Despite being considered a long shot by pundits at the start of training camp, Sam, a seventh-round pick out of Missouri, has produced and deserves a roster spot.
In fact, he and fellow rookie defensive end Ethan Westbrooks, undrafted out of West Texas A&M, have both exceeded expectations. The two have racked up four quarterback sacks and seven quarterback hits so far.
Individually, Sam (three sacks, four quarterback hits) has the statistical edge over Westbrooks (one sack, three quarterback hits).
While most of Sam’s production has come against second- and third-string players, you can’t fault him for when St. Louis decides to play him. He's shown he can produce when given a chance, even if he's not as athletic or flashy as other pass-rushers.
If he makes the roster, Sam might end up being the ninth defensive lineman for St. Louis, which means he likely wouldn't be active on game days.
That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, as it would give him an opportunity to learn from two of the best defensive ends (Robert Quinn and Chris Long) in football and improve his craft along the way.
Let’s not forget, St. Louis has one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines in the game (Quinn, Long, William Hayes, Sammy Brown, Eugene Sims, Westbrooks, Kendall Langford, Alex Carrington, Michael Brockers, Aaron Donald, etc.).
It’s not like the Rams need to rush him onto the field or rely on his production in any way. If another team that runs a 4-3 defense had drafted Sam or signed him as an undrafted free agent, he would be in a much better position to make the 53-man roster.
Productive pass-rushers are hard to find in the NFL. Just look at some of the depth charts from the other teams that run a 4-3 defense. Most have a solid front four and a weak supporting cast behind them.
That’s not the case for the Rams. There’s a reason why St. Louis has tallied 105 sacks over the past two seasons; the organization has talented backups at both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Despite the plethora of talent at both positions, Sam has two other things working in his favor: He has shown that he can play special teams when the Rams have needed him to, and he has demonstrated that he can kick inside to defensive tackle in certain pass-rushing situations.
It’s hard to tell if Sam will ever be more than a situational pass-rusher, but he could be well worth keeping in that role alone.
Let's allow Sam to get acclimated to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ defense before we start labeling what type of player he is. It’s only fair to both Sam and the Rams’ coaching staff.
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