Undrafted rookie Westbrooks impressing Rams

Ethan Westbrooks (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The Rams released their defensive stats after two preseason games, based on the coaches’ film review, and it confirmed that undrafted rookie defensive end Ethan Westbrooks is one of the team’s biggest surprises so far in training camp.

Westbrooks, from West Texas A&M, is tied for the team lead in sacks (one, with Michael Sam and Phillip Steward) and quarterback pressures (three, with Eugene Sims) and ranks second in total tackles with 11, one behind rookie safety and fourth-round pick Maurice Alexander.

“He’s making plays,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Sunday of Westbrooks. “He’s playing well against the run. He’s got pass rush ability he’s shown, he’s put a lot of pressure on the passer. He’s an effort guy and he even got a chance some special teams on kick return. It looks like he has a chance to that.”

Westbrooks, 23, is a 6-foot-4, 267-pounder from Oakland, California, who is listed on the Rams’ training camp roster as a defensive tackle but has basically taken one of the defensive end spots with the Rams’ second unit with veteran William Hayes out of action with an injury.

He participated at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis last winter, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.90 seconds, bench pressed 225 pounds 19 times, recorded a 29 inch vertical jump, 9 foot 2 inch broad jump, 7.30 second 3-cone drill and 4.67 second 20-yard shuttle.

Westbrooks results at the Combine were similar to his Rams’ teammate, Michael Sam, who is his chief completion at defensive end in trying to win a spot on the 53-man roster coming out of training camp.

Sam ran a 4.91 40, did 17 bench press reps, had a 25.5 inch vertical leap, a 9 foot 4 inch broad jump, 7.80 second 3-cone drill and 4.70 second 20-yard shuttle.

NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki broke down Westbrooks’ strengths and weaknesses in the defensive end’s NFL Combine player profile:

“STRENGTHS: Well put together with good size and length. Stands out against Division II competition. Has natural pass-rush ability and shows tenacity hunting QBs. Explosive off the snap -- bursts into blockers. Disruptive penetrating ability. Athletic and flexible. Excellent balance and body control executing pass-rush moves. Spins off blocks. Ranges and covers ground in a hurry when his fire is lit.”

“WEAKNESSES: Motor runs hot and cold (disappears for stretches). Does not consistently dig in vs. the run (heart is in rushing the passer). Undisciplined eyes. Raw understanding of blocking schemes. Does not maintain rush-lane integrity. Was allowed to freelance in search of destructive plays in college and will have to adopt a more structured game in the pros. Accumulated nearly 30 penalties in two seasons at WTAMU, including 15 offsides flags.”

In his “bottom line” Nawrocki wrote that Westbrooks is: “Talented, enigmatic Division II edge rusher who marches to the beat of his own drum, but has intriguing, raw, natural ability to harass quarterbacks. Wild-card prospect with diamond-in-the-rough characteristics if a defensive line coach is able to refine the technical aspects of his game and stoke his fire.”

Here is a link to Westbrooks’ Combine highlights.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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