Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree branches out as the defensive signal-caller behind a 3-4 defense

In his second season as the defensive quarterback of the Rams at linebacker, Alec Ogletree will be making calls behind a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3.
In his second season as the defensive quarterback of the Rams at linebacker, Alec Ogletree will be making calls behind a 3-4 defense instead of a 4-3.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

The view in front of Alec Ogletree is different, and it keeps changing.

During his four NFL seasons, the Rams’ linebacker grew accustomed to lining up and playing behind four linemen in three-point stances. Tackle Aaron Donald was a mainstay, starting every game the last two seasons.

Now, with the Rams switching to a 3-4 scheme, and Donald holding out for a megacontract, Ogletree is adapting.


“I try to make sure I get my same reads and do what I need to do,” Ogletree said. “You have to be able to adjust. [Donald] is not always going to be in there. He comes out of the game sometimes and guys fill in.

“I’m proud of the guys that have been here to fill in for him, and they’re doing a great job.”

Ogletree, 25, is preparing for his second season as the defensive signal caller.

Last year, he moved from an outside spot to middle linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.

This season’s challenge: directing defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4, which features Robert Quinn and Connor Barwin as pass-rushing linebackers.

“It’s been pretty good,” he said of his adjustment. “Having a year under my belt at [middle linebacker], you’re more comfortable calling the plays and understanding defense.

“So for me, it’s more learning the terminology and how offenses attack this defense.”

Ogletree and the Rams were off Tuesday, but they will get a test Wednesday when they hold another joint practice with the Chargers.

The Rams play their first preseason game Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys at the Coliseum.

Ogletree, a first-round pick in 2013, is due to earn $8.4 million this season in the final year of his contract. He said upon reporting to training camp that he was confident a new deal would get done.

“It will get done eventually, one way or another,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Rams continue to wait on Donald, whose holdout was not expected to end Tuesday, despite a deadline that in his case does not have practical application.

The first game of the NFL season will be played in 30 days. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, players who do not report before that date lose the ability to earn an accrued season of service time toward free agency.

For 2014 first-round picks who did not have his fifth-year option exercised by the teams, and for players drafted in the second round or lower, that has meaning because players can hit free agency after four seasons.

But in April, the Rams exercised their fifth-year option on Donald, the 13th player chosen in the 2014 draft.

Donald already has played three seasons, making the Pro Bowl in each one. If he were to sit out the entire season but play next year he would have four years of service time. Of course, the Rams would still have the option of putting the franchise tag on him for each of the next two seasons.

Donald is scheduled to make about $1.8 million this season and $6.9 million in 2018. He is believed to be seeking a contract that would put him among the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players.

“That Aaron situation is something that, like I’ll continue to say, we’re striving to find a solution,” coach Sean McVay said Monday. “It’s very important to us, but in the meantime guys are getting better and we’ve got to move forward.”

Ogletree said the Rams would welcome back Donald whenever he arrives.

“You definitely want him here, but he’s not and our focus is on the guys that are here to help us win,” Ogletree said. “When he comes back well definitely embrace him and welcome him back.

“I know he’s working hard, I know he wishes he could be here, but … it’s a business side to this sport.”


Wednesday’s joint practice with the Chargers will begin at 4:30 p.m. It is open to the public.

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein