Rams grateful for experience Wilson brings at linebacker
IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — With 17 career starts in three seasons, Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Ramik Wilson might not look like a grizzled veteran.
However, at a position where the second and third-most experienced players have combined for six career starts and the other three are rookies, the 25-year-old Wilson certainly qualifies.
“We have a lot of youth at that position. We have a lot of guys, other than Mark Barron, that haven’t been starters before. To be able to get (Ramik) in free agency was great,” linebackers coach Joe Barry said.
The Rams needed to add experience after trading starting linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants. Cory Littleton had started five games in two seasons while backing up Barron, but would get the first chance to replace Ogletree at middle linebacker. Bryce Hager’s only start came in Week 17 last season when the Rams rested players ahead of their home playoff game.
Wilson fit the bill after starting 11 games and recording 61 tackles for Kansas City in 2016, but saw his playing time reduced last season after the Chiefs traded for former second-round draft pick Reggie Ragland. When the Chiefs did not tender a contract to Wilson, he agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rams in March weeks after they agreed to trade Ogletree.
The opportunity to play for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was something Wilson could not pass up, especially with the chance to move back to his more natural position playing on the weak side.
“It just made perfect sense,” Wilson said. “I can run to the ball and I can flow. I can make plays. I can do what I’m supposed to do.”
Barry liked Wilson coming out of college at Georgia, and his subsequent experience as both a starter and backup for the Chiefs made Wilson even more appealing.
“As an NFL player, you’ve got to prepare subtly different if you’re the guy as the starter compared to if you’re the backup. He’s been in both roles, so I think that means a lot,” Barry said.
Wilson’s ability to adjust was evident during OTAs. With Barron sitting out because of injuries, Wilson was paired with Littleton as part of the first-team defense. The two quickly meshed, and the partnership seems to have only grown as Wilson and Littleton continued to work together early in training camp, with Barron being worked back in cautiously.
Barry could not take credit for the chemistry Wilson and Littleton have displayed.
“When two guys go out and they take over 200 snaps together in OTAs, they are going to build a rapport together. It just happens naturally,” Barry said.
Despite the inexperience of the group, Wilson likes how they are progressing. How the linebackers perform might determine whether the play of the Rams defense matches the hysteria created by signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and trading for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peter in the offseason, and Wilson has not seen anything to indicate the inside linebackers are not ready for the challenge.
“They are right along and they are ready to go, the whole room,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of expectations, but we know we’ve got the talent. We’re just putting in the work each day now and taking it one day at a time. That’s all we are going to do, and the results will show at the end of the day.”
NOTES: Rams head coach Sean McVay said Saturday there was no update regarding All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s holdout, but they have been in contact via telephone. “I spoke with him in the last day or so, and we’re just checking in, seeing how he’s doing,” McVay said.