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Rams

Rams rookie John Franklin-Myers proving his worth on defense

Los Angeles Rams running back Justin Davis (33) and defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers (94) head
Rams running back Justin Davis (33) and defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers (94) head onto the field with their teammates before a game against the Chargers on Sept. 23.
(John Cordes / Associated Press)

He was a fourth-round draft pick out of a smaller college program, but Rams rookie defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers is coming up big for the Rams.

On a defensive line that features veteran stars such as Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Michael Brockers, Franklin-Myers produced the game-turning play in last Thursday’s victory over the Minnesota Vikings at the Coliseum.

Late in the fourth quarter, Franklin-Myers speed-rushed off the right edge and swatted the ball from quarterback Kirk Cousins’ hand. Suh recovered the fumble and the Rams ran out the clock to secure a victory that improved their record to 4-0 heading into an Oct. 7 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Franklin-Myers’ play — he was credited with a sack — highlighted the progress he’s made since the Rams selected him out of Stephen F. Austin.

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“Nothing like getting that first real sack in a real game,” Franklin-Myers said. “I’ve been waiting on that.”

Before the season, the Rams defensive line looked good on paper. But with Donald holding out for an extension and Dominique Easley’s availability uncertain because of 2017 knee surgery, defensive line coach Bill Johnson said it would take time for everything to come together.

Donald signed a $135-million extension the week before the opener, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips moved Easley to outside linebacker.

Brockers recorded a sack in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. Suh got his first sack in Week 3 against the Chargers, and then got another against the Vikings. Donald recorded his first two sacks against the Vikings.

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Then Franklin-Myers stepped up.

“Happy to see the young guy coming out and enjoying the party as well,” Suh said.

Franklin-Myers has benefited from practicing and playing alongside the veterans, coach Sean McVay said.

“You see the way that Suh and that Brockers and that Aaron have kind of taken John under their wing and mentored him and continued to just watch him progress,” he said. “For him to be able to capitalize on an opportunity, get his hands on the ball and force it to come out at a critical moment — that’s big.”

When Donald, Suh and Brockers are making plays, Franklin-Myers said, he is compelled to do the same.

“They were happy for me,” he said. “I love these guys.”

Stepping up

With cornerback Aqib Talib sidelined for at least seven more weeks, Sam Shields’ role will continue to grow.

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Shields played in place of Talib against the Vikings, the first time he started a game since the 2016 season opener, when he suffered a concussion while playing for the Green Bay Packers.

Against the Vikings, Shields played all 74 snaps, broke up a pass and finished with four tackles.

“It was different,” Shields said. “Not hard, but it was a challenge, just being away from this game and just being given that whole complete game. It was a lot.”

It wasn’t all highlights for Shields.

“I thought he kept competing,” McVay said. “I thought there were some great plays that {Vikings players} made. ... Then they did a couple things that kind of got him out of whack a little bit in terms of just playing within the framework of the system.

“But, you look at just his story, what he’s come back from, his movement, different things like that, I think he’s a resilient competitor. I think he did some really good things and then I think he was also right there in a position to make some of those plays.”

Atmospheric conditions

The Rams will not play again at the Coliseum until Oct. 28 against the Green Bay Packers.

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A large and enthusiastic crowd like the one that cheered the Rams against the Vikings would be welcomed by McVay and his players.

“It was electric,” McVay said, adding, “You certainly felt that home-field advantage. … Hopefully, we have atmospheres like that all the time.”

Donald and Brockers were not shy about exhorting the crowd to cheer.

“They were into it with us and they were behind us,” Donald said after the game. “That’s what we need. We need to keep that up.”

Etc…

The Rams were off Saturday and they also will be off Sunday. They will meet Monday and begin preparations for the Seattle game.

gary.klein@latimes.com

Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein


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