Last season, injuries at linebacker led to the Rams starting then-rookie Troy Reeder alongside Cory Littleton at Seattle in Week 5. More than a year later – in Week 16 of the 2020 season, Reeder finds himself in a similar position.
While Littleton has since departed, injuries have once again afforded Reeder a bigger role heading into this year's game at Seattle.
"That was kind of a cool way to be welcomed into the division, my first division game and start off at arguably one of the toughest places to play in the NFL," Reeder said during a video conference Monday.
In that game, a 30-29 Rams loss, Reeder finished with a team-high 13 total tackles. He went on to start seven more games after that, while playing in all 16.
With injuries hitting the Rams linebacker room again this season, Reeder was asked to step into a starting role in Week 5 against Washington. He finished with a career-high three sacks, plus 11 total tackles.
Overall, he has recorded double digit tackles in all but one of his five starts this season – including a career-high 15 against the 49ers in Week 12.
"I'm really proud of Troy," Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley said, reflecting on Reeder's performance against San Francisco three days later. "I felt like part of the reason why he was so productive is San Francisco runs the ball a lot. When you're an inside linebacker, you're around the action quite a bit. I thought that Troy did a nice job with the command of the defense. He wasn't perfect, I know that there are reps that he would like to have back for sure. But I thought that he really competes. This guy's got real toughness. He can run, that's why he's a good special teams player for us."
The expectation after that game was continued improvement, according to Staley.
"I think that the good thing about him is the guy coaching him, (Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers) Joe Barry, is as good a coach as you're going to find," Staley said. "I just think that Troy being able to play with (linebacker) Kenny (Young), those guys getting in tandem, the more they play together and practice moving forward, the better he'll be."
Reeder had 58 total tackles last year, tied for fifth-most on the team with edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. This year, he's already eclipsed that total by two with two regular season games to go.
"He's been making some plays, coming up and hitting. Making some good calls for us," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said during a video conference Thursday. "He is going to continue to get better as well and continue to help us."
Of course, as Reeder returns to the stadium where he made his first career start, the atmosphere will be much different than one he experienced last year. The Seahawks announced last week there will be no fans allowed at their final home game of the regular season due to rising COVID-19 cases in the state of Washington.
"Playing home and away without the crowd, I think that's something that everybody is missing as a player in the NFL," Reeder said. "But unbelievable place to play. Still going to be a fun game. Divisional opponent, a lot on the line, so you're going to get the best from both teams as we do every opportunity that we meet together."