Heading into the Rams offseason program, the club's defensive lineup appeared to be pretty settled.
From the new additions of cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, to the acquisition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, those outside of the building had a good idea of which players would be starting in the secondary and on the front line. The Rams linebackers, however, was a different story, given the departures of former starters Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, and Connor Barwin.
But as the team looks toward training camp, it seems that at least one question mark from the group has been answered at outside linebacker.
"I think Samson Ebukam has had a tremendous spring," defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said recently. "I just think he's learned more and more about what he can do and how to do what he does… [He] certainly will have one of the starting positions."
Ebukam made a name for himself last season early on as a dominant force on special teams. He also developed quickly as an important depth piece on the outside — recording 31 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one forced fumble in 2017, having appeared in all 16 games.
While the coaching staff has been open with Ebukam about their plans for him this fall, the Eastern Washington product has maintained a humble attitude throughout the offseason.
"They've told me that and all that good stuff, but I don't really pay attention to it," Ebukam admitted. "I'm just here to earn my spot. It's another year and I just have to earn it just like everybody else."
For that reason, he has been focused on delving deeper into the intricacies of the defense and working on his ability to rush the passer more effectively.
Check out behind-the-scenes photos from the Rams Media Day.
"Definitely the playbook," Ebukam said of his growth, "being able to play faster on the field and not thinking as much as I did last year. I just feel more loose and more confident now that I know the playbook more because I didn't have this last year."
"I wasn't here in OTAs [in 2017], so this is all kind of like a learning experience for me and I've loved it every step of the way," he continued.
Phillips and head coach Sean McVay have been impressed with the young linebacker's overall development.
Both mentioned the strides they've seen in Ebukam this offseason have given them confidence in his ability to be a starter in 2018.
"He's got tremendous speed and he's learning to utilize that," Phillips said. "You've got to hone in on what you do well [and] he's kinda found his niche there."
"Samson has been a great player for us where you see the bursts, just the way that he's consistently able to get in and out of different things whether it's bursting [or] pursuing the football," McVay said. "We always talk about that effort with the burst, speed, and finish and he's really demonstrated that."