Versatile Michael Brockers lays it on the line for young Rams defenders
It is a daily occurrence during Rams training camp, just as it was during offseason organized team activities and a June minicamp.
Sometimes it happens on the sideline or in the near end zone before practice begins. Other times it takes place after a workout, in a far end zone away from the crowd exiting the field.
Michael Brockers quietly counsels younger defensive linemen, and then lines up across from them. Together, they go through footwork, or perhaps hand placement and a move to beat an offensive lineman.
“Just trying to help those guys get up to speed,” says Brockers, a seventh-year pro. “Because that’s what I feel it should be about — giving back and helping somebody else grow their game.”
Brockers, 27, is the Rams’ longest-tenured defensive player and a key part of a remade unit that is expected to help the NFC West champions make a run at defending their title.
The 2012 first-round draft pick from Louisiana State is coming off a successful 2017 season during which the career nose tackle shifted to various spots along the line, including edge-rushing end. Brockers recorded 4½ sacks and broke up a career-best four passes.
Brockers suffered a knee injury during the Rams’ wild-card playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
But Brockers appears fully recovered, and he is preparing to be part of a lineup that could include holdout Aaron Donald, the reigning NFL defensive player of the year, and new star tackle Ndamukong Suh, a five-time Pro Bowl pick who signed a one-year, $14-million free-agent contract.
The trio could form one of the NFL’s most dominant defensive lines.
“There’s enough stats around and enough tackles around for everybody,” Brockers said in April.
“Anybody that knows Michael knows he’s got a great personality where you can’t help but kind of be in a good mood when you’re around him,” McVay says. “He’s got that contagious enthusiasm in a positive way that rubs off on his teammates. … He knows the influence that he has.”
Brockers is motivated to help others because of his experiences as a young player.
After he was drafted by the Rams, Brockers learned at the elbow of veterans such as Chris Long, Kendall Langford and Robert Quinn.
“I was the baby of the group, so I kind of looked up to them and they helped me,” Brockers says. “So it was my job to [take] all the knowledge they taught me and pass it down.”
The Rams selected three defensive linemen in the 2018 draft — John Franklin-Myers in the fourth round, Sebastian Joseph-Day in the sixth and Justin Lawler in the seventh — and Brockers has helped nurture the rookies and other young players.
“Every time I ask him for some advice, he’s always been open and always getting extra work with me,” Joseph-Day says. “They’ve got me playing multiple positions, and he’s helped me develop.”
Franklin-Myers noted that Sunday undrafted free-agent defensive lineman Lord Hyeamang joined the team. Brockers wasted no time walking him through plays and teaching him techniques.
Brockers’ influence extends beyond the field. He also is a role model in the meeting room.
“Usually, after meetings, he has two pages of notes of what he needs to do better for that day,” Franklin-Myers said. “That’s a guy you look up to — how can you be like him.”
Brockers is in the second year of a three-year, $33.25-million extension he signed in 2016. He’ll be 29 when that deal expires, so he has several more years to pass on knowledge to younger NFL players.
And also to learn from them.
“I get to get some good work in before practice and after practice because they’re willing,” he says. “They get good work and find out little tips and tricks of the game.
“We’re helping each other.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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