As has become the trend this season, the Rams 2017 draft class continues to produce on Sundays. While plenty of Los Angeles' first-year players have made significant contributions on field this season, in Week 10 it was rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam's turn to make an impact.
Ebukam recorded one of four defensive takeaways during Sunday's game — a sack-fumble on quarterback Tom Savage that led to a Rams touchdown that made the score 30-7.
"That was big time," head coach Sean McVay said on Monday. "I think these guys have done a great job getting a little bit more time in these last handful of weeks [and] Samson is a guy that continues to demonstrate why we liked him so much coming out of college."
On 1st-and-10 from Houston's 25-yard line, Ebukam was left unblocked by the Texans' offensive line. The Eastern Washington product rushed in from the offense's right and plowed into Savage, knocking him down for his first career sack.
Ebukam said he "didn't even know he had forced the fumble." All he knew was that when left open, it was time to attack.
"I just took off," he said with a laugh postgame. "I felt him hit my head, but I didn't know that he actually
fumbled the ball."
But once defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker recovered the football, the linebacker said it was time to celebrate.
"I was just excited, honestly," Ebukam said. "Everybody got hyped, the whole crowd got hyped and I was just like, 'Wow, all this hard work I have been putting in, it's finally paying off somehow.'"
And that hard work has not gone unnoticed. McVay has praised Ebukam's work ethic and pass-rushing ability throughout the season, expressing confidence in the young player's potential.
"He is explosive, he can play in space," he said. "You see how quickly he closes into Savage when he forces that fumble. He made a handful of plays on special teams as well — a big block that sprung Pharoh Cooper down the sidelines."
"So, Samson is doing a lot of really good things," McVay continued. "It's exciting to see guys like that make some big plays later on in the game and it ended up being very important for us."
Earlier this year, Ebukam said the goal for his rookie season was to make the most of the snaps he gets "on the scout team, special teams, or on defense." While he hasn't had quite as many opportunities to play in the outside linebacker position — behind both Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin — this weekend, he saw extended action in part because Quinn was out with an illness.
And though many fans and coaches were impressed with his performance in Week 10, Ebukam remained unsatisfied with his contributions.
"I made one play today, but hopefully I can get more plays," Ebukam said. "There are definitely still things to work on, because there were a couple plays where I had to communicate better with the linebackers and the D-ends. But every day it's just a step towards the right path and right now I'm trying to chip away at what I got."
The rookie is hopeful that by capitalizing on opportunities like the one he received on Sunday, he will be able to make an even bigger impact in the future.
"Definitely the playbook still," Ebukam said of what he wants to work on, "and just being able to play without thinking. Right now, every now and then I'm thinking about it pre-snap, but I want to get to the point where it just clicks. And once that happens, I can play better and faster."