Even with big names around him on the Rams DL, don't overlook Michael Brockers

Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- Les Snead was happy to interject.

The Los Angeles Rams general manager sat alongside Ndamukong Suh and coach Sean McVay as Suh was introduced as the newest member of the team's defensive line.

Reporters peppered the trio with questions about Suh’s addition to a group that already included reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.

A few minutes later, a reporter asked a question that mentioned a third -- and less talked-about -- starter on the line.

“I’m glad you brought up Michael Brockers,” Snead said. “He felt left out in the last two questions.”

At the outset of the offseason program last month, Brockers had become all but the forgotten piece in a position group that features Donald, a four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro, and the recently acquired Suh, also a three-time All-Pro.

But as the Rams wrap up their third and final week of organized team activities, with Donald not having attended any part of the offseason program because of a contract dispute, the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Brockers has reaffirmed himself as an integral part of a line that is considered among the best in the NFL ahead of the 2018 season.

And Suh, whom the Rams signed as a free agent after his release from the Miami Dolphins, is adapting to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme, a system the ninth-year pro has never played in.

Brockers, entering his seventh season with the Rams after he was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft, is embracing his ability to assist younger teammates.

And get Suh up to speed.

“It’s been fun,” Brockers said. “I think it’s more informative for him because he’s new to this. He’s new to playing inside at nose tackle and between the A-gaps all the time. So he’s just trying to find where he fits in this defense and I think he’s jelling in perfectly.”

Brockers is expected to remain at the 5-technique (lined up outside the offensive tackle), a position he moved to last season when the Rams initially struggled to stop the run after switching from a 4-3.

Building a relationship with Brockers has been key to Suh’s integration.

“Overall communication, understanding in rush defense where people are lining up, how things are going to move, how he likes to play, how he likes to play off the center or guards when we have twist games, different things of that nature,” Suh said. “Overall it’s just pure communication is best. You guys probably don’t see it as much as you see it from a quarterback’s perspective, but as a front, for us all to be on the same page, we have to communicate.”

Brockers’ season ended abruptly in 2017 during an NFC wild-card playoff against Atlanta Falcons. In the second quarter, Brockers and Donald met at Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

“I’m going in for the sack,” Brockers said. “AD was coming low on the quarterback, I was going high.”

The play resulted in Brockers tearing his MCL. He remained on the sideline as the Rams fell in their first playoff appearance since 2004.

The injury did not require surgery but proved a sour end in a season Brockers otherwise regarded among his best.

He finished with a career-high 39 tackles, had 4½ sacks and deflected four passes.

“There’s always room to improve and get better, but as far as my first season playing -- not even starting at that 5-technique but just getting thrown in there -- and having a great season, like I did, it felt good,” Brockers said. “For me, personal satisfaction, yeah it was a good season.”

The defensive line’s chemistry will remain a work in progress until Donald’s holdout ends, but with most of the attention focused on the All-Pro players, Brockers should have plenty of opportunities.

“In this defense, the way that Wade coaches it, it’s an attack-style defense,” Brockers said. “So I think there’s enough stats around and enough tackles around for everybody.”