THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – It was fairly recent that the Rams discovered Michael Hoecht could be an effective edge defender.
Not that they were waiting that long by design.
"Probably two weeks ago, otherwise we would've done this sh-- a lot sooner," Rams head coach Sean McVay said with a laugh Monday, when asked when he realized Hoecht could be a good outside linebacker.
Hoecht is certainly justifying the decision with his play over the last two games – especially on Sunday against the Seahawks – and adjusting to the new role smoothly.
He turned in three total tackles (one for loss), two sacks, three QB hits and one forced fumble in Week 13, after generating six total tackles against against the Chiefs in Week 12. He also had five pressures against the Seahawks after getting two against the Chiefs.
That Hoecht is producing this way moving from the interior of the defensive line isn't too much of a surprise, at least to him, because from a pass-rush standpoint, he said there's a lot of carryover between the two positions. There's also the familiarity with the Rams defensive system, having been with the team since 2020.
"I'm obviously a bigger body than most people who play outside there on the edge," said Hoecht, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds. "So I think a lot of times, I can use that to my advantage and have that good combination of size and speed, which I think translates well, and then I've been in this system for a long time. Well, football a long time. But I know the defense, I know what the rush packages kind of look like, I know how it's supposed to look. I watched all last year Von (Miller) run it almost perfectly after getting dropped in halfway through the season. So, I've been around a lot of really special players who, just watching the way that they approach and attack it, I think I've picked up a lot on that."
The biggest adjustment, according to Hoecht, has been getting more comfortable in space. For example, there's times as an outside linebacker where he's dropping back into coverage, which is something he didn't do often, if ever, as a defensive tackle. He also has to get more comfortable with his outside foot being back, playing off tackle and leveling off his rushes.
"And then for us especially, we always talk about rushing the passer together and being able to play off guys," Hoecht said. "Especially when Aaron Donald's in there, and he's gonna take his two-way go and beat a guard any way that he can. And so it's learning to be comfortable and collapsing pockets and playing off him, and just learning how to rush as a group."
Hoecht will continue to learn and grow, and last week's performance proved to be a promising step in the right direction.
"Being a young player at that position and that kind of success, to go out there and get two sacks when we kind of laughed about it in here last week about a guy not even getting the pressure before or getting that many snaps, I was fired up for him, fired up for his amount of success," Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. "A lot contributes to his coaching staff, a lot contributes to the guys that helped him, and lot contributes to him."