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Rams Feel Good About Depth at Linebacker

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  • Rams Feel Good About Depth at Linebacker

    Rams Feel Good About Depth at Linebacker

    Posted 14 hours ago
    Kristen Lago Rams Writer/Reporter@kristennlago With four new additions acquired through the Draft, the Rams have 12 linebackers currently on the roster.

    This offseason, the club traded its starting edge defender Robert Quinn to the Dolphins. Starting middle linebacker Alec Ogletree was then traded to the Giants and starting outside linebacker Connor Barwin remains an unsigned free agent. Inside linebacker Mark Barron is the last remaining starter of the group on the team’s roster from 2017 — leaving three slots likely open for the next season.

    But despite the large holes on defense, coordinator Wade Phillips said he was confident about the club’s depth at the position.

    “We lost two outside backers and one inside backer who were starters,” Phillips told “So, it’s opening places for guys to step up and play. And I think some of these guys that we got were added to help us. I’m looking forward to that, but we [do] feel good about where we are.”

    The group Phillips was referring to includes outside linebackers Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Trevon Young, as well as inside linebackers Micah Kiser and Travin Howard.

    “I think you look at it and you like some of the depth that you’re able to create with some guys that can play on the edge,” head coach Sean McVay said recently. “Then you add interior players that can do some different things and allow us to be a bit more versatile at some of those spots and add some depth.”

    Kiser has been talked about as one of the rookies with the best chances at making an early impact on the defense. The Virginia product led the ACC in tackles for three consecutive seasons, recording 33.5 tackles for loss, 19.0 sacks, and eight forced fumbles along the way.

    “Micah has an opportunity to fit in, I mean we lost our MIKE linebacker,” Phillips said. “We lost our leadingtackler, so hopefully he can come in and step into those shoes, which are big shoes for a young guy.”

    “But he’s got all the talent,” he continued. “I mean hey, those are great things going in and I think it’ll take him a little time, but we feel like he was a really good fit for us.”

    All four rookies will join a linebacker room that already includes Samson Ebukam, Matt Longacre, Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager, Ejuan Price, Garrett Sickels, Carlos Thompson and recently signed Ramik Wilson. Of the group, Ebukam, Longacre, and Littleton have the most game experience, combining for 1,007 snaps in 2017.

    All together — with some significant contributors from last season and a couple of promising newcomers — the Rams linebacker group includes several viable options for 2018.

    “We [definitely] have some guys on the team that can come through for us,” Phillips said. “It’s going to play out, but I feel good about it right now. We have some talent.”

  • #2
    What do you expect?

    "You know, we're really worried about our depth at linebacker after losing 3 of our 4 starters. We have absolutely no faith in the 7 LB's from last year, the veteran we signed via FA, or the 5 linebackers we selected in the draft and udfa signings. We simply do not feel good with where we're at at all."

    Ha! Wouldn't that be epic though? I'd love it if some coach just completely threw his GM and a position group under the bus like that. Would be worthy of one of those 'thug life' memes


    • #3

      That would be something, coaches issuing a negative, pessimistic outlook of their squad.

      But in all fairness, I 'feel GOOD' about the Rams depth at LB and the potential Coach Phillips has to work with. Perhaps not proven and much less stellar, but a good group to start with. Say ... average.

      Average, with an optimistic hope (mine) to improve.

      Improve PRONTO. -


      • #4
        Originally posted by KoaKoi View Post
        What do you expect?

        "You know, we're really worried about our depth at linebacker after losing 3 of our 4 starters. We have absolutely no faith in the 7 LB's from last year, the veteran we signed via FA, or the 5 linebackers we selected in the draft and udfa signings. We simply do not feel good with where we're at at all."

        Ha! Wouldn't that be epic though? I'd love it if some coach just completely threw his GM and a position group under the bus like that. Would be worthy of one of those 'thug life' memes
        I know you're being facetious, but I've often said the same thing. No matter how bleak the prospect or how dire the circumstances, it is ALWAYS in a coach's best interests to put on a good public face on it. Truth be told, this is a unit for which there should be very real questions asked and very real concerns. You don't just make major upgrades to other units, unload an Alec Ogletree and a Robert Quinn and try to have the fan base believe nothing has been lost. Come on, now.

        This new group may very well be good. And the coaches certainly know more than we do and seemingly have a plan. But don't sell us a bill of goods either.


        • #5
          I have concerns about the uncertain LB situation, but the fact that the Rams were willing to unload Ogletree, Quinn, and Barwin, gives me the impression that they honestly did/do have confidence in the young backups, and felt they could effectively address the situation in the draft. I don't see what Phillips and McVay said as simply lip service.


          • #6
            I think the LB crew is ok. It's nothing fancy, but Littleton Longacre and Ebukam all showed some great stuff last year. Given the draft stock used, the unit should be capable...
            Add in the fact that the DL and the Secondary are both powerhouse units... I'm not too concerned with the LB crew. I actually like that they're so young.

            As for my facetiousness, please keep in mind it's not directed at the coaches, but at the "news" its presented as. I mean c'mon. There's really nothing newsworthy here.


            • #7
              Originally posted by KoaKoi View Post
              As for my facetiousness, please keep in mind it's not directed at the coaches, but at the "news" its presented as. I mean c'mon. There's really nothing newsworthy here.
              I guess the news cycle at the Rams official site is slow.


              • #8
                Originally posted by r8rh8rmike View Post

                I guess the news cycle at the Rams official site is slow.
                Oh yeah. It always is this time of year. Even OTA's is brutal on the news front.
                Not until training camp do things finally perk up.


                • #9
                  Seldom would any team admit concerns about anything...

                  If the Ram's brain trust actually had concerns about LB depth, think they would admit it publicly?

                  I know the Rams' coaching staff is "hoping" their strength on the line & secondary is enough to cover any weakness at LB just as any team with strong LB core would hope they would cover any weakness from the line

                  Its the NFL; with only so much to spend there is just so much one can do... the strength or weakness actually comes down to that team's Front Office in getting enough pieces together--and where a HC and his staff earn their pay in putting it all together to make a winner or loser team


                  • #10
                    Is this horse down yet? Or, needs some more whacking. -


                    Related Topics


                    • Nick
                      After Strong Offseason, Ebukam in Line to Start at OLB
                      After Strong Offseason, Ebukam in Line to Start at OLB
                      By Kristen Lago
                      Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018 12:10 PM
                      RAMS WRITER/REPORTER

                      Heading into the Rams offseason program, the club’s defensive lineup appeared to be pretty settled.

                      From the new additions of cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, to the acquisition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, those outside of the building had a good idea of which players would be starting in the secondary and on the front line. The Rams linebackers, however, was a different story, given the departures of former starters Alec Ogletree, Robert Quinn, and Connor Barwin.

                      But as the team looks toward training camp, it seems that at least one question mark from the group has been answered at outside linebacker.

                      “I think Samson Ebukam has had a tremendous spring,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said recently. “I just think he’s learned more and more about what he can do and how to do what he does… [He] certainly will have one of the starting positions.”

                      Ebukam made a name for himself last season early on as a dominant force on special teams. He also developed quickly as an important depth piece on the outside — recording 31 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one forced fumble in 2017, having appeared in all 16 games.

                      While the coaching staff has been open with Ebukam about their plans for him this fall, the Eastern Washington product has maintained a humble attitude throughout the offseason.

                      “They’ve told me that and all that good stuff, but I don’t really pay attention to it,” Ebukam admitted. “I’m just here to earn my spot. It’s another year and I just have to earn it just like everybody else."

                      For that reason, he has been focused on delving deeper into the intricacies of the defense and working on his ability to rush the passer more effectively.

                      “Definitely the playbook,” Ebukam said of his growth, “being able to play faster on the field and not thinking as much as I did last year. I just feel more loose and more confident now that I know the playbook more because I didn’t have this last year.”

                      “I wasn’t here in OTAs [in 2017], so this is all kind of like a learning experience for me and I’ve loved it every step of the way,” he continued.

                      Phillips and head coach Sean McVay have been impressed with the young linebacker’s overall development.

                      Both mentioned the strides they’ve seen in Ebukam this offseason have given them confidence in his ability to be a starter in 2018.

                      “He’s got tremendous speed and he’s learning to utilize that,” Phillips said. “You’ve got to hone in on what you do well [and] he’s kinda found his niche there.”

                      “Samson has been a great player for us where you see the bursts, just the way that he’s consistently able to get in and out of different things whether it’s bursting [or] pursuing the football,” McVay...
                      -06-20-2018, 06:18 AM
                    • r8rh8rmike
                      Klein: Cory Littleton is in the middle of Rams' rebuilt defense at linebacker
                      Cory Littleton is in the middle of Rams' rebuilt defense at linebacker

                      By GARY KLEIN
                      JUN 04, 2018 | 3:00 AM

                      The journey began at the outer fringes of the roster and included a delay in the Pacific Northwest.

                      Now Cory Littleton is suddenly right in the middle of the Rams’ defense.

                      Two years ago, after he signed as an undrafted free agent, Littleton sat out nearly all organized team activity workouts because he was required to finish the spring quarter at the University of Washington. He pored over the Rams’ playbook in Seattle, and when he finally joined the team he earned a roster spot as a valuable special teams contributor.

                      Last year during OTAs, Littleton studied and played behind veteran linebackers Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron, earning a role as a featured back-up and spot starter.

                      The Rams traded Ogletree in March, so Littleton has spent OTAs acclimating to new responsibilities.

                      He is a starting inside linebacker and signal caller for a remade, star-studded defense that is expected to help the Rams move beyond the first round of the playoffs.

                      “Basically,” he said of his role, “the quarterback of the defense.”

                      It’s a big promotion for a first-year starter in a unit that will include star defensive linemen Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

                      Littleton, 24, acknowledged that he was adjusting to fit the role.

                      “I’m not the most vocal person,” he said, smiling. “I do my best.”

                      The linebacker corps is the biggest question mark for a defense that appears stout along the front and talented and deep in the secondary.

                      The Rams finished 11-5 and made the playoffs last season with a defense that ranked 19th overall, 13th against the pass and 28th against the run. They allowed the 12th-fewest points.

                      General manager Les Snead made several offseason moves to provide defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with players that specifically fit his 3-4 scheme.

                      The makeover began when the Rams traded veteran linebacker/edge rusher Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins for draft picks. It continued when they shipped Ogletree to the New York Giants for picks to clear salary room for the acquisition of Talib. And they let veteran linebacker Connor Barwin leave to test free agency.

                      Barron, a six-year veteran, is attending but not participating in OTA workouts, the same model the Rams utilized last year to make sure he made it to and through the season without physical setbacks.

                      That has provided Phillips, coach Sean McVay and linebackers coach Joe Barry an opportunity to closely assess others.

                      Ramik Wilson, who started 17 games for the Kansas City Chiefs in his first three pro seasons, said he was adjusting quickly to a new system and teammates.

                      -06-05-2018, 09:41 AM
                    • MauiRam
                      On a star-studded Rams defense, Cory Littleton quietly finds a role
                      THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- If Los Angeles Rams linebackers coach Joe Barry had his way, he would have started coaching Cory Littleton more than two years ago.

                      Barry, a former assistant with the Washington Redskins, implored the Redskins to select Littleton in the 2016 draft.

                      "When we were in Washington we loved him," Barry said. "I was on the table the entire third day of the draft to draft him."

                      But with more pressing needs, the Redskins passed on Littleton, who made several positions moves in four seasons at the University of Washington, which reflected in a draft grade that labeled him as an in-between player without a real spot in the NFL.

                      The other 31 teams passed on Littleton in the draft, too, leaving Littleton, a San Diego native, to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Rams.

                      "He made the decision," Barry said, "And I was like, 'Dang! What a bummer.'"

                      Barry may have lost out on Littleton in the draft and free agency, but united with him in Los Angeles a year later when he accepted a position on coach Sean McVay's staff.
                      Now as the Rams prepare for the 2018 season, Littleton, 24, has gone from an undrafted player to a penciled-in starter at inside linebacker on a defense that includes All-Pros Aaron Donald,

                      Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

                      "It's been a progression," Littleton said. "Just trying to get better every day."

                      Littleton's ascension up the depth chart was made possible after a series of offseason roster moves.

                      In the first year deploying defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme, the Rams ranked 19th in total defense, giving up the 12th-fewest points and generating the fifth-most turnovers, as they clinched the NFC West for the first time since 2003.

                      But they also ranked 28th against the run, allowing an average of 122.4 yards rushing.

                      In an effort to better field the 3-4 and provide some salary-cap flexibility, the Rams traded outside linebacker Robert Quinn to the Miami Dolphins and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree -- who last season signed a four-year, $42-million extension -- to the New York Giants.

                      Ogletree's departure cleared a path for Littleton to win the starting job.

                      "I'm just competing to try to secure it," Littleton said. "I have a lot of tough competition and I'm just going to do my best to try to keep it."

                      The choice to part ways with Ogletree, a cornerstone of the locker room and the team's leading tackler the last two seasons, was made somewhat easier by the promise Littleton showed last season.

                      "When he played last year, he's the type of guy where you're creating certain packages just to get him on the field when you've got two really good players inside like Alec Ogletree and...
                      -07-09-2018, 10:39 PM
                    • r8rh8rmike
                      Linebacker: The biggest, perhaps only, concern for 2018 Rams
                      Linebacker: The biggest, perhaps only, concern for 2018 Rams

                      5:00 AM PT
                      Alden GonzalezESPN Staff Writer

                      LOS ANGELES -- A Los Angeles Rams' offense that was among the NFL's best last season might be even better now, with Brandin Cooks joining the receiver group and Jared Goff potentially taking another step forward as a third-year quarterback. The defensive line, where Ndamukong Suh joins Aaron Donaldand Michael Brockers, looks flat-out scary. And the same can be said for the secondary, now that Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have been added to a group that includes Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman.

                      The linebackers ... well, that's a different story.

                      The Rams upgraded elsewhere on their roster at the expense of this group. The salary-cap space now allocated for Cooks and Talib used to belong to outside linebacker Robert Quinn (traded to the Miami Dolphins) and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (traded to the New York Giants). Two long-time fixtures on the Rams' defense are gone, as is Connor Barwin, an accomplished veteran who started on the left side last year and now remains unsigned as a free agent.

                      Heading into 2018, the Rams have what looks like three open spots at linebacker -- spots they will fill internally, either with former backups or recent mid- to late-round draft picks. The only returning starter in this group is inside linebacker Mark Barron, a potential cap casualty when the offseason began.

                      Below, we sorted through the candidates to play alongside him.

                      The favorites: Samson Ebukam and Matt Longacre played well while backing up Barwin and Quinn, respectively, last year. Cory Littleton, mostly an inside linebacker, was a star on special teams, blocking two punts. They all seem to have the inside track on starting roles heading into 2018, but will nonetheless have to earn their keep. Ebukam is an explosive athlete who profiled as a high-upside edge rusher coming out of Eastern Washington, but one who also needed some refinement. The Rams hope Year 2 is a big one for him. Undrafted out of Northwest Missouri State, Longacre's snap count went from 149 to 354 from 2016 to 2017, while switching from defensive end to mostly outside linebacker. He finished with 5.5 sacks in 230 snaps on the right side. Littleton, undrafted out of Washington, started in place of Barron in Week 16 against the Tennessee Titans and recorded a sack and an interception in the game that clinched a division title. The incumbents: For outside linebacker, the Rams also have Ejuan Price (a seventh-round pick last year), Garrett Sickels(undrafted in 2017) and Carlos Thompson (undrafted in 2015). Those three have combined for 87 defensive snaps in the NFL. Wade Phillips likes to rotate his outside linebackers, so that total might increase significantly this coming season. That isn't necessarily the case at inside linebacker; at least not with Barron and Ogletree, who...
                      -05-04-2018, 10:16 AM
                    • Nick
                      Bonsignore: Ogeltree trade another sign Rams want better fits for Phillips’ defense
                      Bonsignore: Alec Ogeltree trade another sign Rams want better fits for Wade Phillips’ defense
                      By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | | Daily News
                      March 7, 2018 at 5:39 pm

                      The essence of faith is believing in something that isn’t yet seen.

                      And so the Rams, and their fans for that matter, are taking a mighty leap together.

                      In believing they’ll be better off, like immediately, without the middle linebacker that called their defense and led them in tackles the last two years while developing into a trusted and respected team leader on and off the field.

                      Or finding someone to replace the 8.5 sacks they traded away last week and the five sacks and leadership that might leave in free agent this offseason.

                      And maybe (well, probably) come up with an alternative to the proud, rugged cornerback they seem destined to part ways with via free agency.

                      The Rams defense, as of Wednesday, will likely begin next season with four new starters replacing four valuable, productive and respected teammates. And by the time next week’s free agency period begins, that number could rise to six.

                      On a team that finished 11-5 and a defense that surrendered the 12th-fewest points in the NFL.

                      Leap of faith indeed.

                      With much of it entrusted in 71-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who did an admirable job last year squeezing a bunch of square pegs into round holes while transitioning the Rams from the 4-3 defense they had been playing to his preferred 3-4. And coming up with acceptable results.

                      The Rams fell just outside the top ten in points allowed and were 13th overall against the pass with Alec Ogletree at middle linebacker and Robert Quinn coming off the edge and Trumaine Johnson as their top cornerback. Solid numbers, to be sure.

                      But they were also 28th overall defending the run, allowing an average of more than 122 yards per game, an unacceptable finish that speaks to some ill fits for the 3-4 scheme along the defensive line and at linebacker.

                      Which is why Ogletree, a valued tackler and leader, was dealt on Wednesday to the New York Giants for a pair of 2018 draft picks, and Quinn was traded last week to the Miami Dolphins for a 2018 fourth-round pick.

                      It might also be the reason linebacker Mark Barron gets released next week. And why veteran Connor Barwin might walk as a free agent.

                      All of them were valuable contributors to the Rams defense last year. And each will be appreciated in their new homes next season, for their production and their leadership.

                      But the Rams, and specifically Phillips, think they can do better from a skill-set, body type and schematic perspective. And by already parting ways with Ogletree and Quinn — and by adding Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters on a much more manageable contract that Johnson — the Rams have the financial flexibility...
                      -03-10-2018, 05:59 AM