Rams reach for Vernon Gholston, the defensive Ryan Leaf

Vernon Gholston’s career high point might have come at the NFL Combine. It’s been all downhill from there.

There is a time every year before the NFL season begins when we all wonder what’s going on a little more than usual. Sure, we all ponder things like coaches and draft picks – not to mention free agents, but the thing that gets us scratching our collective heads comes later, doesn’t it? Yesterday, the Rams gave me yet another chance to reach for the Blanton’s as I grumbled, “Huh?”

Yup! Gholston’s the name, and “you’ve got to be kidding me” is the game. Vernon Gholston… I have it on good authority (I’m a fiction writer, so I make things up!) J.K. Rowling dropped the Gholston character from her famed “Harry Potter” series because “It just didn’t work out…”

Now before you start screaming at me to “cut the guy some slack” or “he’s worth a look”, take a short gander at his record of achievement since he entered the NFL with the sixth overall draft pick by the New York Jets in 2008. In fairness to the Jets, they drafted a defensive lineman that screamed potential. In his days at Ohio State, he set a record for sacks with 21.5. At 6’3″, and 260 lbs, he was a touch small, but his measurable-s in the NFL Combine were impressive. He ran a 4.56 second 40 yard dash, 10’5″ broad jump, 37 bench press reps, and a 35.5 inch vertical leap. Draft-nicks like Mel Kiper were comparing him to Dwight Freeney and John Abraham. When you’re right Mel, you’re…Well you never really right, are you Mel?

Gholston came to a Jets team longing for a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker. They needed a pass rush to compete in the tough AFC East. What they drafted turned out to be more a defensive version of Ryan Leaf than a Freeney. He had problems adjusting to the NFL. Two glaring weaknesses became apparent almost immediately: Vernon thought his brute strength would translate to the pros, and he never really figured out the mental aspects of NFL blocking schemes. He’s failed to register a single sack in his career to date and became such a liabilty in pass coverage, he found himself riding the pine for the majority of his time in New York. To me, he’s a classic case of thinking brawn translates to on field prowess. It just doesn’t happen that way Vernon. This is the NFL, and the best of the best are students of the game, not just the weight room warriors.

Those stats I mentioned? Here you go:

Stats courtesy of NFL.com

Season Team Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
G GS Comb Total Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds Avg Lng TDs FF
2010 New York Jets 16 2 12 7 5 0.0 0 0.0 0
2009 New York Jets 14 3 17 12 5 0.0 0 0.0 0
2008 New York Jets 15 0 13 5 8 0.0 0 0.0 0
TOTAL 42 24 18 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Now when you consider his signing bonus of $2.025 million, and base salaries per year of $295,000, $2.9 million, $3.48 million, $4.06 million, and $4.64 million during his 5 year rookie contract, he doesn’t seem all that expensive, does he? That’s because there were contract escalator that would have increased the value of his contract to $50 million, but he never hit one of his marks. All he had to do was cause and recover a fumble, and he would have been $9 million richer. Just one fumble… Nada, none, zip – That’s how many sacks he’s had in his NFL career. If he makes the Rams roster, and he happens to get on the field to make a QB sack, Vernon may just break down and cry. He will most definitely try and keep the quarterback he sacked, but the referees should be able to explain things before he reaches the sidelines. “Put him down Vernon. No you can’t keep him.., How about a cookie?”

Maybe Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is getting a little cocky? He and Rams General Manager Les Snead have taken on a couple of red flag rookies this season in the draft, so maybe they think they can do something with Vernon too? The thing is, Gholston isn’t a problem child off the field – just ON the field. The Rams star middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis, has to be wondering if his fellow Buckeye alum is going to help, or hurt, a defense that seems on the verge of being something special. While the Rams do have a bothersome injury at defensive end (Eugene Sims lower leg injury; in a walking boot), they really aren’t that shallow at the position. Plus, I can’t help but think the Rams need a hybrid DE/OLB to compliment the duo of Chris Long and Robert Quinn as the “hand in the dirt” DEs.

Like I said at the beginning of this rambling treatise, it’s that time of year. It the time when coaches reach for a veteran player in the hope they can get the best out of him. Last year it was Ben Leber for the Rams, or maybe it was Brady Poppinga? We see it every year, but it doesn’t mean I don’t shake my head in wonder on whom coaches will decide to roll the dice…

I’d like to thank Will for inviting me to pop in here at RamsHerd. For those that don’t know me, I’m a life long Rams fan, and an Editor at Turf Show Times. I’m also the author of a newly published novel – Devin Briar. It’s available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore, Smashword.com, and any other site where great books can be found. I appreciate your support!