With 17 career starts in three seasons Carlos Dunlap Jerse , Los Angeles Rams inside linebacker Ramik Wilson might not look like a grizzled veteran.
However, at a position where the second and third-most experienced players have combined for six career starts and the other three are rookies, the 25-year-old Wilson certainly qualifies.
"We have a lot of youth at that position. We have a lot of guys, other than Mark Barron, that haven't been starters before. To be able to get (Ramik) in free agency was great," linebackers coach Joe Barry said.
The Rams needed to add experience after trading starting linebacker Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants. Cory Littleton had started five games in two seasons while backing up Barron, but would get the first chance to replace Ogletree at middle linebacker. Bryce Hager's only start came in Week 17 last season when the Rams rested players ahead of their home playoff game.
Wilson fit the bill after starting 11 games and recording 61 tackles for Kansas City in 2016, but saw his playing time reduced last season after the Chiefs traded for former second-round draft pick Reggie Ragland. When the Chiefs did not tender a contract to Wilson, he agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rams in March weeks after they agreed to trade Ogletree.
The opportunity to play for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was something Wilson could not pass up, especially with the chance to move back to his more natural position playing on the weak side.
"It just made perfect sense," Wilson said. "I can run to the ball and I can flow. I can make plays. I can do what I'm supposed to do."
Barry liked Wilson coming out of college at Georgia, and his subsequent experience as both a starter and backup for the Chiefs made Wilson even more appealing.
"As an NFL player, you've got to prepare subtly different if you're the guy as the starter compared to if you're the backup. He's been in both roles Joseph Noteboom Jersey , so I think that means a lot," Barry said.
Wilson's ability to adjust was evident during OTAs. With Barron sitting out because of injuries, Wilson was paired with Littleton as part of the first-team defense. The two quickly meshed, and the partnership seems to have only grown as Wilson and Littleton continued to work together early in training camp, with Barron being worked back in cautiously.
Barry could not take credit for the chemistry Wilson and Littleton have displayed.
"When two guys go out and they take over 200 snaps together in OTAs, they are going to build a rapport together. It just happens naturally," Barry said.
Despite the inexperience of the group, Wilson likes how they are progressing. How the linebackers perform might determine whether the play of the Rams defense matches the hysteria created by signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and trading for cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peter in the offseason, and Wilson has not seen anything to indicate the inside linebackers are not ready for the challenge.
"They are right along and they are ready to go, the whole room," Wilson said. "We've got a lot of expectations, but we know we've got the talent. We're just putting in the work each day now and taking it one day at a time. That's all we are going to do, and the results will show at the end of the day."
NOTES: Rams head coach Sean McVay said Saturday there was no update regarding All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald's holdout Dan Hampton Jersey , but they have been in contact via telephone. "I spoke with him in the last day or so, and we're just checking in, seeing how he's doing," McVay said.
The sluggish opening three months. The so-so finish. The only occasional attention to detail on defense. None of it matters anymore.
The playoffs are here. The champs are, too.
Sidney Crosby and the Penguins provided proof in Pittsburghs 7-0 dismantling of the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening game of their first-round series Wednesday night.
Crosby performed more stick wizardry on his way to his third postseason hat trick, Evgeni Malkin added a highlight-reel goal of his own and the Penguins overwhelmed their seemingly overmatched cross-state rivals to begin their quest for a third straight Stanley Cup with a blowout that seemed to indicate the grudge match could be a mismatch.
Not that Pittsburghs captain wanted to buy into any sort of message sending, even after the Penguins became only the fifth team in NHL history to win a series opener by at least seven goals.
I mean, its one game, Crosby said. Whether its 7-0 or 1-0 or double overtime, its one game. A big part in the playoffs is to get better every game and to adjust, and thats the way we have to look at it.
That might be a frightening proposition for the rest of the NHL. It certainly is for the Flyers, who have lost all five meetings with Pittsburgh this season, giving up at least five goals each time. Nothing that happened during the regular season John Kelly Jersey , however, compared to Wednesday night. The Penguins pumped five goals in the first 29:01 to chase goalie Brian Elliott, and the Flyers simply could not keep pace.
It was one of the worst games Ive been a part of, Flyers forward Claude Giroux said.
Philadelphia coach Dave Hakstol mercifully pulled Elliott after Crosby swatted Brian Dumoulins point shot out of the air and knocked it by a stunned Elliott to put the Penguins up 5-0 just before the games midway point. Elliott stopped 14 of 19 shots before being replaced by Petr Mrazek. Mrazek made 12 saves, but Hakstol indicated hes likely to go with Elliott again in Fridays Game 2.
Whoever is in net for the Flyers, it wont matter if the play in front of them isnt better. Philadelphias power play went 0 for 4 and didnt even generate a shot.
They beat us from pretty much every aspect tonight, starting from the net out, Elliott said. Everybody just has to be better.
Jake Guentzel had a goal and three assists for Pittsburgh. Bryan Rust and Carl Hagelin also scored. Matt Murray stopped 24 shots for his third straight playoff shutout.
The Flyers stressed the need to stay out of the penalty box and put together three disciplined, competitive periods if they wanted to put an abrupt halt to Pittsburghs run at history. It didnt happen. Not even close.
The Penguins jumped on Philadelphia early. Elliott stopped Kris Letangs slap shot with his blocker only to see the long rebound go right to Rust, who ripped it over Elliotts right shoulder to give the Penguins the lead 2:38 into the game.
Philadelphias best chance at staying in it came minutes later, but Scott Laughton whiffed on his first attempt from the doorstep and Murray made a sprawling glove save on Laughtons second try to preserve Pittsburghs lead.
If that goes in, its 1-1 and maybe were talking about a different result, Crosby said.
Moments later Cody Kessler Jersey , Hagelin expertly redirected Patric Hornqvists shot past Elliott 10:07 into the game. Malkin drew a hooking penalty to negate a Pittsburgh power play, and when he emerged from the penalty box, he whizzed past three Flyers in one sequence, darting by Jakub Voracek, slipping past Giroux and then fending off Shayne Gostisbehere before flicking a backhand past Elliott to put the Penguins up 3-0 before the series was 15 minutes old.
All that before Crosby got involved.
The two-time MVP has a knack for scoring in unorthodox ways. He beat Montreals Carey Price with an intentional double-deflection and smacked a rebound out of air in overtime to top New Jersey within a span of eight days last month.
His first of the playoffs was just as impressive and provided the exclamation point on a night Pittsburgh looked every bit the threat to become the first team since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s to capture three straight Cups.
NOTES: Crosbys hat trick tied Pittsburgh owner and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux for the most postseason hat tricks in franchise history. Murray hasnt allowed a goal since Game 4 of the 2017 Stanley Cup finals, a span of 206:26. The Penguins, who had the leagues top-ranked power play during the regular season, went 1 for 4 with the man advantage. Pittsburgh C Derick Brassard, who missed time late in the regular season with a lower-body injury, had an assist in 13:44. Injured Steelers LB Ryan Shazier, who is recovering from spine stabilization surgery and has already been ruled out for the 2018 season, stood up and led the sell-out crowd in a pre-game cheer.