Out of pure desperation, the Los Angeles Rams had Michael Hoecht make the transition from interior defender to edge rusher during the 2022 season. Hoecht would make six starts last season, tallying 4.5 sacks (the most by an edge rusher on the Rams not named Leonard Floyd) and four tackles for loss.
After finishing last season as the starter opposite Floyd — and with Floyd departing in free agency — Hoecht has gotten the nod to start again at outside linebacker this season. Through the first three weeks, the experiment of deploying Hoecht as a starting edge rusher appears to be headed toward disaster.
In Monday night’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Hoecht was a liability against the run and as a pass rusher against a hobbled Joe Burrow. It was just more of the same of what we’ve seen from Hoecht in the first two games for the Rams.
Following the Week 3 loss to the Bengals, Hoecht has just seven total pressures on the season, according to PFF. For comparison, Aaron Donald and rookie Byron Young lead the Rams in pressures with 14 and 13, respectively. Trey Hendrickson of the Bengals finished with 10 total pressures just in Monday night’s matchup.
Missed tackles have also been a major concern for Hoecht, who has only two fewer missed tackles (5) than pressures (7) through Week 3. If Hoecht isn’t going to generate consistent pressure and he’s a liability in the run game, why should he continue to start?
At this point, Hoecht remaining a starter could be telling of the lack of trust the Rams have in their other edge rushers. Aside from Young and Hoecht, Zach VanValkenburg and Nick Hampton have seen minimal playing time.
Also, rookie Ochaun Mathis was placed on injured reserve before the season began because of a knee injury he’s been dealing with since training camp. And even after a strong showing in the preseason, the Rams haven’t shown any intentions of promoting Keir Thomas from the practice squad.
The Rams had just one edge rusher they could lean on in 2022 and it feels like that is transpiring again with Young carrying the load as a rookie. While the options in free agency and on the trade market are limited, the Rams would be wise to consider all of their options instead of continuing to start Hoecht moving forward.