August 09, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) Alec Ogletree has led the St. Louis Rams in tackles both of his NFL seasons.

The outside linebacker has shed a few pounds this year in hopes of making it three in a row.

''I came in probably 10 pounds lighter than I did last year and I feel great,'' Ogletree said. ''I'm able to fly around.''

The former first-round pick out of Georgia was determined to begin training camp at the weight he wanted to carry for the season.

''I definitely came in a lot slimmer,'' said Ogletree, who's listed as 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds but said he's about 10 pounds lighter.

''I didn't feel sluggish, but I just knew I could stand to lose a couple pounds. I wanted to get down so I could move around a lot faster.''

The Rams went for playmakers at the start of the 2013 draft, trading picks to get speedy Tavon Austin at No. 8 and Ogletree with the 30th selection.

Austin has been sporadically productive while the rangy Ogletree has benefited from being surrounded by veterans on the defense, perhaps middle linebacker James Laurinaitis most of all, and has amassed 324 total tackles.

Laurinaitis led the team in tackles each of his first four seasons before being usurped by Ogletree, who's done more than enough to compensate for the occasional play when he's caught out of position.

Like others in the defense, Ogletree has a lot more confidence in his grasp of the system entering coordinator Gregg Williams' second season back with the Rams.

''I'm totally way more comfortable in the defense,'' Ogletree said. ''Right now, it's about fine-tuning stuff and making sure you're consistent.''

The Rams added depth at linebacker by signing free agent Akeem Ayers, originally a second-round draft pick by Fisher at Tennessee in 2011 and with 48 career starts.

''He's come back here and fit in very well,'' Williams said before training camp. ''Hide the things that he doesn't do real well, but maximize the things that he does do well.''

In his first two seasons, Ogletree learned the value of practice. In college, he might have been able to get by on sheer talent.

Now he's anxious to do more for a franchise that's been on the cusp of contention after a long dry spell. The Rams, who haven't fielded a winning team in a decade, have posted seven, seven and six victories the first three seasons under coach Jeff Fisher.

Substituting for size, he'll rely on leverage and better use of his hands at the point of attack. He vows to spend more time watching film, too.

''I'll hopefully continue to lead the team in tackles, and in other categories, too,'' he said. ''Most of all, I want to win. The individual stuff, that'll take care of itself as long as we're winning.''


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