A little more than two weeks ago, rookie defensive tackle
Preseason or not, Brockers was nervous, butterflies in the stomach, on the verge of vomit type of nervous. In fact, Brockers found himself so anxious that he spent more time worrying about letting his teammates down than staying focused on the task at hand.
Upon the first contact of that game, those nerves went away but Brockers walked away knowing that he needed to get back to his fundamentals taught by line coach Mike Waufle in order to fare better last week against Kansas City.
“Use the basics Coach Waufle is teaching us,” Brockers said. “Finish getting back to the quarterback, putting pressure on him and stuff like that. I feel like if you get back to the basics, everything will work out like you want it to.”
From game one to game two, progress was made for Brockers, not only in his eyes but in the eyes of coach Jeff Fisher. He finished with four tackles and was regularly a force against the run, taking on multiple blockers and allowing teammates to run free to the ball.
Like any rookie, Brockers has had his share of ups and downs in his first training camp but so far he seems to have pushed through it and is working to make progress daily in the preseason.
“He’s doing well,” Fisher said. “He might be a little tired, but he’ll get his legs back. He was a force inside. His pad level was good. He had some good pressures inside. That’s a big offensive line and they were clearly set out to protect the quarterback through the play action pass, but they were also banging on our ends. So he either had a 1-on-1 or he had a double. When he had a 1-on-1 he was getting good pressure.”
As the Rams’ first round pick – No. 14 overall – in April, Brockers was saddled with the task of jumping into the starting lineup almost immediately and being a consistent presence in the middle of the line that could help the Rams heretofore porous run defense.
When Brockers arrived in St. Louis, he checked in at an imposing 6’5, 323 pounds and plugged in next to
The first thing asked of Brockers had nothing to do with any details of his game.
“They asked me to trim down a little bit which was OK with me,” Brockers said. “I can see the goal of where I’m supposed to be in the first place. I don’t mind trimming down some more and I’ll be even better than I was when I first started camp.”
When Brockers was drafted, he was about 11 pounds heavier than what he played at when he was at Louisiana State. The added weight didn’t seem to bother his conditioning much but he wasn’t as explosive or quick off the ball as he’d been when he played for the Tigers.
Brockers played in the 312-pound range when he was in Baton Rouge and after seeing him in the spring, the Rams coaching staff agreed that was more of an ideal weight for the young tackle.
That’s why, after each practice, Brockers’ work for the day is far from over. He retreats to the weight room for further cardio with long sessions on the bike, treadmill or elliptical machines await.
The impetus for the weight loss is pretty simple and Brockers is already feeling the difference.
“With me losing weight, I can see myself running to the ball more, coming off the ball, being more explosive,” Brockers said. “I just see a lot of improvements over the whole camp period. I am just getting better every day, coming to work every day and improving on the little things – get off, hand placement, it can be anything – but I see improvements every day.”
With the physical side coming along at a satisfactory rate, Brockers said the mental aspects of his job are also rounding into shape.
Brockers said he studies the playbook like it’s the bible and he feels like he has a solid grasp on his responsibilities. While Brockers leans on his close relationship with Waufle as well as his fellow linemen for technique guidance, he turns to defensive leader
In the first two preseason games, Brockers cited some communications breakdowns as reasons for some defensive lapses. Who better to turn to than Laurinaitis, who relays the play calls in the huddle, to get the hang of that?
“To be honest, I ask James a lot of questions about what we should do, what checks we should have because in practice there can be communication failures and we just try to get those handled on the sideline,” Brockers said. “Did you want me to do this? Did you want me to do that? I lean on James a lot when it comes to what plays to run and he helps quite a bit.”
As for making it through his first training camp, Brockers said it’s not the physical work that wears him down. Fisher noted tired legs for Brockers of late but the rookie said he went through camps at LSU that were plenty rigorous in their own right.
The key, as always, is finding ways to balance the extensive film and playbook study with the work that must be done on the field and in the weight room. Besides, Brockers says, everybody is tired and he refuses to use that as an excuse for taking a play off, though that’s an area he still needs to work on.
“Your legs do get a little tired but you have guys on your left and right that are just as tired as you that are pushing through it so you have to do it with them and try to come out and just improve,” Brockers said. “I try to improve on one thing every day and if I do that, it’s been a good practice.”
With each passing week of practice and games, Brockers said he can feel himself settling in to his role. He’s had a couple of minor bumps and bruises along the way – including a cut on his knee that he had to wrap last week and a poke to the eye that caused him to miss some snaps against Kansas City – but has answered the bell for every practice along the way.
In each of the next two preseason games, Brockers figures to get more and more reps. By the time the regular season arrives, Brockers hopes that he will be ready to make an impact right away.
“Last week, my heart was pounding when I first got in there with the big guys,” Brockers said. “Now, I’m a little more comfortable as I go on this whole journey. Hopefully I’ll get a little more comfortable where it doesn’t really get to me anymore. That’s my goal now, is to get comfortable and make more plays.”