When LB Clay Matthews went down with a broken jaw, it created more opportunities for the Rams' young linebackers, including Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.
And it's no accident that as the Rams' pass rush has produced two of its best performances this season, Okoronkwo has been one of the main contributors to that trend. Look no further than last weekend, when the former Oklahoma standout notched his first career sack in Los Angeles' 24-10 win over the Bengals at Wembley Stadium.
"It was a good learning experience," Okoronkwo told theRams.com. "Game slowed down a little bit. Rushing with A.D. (DT Aaron Donald) and (LB) Dante (Fowler Jr.), it's going to slow the game down a little bit, you know?"
That trio, combined with the efforts of DE Michael Brockers and LB Cory Littleton, produced five sacks against the Bengals – tied for most by the Rams' defense in a single game this season. That happened to be set the week before against the Falcons.
Okoronkwo, who also split a sack with Donald, accounted for one and a half of them.
"He's just relentless," Donald said. "He's a fast guy and gets off the edge with speed. He's relentless on stunts and he's going 100 miles per hour. That's how he goes at practice and that's how you do it in a game. It paid off big for him."
The performance was a long time coming for the second-year pro.
A foot injury cost him his rookie season in 2018 and a hamstring injury held him out of the Rams' 2019 preseason opener. He finally made his Rams debut against the Cowboys in their preseason game in Hawaii in August, but once the regular season came around, most of the snaps at outside linebacker were being shared between Matthews, Ebukam and Clay Matthews.
Now, he's at four total tackles, one QB hit and three QB hurries in his last two games.
"When you with guys like Brockers, Samson, Dante, A.D., it's like you can go in the game and there's no indecision," Okoronkwo said. "You know exactly what they want from you, you know their standard, so you've got to play up to the standard, you know? There can't be a drop off, so you've got to lock in, do your thing. At one point, it starts getting fun when it slows down, when those guys are getting sacks, when I'm getting in on them.
"Before the game, Dante told me, 'Let's have a sack party,' and that's what we did."
Matthews may return after the bye week, which means Okoronkwo's role could potentially be impacted. Whether or not it does, the Rams have been pleased with what they've seen.
"He's an ascending player," Rams head coach Sean McVay said. "We're looking forward to seeing him continue to grow."