INGLEWOOD – John Milton had no Rams linebackers in mind when the poet wrote, “They just serve those too, just stand and wait.”
Aaron Donald did think of linebacker Troy Reeder when the defensive lineman said, “This is his job.”
In his second year with the Rams, Reeder’s work involves weeks of standing and waiting to play. More specifically, special teams do the dirty work while waiting for the defense of an injured teammate. He played three games without participating in a defensive attack before replacing Micah Kiser in October, then waited four more games before being called up when Kiser was injured again two weeks ago.
In between famines while playing, Reeder enjoys statistical feasts. He had three of the Rams’ eight sacks in week 5’s win over Washington, and he had a game-high 15 tackles in last Sunday’s loss against San Francisco.
This time, Reeder is expected to play at least two more games within linebacker, in Arizona on Sunday and at home against New England next Thursday. Kiser, the best tackler in the Rams, is recovering from a knee injury.
Reeder strives to always be ready, even though the 11 regular starters get the most practice reps on offense and defense.
“At the end of the day, we know we have to rely on far more than those 22 guys, whether it’s from week to week or sporadically throughout the season,” Reeder said this week. “Boys’ roles are changing. Our motto is ‘Everyone must be prepared when the opportunity presents itself.’ ”
That’s not Milton, but it’s poetry for a professional football player.
“It’s a next-man-up mentality,” said Donald before the Rams rehearsed at SoFi Stadium on Thursday. “He has to prepare and have the mentality every week, even when he’s not playing, that he’s going into the game like he’s playing.”
No one, and certainly not Reeder, gets carried away by his statistical binges. An inside linebacker can pile up tackles just because he’s in the middle of defense, especially against a team like the 49ers that run a lot. But there is no decrease in several short range solo tackles against the 49ers in the second half as the defense got the Rams back into play.
“He probably played every play,” Rams security John Johnson said Wednesday. “There were a few things he probably wanted back, but it was a solid job in my eyes. Now that it has a bit of rust I think this game will get a lot better. ”
With 10 fill-in starts in 2019 and 2020, Reeder, 26, could be called an overachiever.
He was not drafted in 2019 after starting his college career at Penn State and transferred to Delaware, where his younger brother played.
The Rams signed him up as a free agent because they liked his Power Five conference pedigree and scouting stats, which showed the speed of the 1.85 meters.
That speed has made Reeder one of the most valuable players on the Rams’ special teams. The need to keep him for kick cover is one reason he doesn’t play much in defense. Unless Kiser or Kenny Young gets hurt, in which case he jumps into a phone booth and shows up in linebacker robes.
Donald sees Reeder’s communication skills improve on the field with experience, vital as middle-line backers are usually involved in delivering play calls. Reeder is used to learning new defensive schedules and the jargon from new coaches. Counting college, he played under five defensive coordinators in six seasons.
“I’m really proud of Troy,” said Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who took over from Wade Phillips. “I thought Troy was doing well in command of defense (against the 49ers).”
On Sunday, when the Rams (7-4) will play against the Cardinals (6-5) in Glendale, Arizona, Reeder will start a second game in a row for the first time this season. Don’t stand and wait this time.
“It’s a physical position, you don’t hope it will happen,” said Reeder. ‘But every now and then you go missing a man, be it for a week or for two weeks, three weeks.
“It’s a really important position, and you have to have guys ready to go if their opportunity presents itself.”
The Rams practiced at SoFi Stadium, the first time they did it during the season, to get out of the wind in their Thousand Oaks training facility. Coach Sean McVay said things were going so well that he would consider doing it again in bad weather. “We were able to do a lot of really good work because I thought it was very necessary for us,” said McVay. … Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day (hip) and linebacker Terrell Lewis (knee) did not train. … The Rams abandoned linebacker and special team player Jachai Polite, who had four tackles and one sack while playing on 6% of defensive snaps this season. They expect to bring linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo out of the injured reserve for Sunday’s game in Arizona. Polite can be signed with the practice squad if not claimed. …
Safety John Johnson is the nominee of the Rams for the NFL’s 2020 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which honors a player for fair play, respect for opponents and integrity. … Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and punter Johnny Hekker lead fans who vote for Pro Bowl honors for their positions in the latest NFL updates. … The Rams lead the Cardinals 45-38-2 in a series that began in 1937 when the teams were in Cleveland and Chicago, respectively, and spanned the time of each franchise in St. Louis. The Rams have won the last six meetings. The Cardinals won eight in a row from 2006 to 2010.