THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Morgan Fox always seems to make the most out of an opportunity.
With the versatile reserve lineman off to the best start of his career, Fox is giving himself and the Los Angeles Rams defense even more options.
“I always knew the Fox had ability to do what he’s been doing,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “I know he’s going to continue to do it. I’m just more happy that he get to show the world what he’s about and y’all get to see the plays he’s making, you know, and abilities he has.”
Fox has two sacks through four games, matching the total he had in 16 games last season. Coach Sean McVay believes Fox’s improved production is because he has regained explosiveness after tearing his ACL in May 2018 during organized team activities.
Quickness isn’t the only area where Fox feels better. While his focus was mostly on rehabilitating his knee coming into 2019, Fox got to develop his entire body ahead of this season. Those gains in size and strength have helped made Fox a better run stopper.
“Honestly, in the run game I’ve improved a lot, especially compared to last year with my knee not being where I wanted to be, not hitting the body for a while,” Fox said.
While being a more well-rounded player has resulted in increased playing time, it is Fox’s pass rush skills that continue to define his role. At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Fox can get to the quarterback wherever he is lined. For first-year defensive coordinator Brandon Staley, who has been emphasizing rotation on the line, he can mix and match the likes of Donald and Fox in obvious throwing situations to create more favorable matchups.
“Guards aren’t used to dealing with a guy with his type of quickness and obviously, Aaron has that as well,” Staley said. “Usually you’re dealing with maybe a bigger, stronger guy. Morgan’s got really good quickness in there and he’s got really good pass rush ability from the inside, so I think that that’s something that he does really well.”
Donald, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and five-time All-Pro, will almost always be the focus of blocking schemes. But continued productivity from Fox and other teammates can make the game easier for Donald by reducing the number of double teams he sees.
“It’ll come,” Donald said. “Guys like Fox going, if he keeps making plays I’m happy. As long as somebody’s making the play, we getting the job done. Eventually I will get more opportunities ’cause they got to start paying attention to other guys, so I’ma just keep playing ball. When plays present they self to me I just got to take advantage of it.”
Until opponents adjust, Fox understands he has to capitalize on the attention Donald receives.
Then again, maximizing chances is what has defined Fox’s four-year career with the Rams despite not being drafted out of Division II Colorado State-Pueblo and cut twice as a rookie. He is currently playing on a one-year contract and could be in line for the kind of interest he did not receive earlier this year in free agency if he can maintain his current output, but Fox insists he is not worried about the future.
He should know, having dealt with that kind of pressure when Fox was just trying to earn a place on a practice squad.
“It sounds weird. One of the best things that can happen to you if you’re not at that point where you’re ready to play is you kind of get that adversity put in your face and know you have to work harder to get to that next spot to make sure you’re on a roster,” Fox said.
NOTES: Linebacker Micah Kiser (groin) did not practice for the second straight day, but McVay is “hopeful” he will be able to play against Washington. “It’s one of those deals where Micah is so tough he’ll play and he’ll push through anything, so it’s more along the lines of let’s take it a day at a time,” McVay said. … Running back Cam Akers (ribs) is on track to play Sunday after missing the past two games.
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