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Thread: Little likes new look on defense
Little likes new look on defense
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Monday, Dec. 24 2007
A lot has changed since Leonard Little last played defensive end for the Rams,
including the emergence of a new edge rusher in Will Witherspoon.
"I guess I'll be looking for a job," Little said, laughing.
That won't be necessary, although the Rams probably will look to re-work
Little's contract before the start of next season because he's due a $7.17
million roster bonus and counts more than $9.5 million against the cap in '08.
Thursday's pratfall against Pittsburgh notwithstanding, the style of defense
the Rams are playing these days doesn't look much like the defense Little last
played on Oct. 21. That game, against Seattle, was Little's final appearance
for the Rams before undergoing season-ending toe surgery.
"Basically the whole defense has changed," Little said last week. "It's hard
for me to figure out what we're doing sometimes. … We're changing the way we
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has gone to more three-man fronts in passing
situations, since Little was lost for the season. Either Witherspoon or Brandon
Chillar has been used as an edge rusher in those fronts, and Witherspoon has
flourished in that role with a team-high seven sacks. Overall, Haslett has done
a lot more blitzing since Little — the team's best pass rusher for most of this
decade — has been out with the toe injury.
"It's hard for quarterbacks to figure out what's going on," Little said.
"Everything's disguised. They don't know where you're coming from. They don't
know who's coming. That's the best thing about it. "
Little said it would be fun to play in this style of defense next season and
already has suggested to Haslett and defensive line coach Brian Baker that it
might be good to stay with the current scheme.
"I can adjust," Little said. "I can adjust to anything. I told them next year
they shouldn't take away from this game plan they're running now. Continue with
this, and I'll fit in somehow, the best way I can."
The possibility of lining up both Little and Witherspoon as edge rushers in
certain situations could bode well for the St. Louis defense next season.
"You know 'Has,' he's real creative with these defenses, so there's no telling
what we're going to be doing next year," Little said. "Because he can change
stuff with the drop of a dime."
Last week marked the first time Little had been in St. Louis since he had
surgery Nov. 12 in Charlotte, N.C. Little has a home in Charlotte, so he stayed
there for the frequent post-surgery visits with the surgeon, Dr. Robert
"He wanted to see me every week and make sure everything was healing up fine,"
Little had reconstructive surgery on his left big toe.
"I had two ligaments torn, so (Anderson) reconstructed them and put them back
where they needed to be at," Little said. "And now, I'm fine, I guess."
Little will find out for sure next spring. For now, he's letting the toe heal
and doing some range of motion work. He'll be able to start jogging in late
January or early February, and expects to be eased back into football drills
once the Rams begin OTAs (organized team activities) next spring.
"We haven't gotten that far yet," Little said. "So I don't know what's going to
go on with that. But I'm pretty sure that they will want me to do some things.
But probably not everything."
Little, 33, had missed only six games since 2001 before aggravating what to
that point had been a nagging toe injury Oct. 14 in Baltimore. Over the
previous six seasons, Little had averaged 11½ sacks. But he had only one sack
this season, ironically coming on the play in which he aggravated the injury
against the Ravens. Little tried to play the next week in Seattle but was very
limited in what he could do. After resting the toe for two more weeks, the
injury got no better, so Little opted for surgery.
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