Los Angeles Rams Kobie Turner’s Case For 2023 Defensive Rookie Of The Year

Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

All season long, the Los Angeles Rams have relied on their young players, outside of their stars in quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

This season has been about building the depth around those three players and head coach Sean McVay has definitely got that in 2023. Whether it has been running back Kyren Williams taking the lead on the ground attack or wide receiver Puka Nacua providing the 1-2 punch with Kupp, the offense has received a boost as it has earned a playoff nod after missing out on the tournament last season.

However, winning football games is more than just the offense.

The young players on the defensive side of the ball have also stepped behind Donald.

“It makes a big difference. What’s interesting about it this year, is it was by necessity,” McVay said Monday about utilizing his rookies. “When you look at what they’ve done through 16 games, you’re talking about four players who have started every single game for us on offense and defense that are four pillars for years to come and there’s a lot of other really good guys that we’re excited about.”

Los Angeles Rams Kobie Turner’s Case For 2023 Defensive Rookie Of The Year

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The rookie playing next to Donald at the nose tackle position is Kobie Turner, who Los Angeles selected in the third round in last year’s draft.

In his first NFL season, Turner has played in all 16 games so far and has started in a quarter of those matchups.

Being at the center of the defensive line, Turner has registered 57 total tackles, including eight for losses and 15 quarterback hits, which has amounted to nine sacks to go along with two pass deflections.

McVay has been impressed with Turner as it is a credit to the work he puts in as well as defensive line coach Eric Henderson and assistant defensive line coach AC Carter for their help in Turner’s work throughout the season.

“Kobie Turner, mature beyond his years,” McVay said. “Came in, really good production in both phases. I mean, this guy’s got nine sacks now and he’s making good music every single week out there and it’s been fun to watch. Eric Henderson and AC Carter have done a great job with Kobie.”

Turner said he focused more on the qualitative response each week rather than the quantitative numbers reflected in his statistics.

“Before this year, I didn’t really set out any numerical goals,” the 24-year-old rookie said Monday. “My main goals were to stay in this present moment and attack each day with the type of mindset that’s going to lead to my success. I think that I have done that so far and that’s what led to this level of success.”

His nine sacks tied Donald’s franchise rookie record set back in 2014 and with one game left, Turner can surpass that on Sunday when the Rams travel to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers.

Turner said he cannot believe his name is side by side with Donald for the sack record as he realizes there is a lot more in the tank for next week and beyond.

“It’s insane to be in the same conversation as him and of course, he attracts a lot of attention,” Turner said of Donald. “He is the greatest to ever do it. It’s just a blessing and, you know, just continue to take it day by day, the same process that has gotten me to this point, which isn’t anywhere yet. I still have so much left to do and I’m excited to keep working and keep growing because there’s so much untapped potential that I have.”

The third-round pick out of Wake Forest University has two games this season with at least two sacks, coming in the 37-14 win in Arizona on Nov. 26 when he took the quarterback down twice and recorded 2.5 sacks during last week’s 26-25 victory in New York to help the Rams secure their playoff spot.

Turner’s 2.5 sacks, in addition to his five tackles and three quarterback hits this past week helped him earn a 92.2 overall grade by Pro Football Focus and ranked sixth among the top 15 highest-graded rookies after Week 17.

In PFF’s top 15 rookies’ article, Turner ranks third among NFC rookies, only behind Nacua and Philadelphia’s Jalen Carter, which easily puts him in the conversation of NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, which will be announced during the NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 8 in Las Vegas.

When comparing the rookie seasons of Turner and Carter, Turner has out-sacked Carter 9.0-6.0 and Turner has 29 solo tackles, compared to Carter’s 16.

Carter does have two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, which are two things Turner does not have.

Turner, who was selected 80 spots behind Carter in last April’s draft, said he has to continue working if he wants to receive defensive rookie honors next month.

“As for me, it’s just however it goes,” Turner said. “ I definitely think that I have put in the work to put myself into the conversation, but that’s not for me to decide, of course. All there is for me to do is keep working, take it day by day, and just put out tape that’s going to make it not questionable.”

Turner is trying to become the third player in franchise history to receive Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He would join Donald in 2014 when the team was in St. Louis and Isiah Robertson in 1971.

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