Check out photos from Day 6 of the Los Angeles Rams OTAs.
It's not often that a seventh-round draft pick is thrust into the first-team lineup just one month into the offseason program. But such is the case for the Rams' final draft pick, Justin Lawler, who is up for a tough challenge during the team's OTAs.
"It's been going good. I'm picking up the defense slowly," he said this week. "As you can see we've had some injuries, so I'm going and kinda thrown in with the ones."
The injuries Lawler referred to include Morgan Fox and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who suffered a season-ending knee
injury and a foot injury that required surgery, respectively. Both injuries occurred in the offseason program.
With both out for the remainder of the offseason, Lawler has been asked to step up in their place — something that may have surprised the rookie at first, but was not entirely unexpected.
"I knew they were thin [and] that's why they drafted three of us," Lawler said. "You never wish that upon anybody, but that's football. It's next man up. I get hurt, hopefully not, but the next man's gotta play. That's football and that's the business we're in."
Through six OTAs, Lawler has been taking reps with the ones as the club's strongside linebacker. While at SMU, he played the majority of his time on the weak side, representing yet another transition for the young player.
But with the help of linebacker's coach Joe Barry, Lawler is hopeful that he will be able to not only learn the terminology and scheme, but also to improve his technique at a new position.
"I have to drop a lot more. So, the route combos, the motions, just the communication overall, that's been the toughest to pick up," he said. "I've got to get better as a pass rusher. Joe B always says that we're paid to rush their quarterback and that's something that I've gotta refine."
Fortunately, Lawler says he has found a mentor in second-year outside linebacker Samson Ebukam — who has
experience on the strong side from his first season with the franchise in 2017.
"He's helped me out a lot — just in the huddle. Since I'm going and I'm already in the huddle with him, he kinda just says 'hey, remember this' or gives me little tips," Lawler said. "So, he's been a huge help, just kinda having someone in my pocket to go to on the field."
And while it may seem daunting to be competing with and against some of the club's top players, Lawler believes he is up for the challenge. The outside linebacker said he is happy to be "thrown into the fire" early on, recognizing that it will only help him down the line.
"That's the good thing is I'm seeing it now. I'm making mistakes, but I'm trying not to make the same one twice and so it's good to see it," Lawler said. "I'm asking them to be patient with me as I pick up the defense, but it's going well. I'm just getting better everyday, that's my goal."