to stop the run but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable as a pass rusher. In his four seasons, Langford has just 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles but he’s considered a developing pass rusher.

In fact, according to Pro Football Focus, Langford has posted a combined 54 sacks, quarterback hits and hurries in the past two seasons. It’s why Langford, at just 26 years old, believes he is just now scratching the surface on the type of player he can be.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Langford said.  “I have a lot left in the tank and I’m trying to elevate my game and get to the All-Pro level. I’m looking forward to (Defensive Line) Coach (Mike) Waufle bringing some of that out.”

To get to that level, though, Langford is going to have to go through a positional transition that will surely come with some growing pains.

In Miami, Langford played in a 3-4 defense which slotted him as a defensive end playing a five-technique where his main responsibility was to take on blockers and free up the linebackers to run around and make plays.

For the Rams, it’s expected that Langford will slide inside to the three-technique defensive tackle spot in the team’s aggressive 4-3 scheme. While he still will be asked to take on multiple blockers, Langford will also have to be able to penetrate the gap quickly.

For his part, Langford said the Dolphins had some multiple looks that put him in position to do some things similar to what he’ll have to do in St. Louis.

“I don’t think it will be hard at all,” Langford said. “We played a little over and under here and that’s really what a 4-3 is where I play some three technique, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem at all. I think I’ll excel at it.”

Considered an ascending player who is starting to realize the immense potential he had when he came out college, Langford was widely sought when he hit the free agent market. Miami wanted him back and he had interest from a number of teams.

But the presence of Fisher in St. Louis among other things, ultimately swayed Langford to sign the lucrative four-year deal with the Rams.

“I mean I’ve heard nothing but great things about Coach Fisher also,” Langford said. “No one has said anything negative about the guy and when I met with him that kind of put the icing on the cake there. He seems like a player’s coach. He understands the business, he understands how to rest his players, how to prepare his players and things of that nature. He has a good track record, so he just seemed like a good person for me. He’s putting a good coaching staff together over there. I’m excited about what can happen this year.”

When Langford says this year, he clearly means it. Having been through the ups and downs in his first four years in the league, Langford has seen how quick things can turnaround for the better and how fast they can go back the opposite direction.

The lessons learned from that experience could prove invaluable for the Rams as they attempt to get the ship righted sooner than later.

“Just go out and don’t be a selfish player,” Langford said. “I’m not a selfish player at all and just have a family atmosphere and go out there and play hard for the guys next to you. We’re all accountable to each other and accountable to the coaches and vice versa. If we can get one big family atmosphere up there, we’ll be fine.”