THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Michael Brockers was a little bit more nervous than usual heading into Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys. The veteran nose tackle was going to start as the 5-technique, which means he would line up on the outside shoulder of the opposing tackle. Brockers hadn't done that since high school.
"You get that first hit and you’re like, ‘OK, it’s time to go -- don’t worry about being wrong, being exact, just go,’" Brockers said. "After that, it came naturally. "
Brockers picked up his first sack of the season in that game, a 35-30 victory by his Los Angeles Rams. He also recorded two additional hits on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and deflected two passes, one of which led to Mark Barron's interception. Brockers became only the third defensive lineman with two pass breakups in one game this season, joining Kony Ealy of the New York Jets and Willie Henry of the Baltimore Ravens.
And Brockers -- 6-foot-5, 302 pounds -- did most of that while basically lining up as a defensive end, the more glamorous position that usually comes with higher sack totals. According to ESPN's internal statistics, Brockers took 36 of his 53 snaps as a right defensive end or a left defensive end, after combining for only 13 snaps in those spots through the first three weeks.
"He’s a really good player at any position he plays," said Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who started rookie Tanzel Smart at Brockers' original spot of nose tackle. "We just told him he’s stronger, especially against the big offensive tackles that Dallas had. He played really well against those guys, so that shows you how good he can be.”
Brockers, in his sixth season with the Rams, has been graded the NFL's eighth-best interior defender by Pro Football Focus.
The 26-year-old was told by Phillips last week that he would be seeing most of his upcoming workload as a defensive end, and he was a little hesitant at first.
"But for him to see me as a playmaker, and to open it up and give me those opportunities, I appreciate it," Brockers said. "I just want to show him that he didn’t make the wrong decision and I can get the job done. ... Inside, I wanted to show the world what I had. You want to be a team player, you want to do what you have to for the team, but at the same time, sometimes you want to get those little accolades, to get those sacks and hear your name called. It feels good to help this team out and make those big plays."