Sebastian Joseph-Day aims to tackle starting job on Rams defense
The invitation was unexpected — and more than welcomed by Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day.
Rams defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers already were on the guest list for Von Miller’s third annual Pass Rush Summit in June.
Donald, the two-time NFL defensive player of the year, and Brockers, a seven-year veteran, invited younger Rams teammates to join them for the hands-on seminar in Las Vegas hosted by Miller, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl most valuable player for the Denver Broncos.
Joseph-Day could hardly believe his good fortune.
Joseph-Day, a sixth-round draft pick from Rutgers in 2018, embraced the opportunity to learn from many of the NFL’s most dynamic defensive players.
“There was so much information,” Joseph-Day said. “New techniques, from breaking down offensive linemen. ... Telling the difference between run and pass, like clues, and then keys that certain guys use to give them hints.
“So I definitely took a lot of those things to my game.”
Rams rookie Taylor Rapp is still adjusting to the tempo of the NFL game, but the safety has made a good impression on Sean McVay and his teammates.
The Rams’ decision not to re-sign tackle Ndamukong Suh created opportunity for Joseph-Day and rookie Greg Gaines, a fourth-round draft pick from the University of Washington.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Joseph-Day spent most of the first week of training camp lining up between Donald and Brockers as the starting nose tackle, putting him on track to possibly start the Sept. 8 season opener at the Carolina Panthers.
It’s quite a jump for a player who was not active for any games in 2018.
But Joseph-Day appears unfazed. He reported for offseason workouts in top shape, emerged as one of the team’s most improved players and has impressed new defensive line coach Eric Henderson and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Joseph-Day was seeing opportunity, and seizing it, Phillips said.
“He’s been really solid,” Phillips said. “He’s very strong and a very powerful guy. He’s got size and he’s working hard at it.”
Joseph-Day is not resting on his first-week performance.
“I look at it as a day-by-day thing,” he said. “Seize it that day. That’s the approach I have. That’s the approach I always have.”
Sean McVay and Jared Goff weren’t thrilled with how the Rams performed against the Chargers, but the quarterback finds value in joint practices.
Last week, Joseph-Day got plenty of reps in joint practices with the Chargers. This week, he will gain more experience in workouts with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday and Thursday in Napa.
The Rams play the Raiders in a preseason game Saturday, but it remains to be seen which players coach Sean McVay holds out. Established starters will not play.
Along with Donald, Brockers, Joseph-Day and Gaines, the Rams defensive line includes John Franklin-Myers, Morgan Fox and Tanzel Smart.
Franklin-Myers, a fourth-round pick from Stephen F. Austin in 2018, played in every game and had two sacks last season. He also sacked Tom Brady in the Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots.
Fox, a third-year pro, sat out last season while recovering from knee surgery. Smart, a sixth-round pick from Tulane in 2017, played in only two games last season after starting four of the 11 games he played in as a rookie. Smart performed well against the Chargers last week, McVay said.
“He’s stout,” McVay said. “Tanzel’s a reliable player.”
The Rams defense once again boasts star power with Donald, cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and the addition of linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Eric Weddle.
But the unheralded Joseph-Day could be a key component as the Rams aim to improve from 2018, especially in rushing defense. The Rams gave up 122.3 yards rushing per game last season, which ranked 23rd among 32 teams. Their 41 sacks ranked 15th, though Donald’s 20½ accounted for half.
Joseph-Day intends to put to use what he learned at Miller’s Pass Rush Summit, and he thanked his veteran teammates for their generosity toward younger players.
“Shout out to Brockers and Aaron,” he said. “They brought us along. They honestly didn’t really have to do that, but it was awesome that they did.”
The Rams were off Monday. They will hold a walkthrough Tuesday morning at their training facility at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks and then depart for Napa. … The Raiders’ roster includes three players who played for the Rams under McVay: safety Lamarcus Joyner, defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks and tight end Derek Carrier. Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson was the Rams’ quarterbacks coach in 2017.
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