Rams Giving ‘High-Effort’ Defensive Preseason Star a New Chance


Getty Rams edge rusher Byron Young grabs Josiah Deguara for the tackle on November 5, 2023. Young is expected to get edge rush help after a November 14, 2023 roster decision the Rams made.

The Los Angeles Rams ended up addressing their edge rush room after all, 15 days after the trade deadline.

Instead of making a trade or diving into the waiver wire, the Rams opted to pull someone up. They’re pivoting to preseason star Keir Thomas, elevated to the active roster on Tuesday, November 14.

Keir Thomas Credited for High Effort Plays in August

While Thomas is a practice squad elevation, his name will ring bells to Ram fans who watched the August games.

Thomas pounded four quarterback hits and snatched 2.5 sacks during the Rams’ three preseason contests. He came to the Rams as an undrafted free agent out of Florida State as teams passed on him during the draft.

But despite the disappointment of not hearing his name called, Thomas was lauded for his effort and energy by one draft pundit.

“High-effort, thickly built defender with good strength and the leverage to create a pile. Locates the ball quickly and pursues with passion, showing good lateral agility while extending the play to the sideline,” was one excerpt written by NFL Draft Buzz.

While Thomas entered the draft representing FSU, he didn’t begin his career there. The 6-foot-2 defender spent five seasons playing for South Carolina in the Southeastern Conference. Thomas swooped up 8.5 career sacks with the Gamecocks and delivered 31.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He also tallied 184 total tackles, including 98 solo stops. And he produced those numbers in 44 total games.

At Tallahassee, Thomas posted his best numbers yet: 23 solo tackles, 12 stops for a loss and 6.5 sacks in 12 games for the Seminoles.

Thomas didn’t just come to the Rams undrafted. He came adding to the new competition at edge rusher. The Rams drifted away from lead rusher Leonard Floyd while also waiving Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins. The latter two became roster losses during the 2022 season.

The second-year defender is adding depth to a room that can utilize additional rushers. This edge rush room has seen a combined 8.5 sacks so far. Rookie Byron Young is the leader with five sacks.

Rams Waiving Defender Who Had Gotten His First Sack

The Rams made one other roster decision involving the defense — waiving a defender.

In clearing room for Thomas, the team waived Zach VanValkenburg Tuesday.

VanValkenburg was one of seven Rams who delivered a sack. He managed to tussle down Jalen Hurts during the Rams’ 23-14 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on October 8 in Inglewood. The 6-foot-4 rusher was involved on 17 defensive snaps that afternoon. He went sackless for the next four games.

His snaps declined after the Eagles game. Thomas received no more than 16 plays for the next four games per Pro Football Focus. That includes the 10 he got versus the Green Bay Packers.

Like Thomas, VanValkenburg entered the league undrafted. He arrived to the “Rams House” via Iowa. He played three seasons in Iowa City. The 263-pounder grabbed 94 total stops including 46 solo. He burst through the trenches to nab 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 5.5 sacks in 2021. Those numbers got his name on NFL Draft boards.

Now, he’s the first defender to leave during the season.

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