THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – When Rams linebacker Micah Kiser stepped onto the artificial turf at SoFi Stadium last Sunday, starting on defense was a very different experience for him.
Since he was sidelined for the entirety of the 2019 season with a pectoral injury, Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys marked his first regular season game action since 2018, when he was a rookie who mainly contributed on special teams.
Already, Kiser is capitalizing on an expanded role.
"It was fine," Kiser said during a video conference with reporters Wednesday. "My first time playing a full defensive game since my senior year in college, so it was fun."
Playing all 72 of Los Angeles' defensive snaps against Dallas, Kiser tallied six solo tackles in a 20-17 victory. The output matched cornerback Jalen Ramsey for most on the team in Week 1, while his seven combined tackles were second-most on L.A.'s behind rookie safety Jordan Fuller's eight.
Those numbers against the Cowboys illustrate Kiser's instincts, but there were other intangibles he displayed that didn't show up on the stat sheet explicitly. When head coach Sean McVay spoke with reporters during his Monday video conference, he mentioned Kiser as one of the standouts after getting the chance to watch film, pointing to Kiser's communication with safety John Johnson III throughout the game.
"I thought after he settled in, I thought he was physical. I thought he communicated really well," McVay said Wednesday. "He did a nice job."
Based on what defensive lineman Aaron Donald saw out of Kiser in training camp, it was a product of that preseason success.
"He had a great camp," Donald said. "To translate that to his first NFL start and play how he played at a high level, communicating well, coming up filling holes, I think he'll continue to get better and he's got an opportunity to be a special football player."
Kiser's next challenge is in Philadelphia, where the Rams will face the Eagles in their first 2020 road game of the season.
The Eagles offense presents challenges with two seam-stretching tight ends in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert and a running back in Miles Sanders who can stress defenses on the ground as a ball carrier and through the air as a receiver. While Sanders missed Philadelphia's season-opener at Washington due to a hamstring injury, he is reportedly on track to play against Los Angeles on Sunday.
If Sunday's game against the Cowboys was any indication, it's nothing Kiser can't handle.
"I felt good out there, and (it was) definitely something to build on," Kiser said.