Simple Approach Has Ogletree Making Immediate Impact

Posted Sep 20, 2013

Alec Ogletree has wasted no time in making his presence felt in the National Football League. Through the season’s first two weeks, the rookie linebacker and first-round draft pick has been among the Rams’ most productive defensive players, leading the Rams with 20 tackles, including 17 solo stops.

While he’s far from a finished product, Ogletree’s rapid ascent to prominence within the Rams’ defensive scheme has been a direct result of his quick adjustment to the speed of the game at the professional level. He credits a baptism-by-fire introduction to the NFL this summer for hastening his learning curve.

“Through the offseason and through the preseason games, it was definitely a big help to just come in the first two weeks and play fast,” Ogletree said. “I just try to stick to the game plan and do my job. I’m confident in my ability to play the game. The coaches here, they push me real hard and I just try to get better each and every day.”

The Rams’ coaching staff has not been shy about handing Ogletree high-leverage responsibilities. Serving as the team’s starting left-side linebacker, Ogletree was tasked with defending Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez in Week 2, and held the 12-time Pro Bowler to just 33 yards on four receptions.  The Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Witten will present Ogletree a similar test this week.

He keeps his approach to defending each tight end rather simple.

“Just being able to run with them, get your hands on them as much as possible,” Ogletree said. “You just keep working hard throughout the route. It will be a good challenge.”

Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis has had a front-row view of Ogletree’s development this fall, and can attest to the value of entering a rookie season with a simple outlook.  Given the differences in schemes, matchups and various methods of preparation that are part of the transition to the NFL, deciphering it all at once can pose a challenge.

“It’s really about being able to filter out the information you’re given, and just slow down and play,” Laurinaitis said. “I found myself as the season going on, you try to complicate things as you learn more.  He’s keeping things simple. If you keep the game easy, you’ll continue to play fast, and he’s doing a good job of that.”

Though his adjustment from college to the NFL has been relatively smooth, Ogletree acknowledges he has a ways to go yet to embody the player the Rams envisioned when they selected him 30th overall out of the University of Georgia.

Ogletree gained notoriety as a blue-chip prospect following a junior season that saw him collect 111 total tackles for the Bulldogs. Now the youngest member of the Rams’ linebacking corps, the 21-year-old Ogletree has quickly translated pre-draft promise to in-season production. The early returns on his performance suggest his ceiling may be every bit as high as the Rams’ brass expected.

“We anticipated that he would improve each week and he’s done that,” Head Coach Jeff Fisher said. “I still think he’s got a long way to go, but he’s been productive for us and we’ve seen improvement every week since the first preseason game.”