Making your first start in the NFL is never easy, but rookie outside linebacker Samson Ebukam took it all in his stride in Sunday’s 32-16 win at Arizona.

A fourth-round pick from Eastern Washington, Ebukam suffered an early setback to his Rams career. He was unable to participate in off-season workouts, and then suffered a hamstring injury during the training camp. Not to be perturbed, Ebukam worked hard to get himself fit in time for the season opener against the Colts.

Finding Reps

Connor Barwin and Robert Quinn are the Rams veteran starting outside linebackers, making it difficult for Ebukam to find reps at times.  He saw some infrequent game time early in the season but burst onto the scene during Week 10.

Ebukam recorded his first defensive takeaway as a Ram, with a sack-fumble on Houston quarterback Tom Savage.  The Rams scored a touchdown following this play.  In Week 12, Ebukam’s stock rose further when he sacked future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, Drew Brees.

First Start

Making his first start for the Rams, deputizing for the injured Connor Barwin, Ebukam played 48 out of 64 defensive snaps and recorded five tackles on Sunday.  He started well making the Rams first tackle of the game on Kerwynn Williams.  Overall, he made four tackles on Williams and one on quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Ebukam played well, apart from a spell in the second quarter where the Cardinals ran the ball at will.  During those two possessions, Williams ran for 76 yards and the Cardinals scored two touchdowns. It’s unfair to lay all of the blame at the hands of the rookie linebacker, as Alec Ogletree was walking wounded and should have taken himself out the game earlier.

Ogletree could have injured himself in the play after returning an interception to the house. He hyper-extended his elbow and was ineffective during Arizona’s first touchdown drive.  With Ogletree out, responsibility for defensive play calling fell to Bryce Hager who performed admirably the rest of the game.

Second Half Pressure

A field goal at the end of the first half gave the Rams a six-point lead.  The key to winning this game was to stop Williams running the ball.  In the second half, the Rams defense restricted Williams to five carries for 11 yards.  Ebukam was instrumental in stopping him twice and closing up running lanes at other times.  With the running game nullified, the Rams took control and eased out a win.

Outlook

Connor Barwin will probably miss this week’s game against Philadelphia. Ebukam will start again and based on Sunday’s showing, Rams fans have reason to be optimistic.  Ebukam has tons of potential and raw ability, and the experience of playing for extended periods on Sundays will help his development.  If he continues to impress, he has a good chance of supplanting Barwin in the starting lineup as the playoffs approach.

– Martin Smith is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Rams. He covers the Los Angeles Ram. Like and follow on and Facebook.

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