With the Rams facing one heavyweight running back after another down the stretch (in order, Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller this Sunday in Buffalo, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson in Week 15, Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin in Week 16 and Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in the regular-season finale), MLB James Laurinaitis is getting his act together at just the right time.
Laurinaitis played a big part in the Rams’ recent wins over the Cardinals and the 49ers. In Week 12 in Arizona, he made a key late interception to stop a Cardinals drive. One week later at home vs. the Niners, his relentless pressure on QB Colin Kaepernick was primarily responsible for a safety when Kaepernick was called for intentional grounding in his own endzone. It was those kind of plays that led to the five-year, $41.5 million contract extension (with roughly $23 million guaranteed) that the third-year pro signed Sept. 8.
“He’s played well,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said of Laurinaitis, who according to team statistics has logged double-digit tackles in nine of the team’s 12 games, according to the team. “He’s been on the field every snap. He plays in our nickel and all our packages. He understands the defense very well and he’s getting to the ball.”
Earlier in the season, though, there were some close team observers who found fault with the way Laurinaitis was playing.
“He was not making a lot of impact plays, and he was missing a lot of open-field tackles,” one team insider said. “He was forced to make an adjustment in the new defense, which is a cover-2 shell that requires him to make more deep drops. He’s at his best when he can attack the line of scrimmage and play downhill. There was an adjustment period. He also came into camp intentionally lighter — at about 240-245 pounds — because he knew he was going to have to run around more, and maybe that’s made him a little less physical at the point of attack.
“But the last few games, he’s been a tackle machine.”