Aaron Donald’s absence hasn’t been all bad for some Rams
The continued absence of Rams star defensive lineman Aaron Donald is affecting several teammates.
Fellow linemen Ethan Westbrooks and rookie Tanzel Smart don’t necessarily view it in a negative way.
Westbrooks, a fourth-year pro, and Smart, a sixth-round draft pick, stand to benefit in terms of playing time when the Rams play the Indianapolis Colts in the opener Sunday at the Coliseum.
On the Rams’ unofficial depth chart that was released Tuesday, Westbrooks and Smart are listed with tackle Michael Brockers as the starting defensive linemen.
During his first three NFL seasons, Westbrooks mainly played on the outside in a 4-3 scheme. In defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4, Westbrooks said he also has worked in the “three-technique” spot from which Donald flourished. That spot requires a player to line up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard.
“It pays to be versatile,” Westbrooks said Monday.
Westbrooks said he played the position in a 3-4 scheme in college at West Texas A&M. There are advantages and disadvantages to moving inside, he said.
“You’re closer to the ball so that helps out a hell of a lot,” he said. “It’s more physical.
“You go from having a dude on the edge to being inside getting 600 pounds every play so it’s a little bit more wear and tear. But that’s when you use your speed, your hands, your technique.”
Coach Sean McVay has said he was optimistic that the Rams and Donald would find a “solution” that would end Donald’s holdout because of a contract dispute.
Donald is scheduled to be paid $1.8 million in the fourth season of a five-year rookie contract. NFL players receive 17 checks during the regular season, so Donald would lose about $106,000 for every game missed.
Westbrooks said he and other teammates want Donald to return, but noted that “it’s a production-based business,” so he needs to focus on his performance.
“I’m trying to make sure I’ve got a job at the end of every week and I’m getting better every week,” he said, adding, “Everyone wants Aaron back but that’s not something I can worry about. I’ve got three babies and I’ve got to make sure they’ve got a good life. I’m just focused on that.”
Smart, who played in college at Tulane, said “everybody can’t wait” until Donald comes back.
“We would love him here because I know he’s a good player,” Smart said Monday. “But it really don’t matter to me — we still have to play with him or without him. I’ve still got to do the right thing that I’m supposed to do.”
Smart has benefited from advice from older players such as Brockers, he said.
“Those guys really took me under their wing,” he said. “Anything I ask them, they tell me. I try to assimilate some of the stuff they do on certain plays.”
The Rams were off Tuesday. They resume practice Wednesday. … Tight end Johnny Mundt and cornerback Kevin Peterson were signed to the practice squad. Defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat and offensive lineman Michael Dunn were released.
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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