THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – What was once an emergency role is now one Michael Hoecht is preparing for in a full-time capacity in 2023.
As the Rams' offseason program continues, the former interior defensive lineman said the plan is for him to spend the whole offseason training at outside linebacker.
"Right now it's outside linebacker training, get a full offseason with those guys in that room," Hoecht said. "I'm sure we'll make sure that I know the inside – you know how football seasons go, you never know where you're needed. So stay ready for both, but right now, outside linebacker."
Hoecht initially began learning the position last season in the event injury hit the Rams' outside linebacker group. Due to that and departures in that room, Los Angeles had to break the glass on their emergency option and put him in that role, pulling the defensive tackle out of the defensive line rotation.
His first game at edge came in Week 12. From that through the end of the season, he generated 23 of his 24 pressures, according to TruMedia. Overall, his 24 pressures were third-most on the Rams' defense, behind Leonard Floyd's 54 and Aaron Donald's 40.
"It's just getting more comfortable in space, understanding the position, understanding the big picture of the defense," Hoecht said, when asked what he saw when he looked back over his own film from his brief time at outside linebacker last season. "When you install things in a short period of time, it was, 'what is exactly my assignment, and how do I do it well?' What is going to help me going forward is understanding the bigger picture of the defense, understanding what we're trying to get done, and then that will help me know where my advantages are, know what reps are hard to cover, know when to counter quarterback depth, stuff like that."
Becoming more comfortable also applies to the physical aspect of that preparation too.
"You're gonna have different movement patterns and a different volume of running at outside linebacker than you're normally used in the interior defensive line, Hoecht said.
Beyond his own film, Hoecht also has a recent example to study in former Rams outside linebacker Von Miller. Hoecht said he always loves watching the Super Bowl LVI season and what Miller did.
"He's an extremely dynamic player," Hoecht said. "I really like – we watch that too – is the way we rushed the passer that year was awesome. We were affecting quarterbacks. One of our favorite examples was the Tampa Bay playoff game, where we were getting to the quarterback, and even if we weren't (getting) sacks or turnovers, we were affecting the pocket, collapsing the pocket."