With back-to-back games of double-digit tackles, St. Louis Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree has every right to be proud of his accomplishments.
Since both games resulted in losses, Ogletree doesn’t care if he had 10 tackles or 50.
“It’s exciting to have my numbers that high, but I’d trade them out for wins any day,” said Ogletree, who racked up 15 tackles and a career-high two sacks in Sunday’s loss to Pittsburgh one week after setting a new career high with 18 tackles in the loss at Washington.
The 24-year-old former University of Georgia standout already has 44 tackles through three games heading into a tough road contest Sunday against the 3-0 Arizona Cardinals. The 18-tackle outburst against the Redskins was the most by a Rams player since London Fletcher recorded 21 in 2001 against San Francisco.
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Ogletree (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) credits his early-season success to the 10 pounds he lost in the offseason and being in better overall shape. Even more important, he has pursued the mental side of the game in much the same way he can track down a running back from behind.
It’s exciting to have my numbers that high, but I’d trade them out for wins any day.
Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree
He is doing much more studying and preparing both in the film room and through conversations with veteran linebacker James Laurinaitis and other veterans.
“He’s very instinctual and he really has relentless effort,” Laurinaitis said. “He came back this year in great shape, very motivated. When you’re in great shape like that you can fly around and he’s smarter, too. I think it’s showing up on the tape, he’s all over the field.
“He got two sacks last week and he’s playing at a very high level.”
Ogletree is one of six first-round picks on the Rams’ defense, selected 30th overall in 2013. Always one of the best athletes on the field, Ogletree has broken down the game a bit more and now in his third season, has a much better grasp on his responsibilities — and the aggressive style of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Laurinaitis has helped mentor his fellow linebacker.
“This offseason I took more of a mental approach to the game and just tried to learn a lot of the little stuff he might see that I don’t see, because he’s been here for a long time,” Ogletree said.
Last week Laurinaitis joked about Ogletree’s love of cheeseburgers, something that he felt slowed Ogletree down a bit a year ago.
Ogletree got the message, lost weight and came to training camp in much better shape. The Rams are seeing the results, as are their opponents trying to find a way to defend against a linebacker that flies from sideline to sideline and is capable of making plays anywhere.
He’s very instinctual and he really has relentless effort ... he’s all over the field.
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis talking about Ogletree
“I’m able to move a lot faster and just redirect (myself) and react a lot faster than I was last year,” Ogletree said. “Plus, just studying more film and understanding what I needed to do on the defense.”
Ogletree also credits the Rams’ massive front four for their help in freeing him up to make more plays. He marvels at the quickness displayed by tackle Aaron Donald and defensive end Robert Quinn, who have already combined for 6.5 sacks.
33The number of combined tackles Alec Ogletree has in the last two games
“That’s one reason why I’m glad I lost weight,” Ogletree said. “You have to be fast to make a play because we’ve got such a great front and we’ve got playmakers all over the field. You have to be able to be in shape and able to run side to side to make a play now.”
The tackle totals in the final box score after each game are adjusted once the coaching staff watches the game film and is able to dissect each play. As a result, Ogletree’s tackle totals are rising even after the games have ended.
“Sometimes they’ll be coming back and telling me I had more tackles than what’s originally said from the game,” he said. “I’ll be like ‘Man, they missed like they missed four of five more tackles that I had, but it’s all good.”’
He’d rather have more wins and is working hard to make that happen.
“We’re real close to where we want to be,” he said. “But we’ve definitely got to learn to finish games and make the plays that we’re supposed to make — and then make some more on top of that. We’ve got a good shot this week at trying to go 2-2.”