The seventh-round pick appeared on the Rams' second series of their eventual 26-24 defeat to the New Orleans Saints, per Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune in New Orleans:
Michael Sam makes his NFL debut on the second series of the game for the Rams. He's at LDE.— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) August 9, 2014
Earlier in the week, Sam called the moment a "dream a long time in the making":
Sam made an immediate impact, pressuring the quarterback on his first play and then recording a QB hit shortly thereafter, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today:
Michael Sam with a pressure (wiped by defensive holding) and now a QB hit. Crowd cheers as his name is announced the first time.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 9, 2014
The Score posted a highlight of his tackle on Saints running back Khiry Robinson:
NFL on ESPN posted his final stat line. Although those numbers are far from gaudy, they're a good start for a third-string defensive end:
FINAL: Saints defeat Rams 26-24. M. Ingram: 8 car, 83 yds, TD B. Cooks: 5 rec, 55 yds, TD M. Sam: 1 tackle, 1 QB hit pic.twitter.com/nNY5zbAiRW— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) August 9, 2014
David Carson, a photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, snapped a few photos of Sam in action:
As with any seventh-round draft pick, Sam is playing for a job. The preseason is his best opportunity to impress the coaching staff and show that he is deserving of a place on the team's final roster.
Westbrooks returned to practice last week and immediately showed some of the pass-rushing ability that had so many teams coveting his services after the draft. He's jumped into the mix at tackle and end since his return. Because he didn't miss any preseason games, he also didn't miss any prime opportunities to begin making a case for a roster spot.
While Sam's play has leveled off a bit since the opening days of camp, Westbrooks could be primed to make a statement in the next few weeks. For what it's worth, Westbrooks is well aware that he's standing in the way of one of the league's most compelling stories.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also highlighted the battle between Sam and Westbrooks as one of the top storylines headed into the preseason game:
As the exhibition-game schedule begins, undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks could be the one roadblock to Michael Sam making the 53-man roster. After a good start in training camp, Sam’s play has leveled off over the last week. After missing the first several days of camp because of a hamstring issue, Westbrooks now has a few days of camp under his belt and looks quick and menacing.
Westbrooks played in the game, but he failed to get his name on the stat sheet. It's way too early to give either player the edge at this stage.
While Sam is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year, collegiate accolades count for nothing in the NFL. Just ask former Heisman Trophy winners like Jason White, Troy Smith and Matt Leinart, none of whom enjoyed successful careers in the league.
Much work is still left to be done for the 24-year-old. Three more preseason games remain between now and and when head coach Jeff Fisher will trim the roster down to 53.
Deion Sanders said that Sam should find former Rams great Kevin Greene and get some pointers, via the NFL Network:
Sam's performance was encouraging, but it was far from the sort of otherworldly show that will make him immune to being cut already. In order to be a part of that final 53, he'll have to build upon his progress on Friday night.
The deeper into the preseason he goes, the more imperative it will be for him to make an impact. Just making one tackle and hitting the quarterback won't cut it a month from now.