Though the headline of the Detroit Lions' Week 7 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams will revolve around the quarterbacks, quarterback Jared Goff isn’t the only former Ram who will suit up in SoFi Stadium Sunday.
First-year Lions defensive end Michael Brockers will also be facing his former team on Sunday. He spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Rams organization, coming to Detroit in an offseason trade.
While with the Rams, Brockers said he made plenty of lifelong friends. One of them was Aaron Donald, a defensive tackle who is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the game. Brockers told reporters on Monday that watching Donald work inspired him.
“This guy is really, he’s transitioned my career,” Brockers said. “Just watching a guy like that, have all the accolades he has and still work like he’s an undrafted free agent. He still has to work like he has no accolades, like he’s a nobody. He works so hard. He’s in the film room more than anybody I know. He’s in the weight room more than anybody I know. Too see that and then to have that drive, because that drives me now, you know? It’s still, every day, I’m like, ‘Oh man, AD will be getting reps here,’ and that drives me.”
Brockers and Donald were teammates for seven seasons with the Rams, anchoring a defensive line unit that eventually became one of the best in the league. In 2018, the team reached the Super Bowl, but lost to the New England Patriots, 13-3.
Across his nine seasons as a Ram, the 30-year-old veteran played in 138 games, with 136 starts. He had 28 sacks and 48 tackles for loss, while totaling 395 tackles. He started all 16 games in five separate seasons.
Now, for the first time, Brockers will take on Donald and his other former teammates. Though emotions may run high when kickoff rolls around, the first-year Lion said he’s treating this game just like any other.
“It’s the next one,” he said. “I’m very professional about how I go about my business. Yes, I do have a lot of ex-teammates on that team and a lot of good friends. There was no love lost between me and the Rams when I left, so it was just about understanding being a pro. I made a pro decision. I came here, we’re in this position and we’ve just got to move forward.”
Since joining the Lions, Brockers has been a key leader as the team undergoes a rebuild. Under first-year coach Dan Campbell, the team has lost each of its first six games. The most recent loss -- of the 34-11 variety at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals -- was the worst of the stretch.
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However, Brockers is working to help keep the team morale high. He wants to help the team move forward each week.
“For me personally, just going through this, you have to have a next-step mindset,” he commented. “Whoever is our next opponent, let’s focus on them. Because a lot of, we’ve had some bad losses and we’ve had some losses where we barely lost, lost by a field goal. But, they’re still losses at the end of the day. A lot of guys want to linger and stuff like that, but I choose not to linger. Because you can’t focus on the next opponent, if you’re still thinking about your last opponent. So, that’s kind of what I preach to the guys.”
The Rams feature one of the most potent offenses in the league, a unit piloted by former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Campbell called the matchup a "huge challenge."
Yet, Brockers knows the parity of the NFL. Having been a pro for a decade, he knows the importance of preparation each week and how any team can come out of a matchup victorious.
“Each week, I’ve been in this game. So, I’ve lost a lot, and I’ve won a lot as well,” Brockers said. “So, one thing I know about this game is it’s any given Sunday. So, whoever’s the most focused team, the team that executes the most, usually comes out and wins on Sunday.”
Brockers comes to the defense of quarterback Jared Goff
A main scapegoat for the criticism surrounding the 2021 Lions has been Goff, who has struggled to get the offense going. In each of the last four games, the Detroit offense has failed to score a first-half touchdown.
Also, Sunday's loss to the Bengals marked the second game in a row where the Lions quarterback didn’t throw a single touchdown pass. Campbell said he never considered benching the 27-year-old Sunday, but went as far to say the team needs more from him.
“I feel like he has to step up more than he has, and I think he needs to help us, just like everybody else,” Campbell said. “He’s gonna need to put a little bit of weight on his shoulders here, and it’s time to step up, make some throws and do some things. But, he needs help.”
As Goff works through the criticism, his fellow former Ram expressed his support. As a veteran in his new locker room, Brockers stressed the need to show the quarterback that the team has his back.
“There’s different people outside setting this narrative about you, and it’s not true and that’ll get anybody down,” Brockers said. “So, the biggest thing for him, and for us as teammates, we need to let him know is we’ve got your back no matter what. The people in this locker room are always gonna have his back.”