Hager Named Starter: Backup LB Battle Heats Up

Joe Amon, the Denver Post

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Presumed starting linebacker Micah Kiser suffered a pectoral injury last week, sidelining him for an indefinite period of time. He had surgery on it this week and will start the recovery process. Bryce Hager, the linebacker that was battling with Kiser for the starting spot, was named the starter and sat out the third preseason game against the Broncos. With Kiser’s injury, the Rams’ biggest question mark on defense got bigger. With Hager sitting, a bunch of young guns with the hope of making the 53-man roster got a chance to show why they deserve to hang around the team.

 

The first linebacker that caught eyes last night was No.57 Natrez Patrick. Patrick, an undrafted rookie out of Georgia, was making plays all over the field. He only had two tackles, but it seemed like he was making an impact on a bunch of plays. If Patrick can replicate this type of performance in the fourth preseason game, he has a very good shot of making the team.

 

The next linebacker that stood out was Travin Howard, a second-year linebacker. He led both teams in solo tackles with eight. He didn’t even play the whole game! Howard put on his best performance of the preseason at a crucial time. Look for Howard to make a push at the starting linebacker position if Hager falls off in play.

He didn’t see much time early in the game, but Dakota Allen also proved in last night’s game that he wants to crack the lineup. Allen’s best play came in the fourth quarter with a little over four minutes remaining in the game. He timed the movement of the offensive line perfectly and was able to sneak in the backfield untouched to lay a big hit on Devontae Jackson for a three-yard loss.

A linebacker that did get time early but played poorly was Troy Reeder. Reeder, to his credit, was the one receiving calls from the sideline and relaying them to teammates, but he just looked like a liability. Reeder, wearing No.95, looks awkward as an inside linebacker and might get mistaken for a defensive lineman that is playing off the line of scrimmage. His biggest lapse came early in the game when Broncos running back Khalfani Muhammad spun him out of his shoes. With the emergence of the three previously listed linebackers, Reeder seems like the odd man out.

It’ll be interesting to see how the playing time for these four linebackers will be distributed in the final preseason game. With Cory Littleton and Bryce Hager locking up the starting spots, the backup linebacker battle will heat up amongst these young players in what could be their last chance to give the coaching staff a lasting impression.

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